Montana History - the history of Montana
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Vacation 2 USA   >   Montana   >   History
Vacation 2 USA   >   History   >   Montana History


Montana History

The Montana region has long been inhabited by Native American people: pictographs in caves dating back 2,100 years have been found. The Native American peoples included the Crow in the South, the Cheyenne in the Southeast, the Assiniboine and Gros Ventres in central and northern areas, and the Kootenai and Salish in the West.

Most of present day Montana falls within the former French colony of New France. This region was acquired from France, by the United States in 1803, in the Louisiana Purchase.

The new territory acquired by the United States was largely unexplored. This was rectified by Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804 to 1806). Lewis and Clark surveyed the Indian tribes, botany, geology and wildlife of the area, as well as looking for signs of possible interference from British or French Canadian hunters.

Gold and copper were found in the area in 1850s, and in 1864, Montana became a United States Territory. In the late 1860s, US government established three forts in the territory: Fort Shaw, Camp Cooke and Fort C. F. Smith. Montana was the scene of the Native Americans' last effort to keep their land, and the last stand Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (at Little Big Horn in 1867). Sheer weight of numbers made the Native Americans' defeat inevitable, and in 1877 Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, formally surrendered.

Montana was admitted as the 41st state of the Union on November 8th 1889. The Homestead Act (1862), the Reclamation Act (1902), and the revised Homestead Act (1912) all brought European settlers to the region, greatly expanding the state's population.

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Roadside History of Montana (Roadside History Series) (Roadside History (Paperback))

By Donald E. Spritzer

Brand: Mountain Press Publishing Company
Released: 1999-05-01
Paperback (432 pages)

Roadside History of Montana (Roadside History Series) (Roadside History (Paperback))
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Roadside History of Montana goes well beyond cowboy stories to tell of the struggles of dryland farmers, the rowdy antics of mining-town denizens, and the heroism of smoke jumpers and park rangers. Author Don Spritzer's love of Montana in all its diversity shines through in each vignette as he introduces readers to Montana's independent, adventurous, and often eccentric people. Readers will learn surprising facts about the Treasure State's past and meet its most fascinating people, from the copper kings of Butte to the Freemen of Garfield County. Dividing the state into six geographical-historical areas, Roadside History of Montana follows main highways to reveal the stories hidden within the vast Montana landscape, delighting readers with lively anecdotes along the way. Spritzer speaks of each little town and crossroad with the intimacy of someone who's been there--and indeed he has. Accentuating the text are 170 historical photographs and numerous maps.

Montana: Then and Now

By Aaron Parrett

Bangtail Press
Paperback (200 pages)

Montana: Then and Now
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When Montana Territory was established in 1864, it was a land of tepees and ramshackle cabins, of lawless vigilantes and miners scraping out meager livings. One hundred and fifty years later, the dramatic changes to the Treasure State are overshadowed only by the startling similarities. On the occasion of Montana's 150th territorial anniversary, and with a perspective born from a lifetime's devotion to the history of his home state, author Aaron Parrett compares where we started with where we are today, and along the way shows us a Montana we never could have previously imagined.

"In the tradition of Joseph Kinsey Howard and K. Ross Toole, Aaron Parrett interrogates Montana as both place and idea, revealing that what has long distinguished the state-robust island communities surrounded by a sea of redemptive space-has largely survived."
Edwin Dobb
U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

"Aaron Parrett has told Montana's story entertainingly without shying from the darker bits. The result is a romp through our state's history that is at once lighthearted and intelligent."
Molly Holz
Editor, Montana The Magazine of Western History

"Aaron Parret's Montana: Then and Now stitches together the tapestry that is Montana's 150-year-long history with the perspective born of years of sincere appreciation and study. This account gives us pause and at the same time gives us hope, that Montana's next generation realizes its role in preserving the unique qualities inherent in the 'last best place.'"
Stephanie Ambrose Tubbs
Why Sacagawea Deserves the Day Off and Other Lessons of the Lewis and Clark Trail

It Happened in Montana: Remarkable Events That Shaped History (It Happened in the West)

By James Crutchfield

Paperback (144 pages)

It Happened in Montana: Remarkable Events That Shaped History (It Happened in the West)
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Author James A . Crutchfield has mined thirty-seven of the most colorful episodes from Montana's provocative past--from the first glimpse of French explorers of the "Shining Mountains" in 1743 to the attempt to round up the wild horses of the Pryor Mountains. These episodes are a lively look at life in the Wild West.

Bold Women in Montana History

By Beth Judy

Mountain Press Publishing
Paperback (252 pages)

Bold Women in Montana History
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From the Blackfeet warrior Running Eagle to the stereotype-smashing librarian Alma Jacobs, the eleven women portrayed in this engaging book were indeed bold, breaking down barriers of sexism, racism, and political opposition to emerge as heroines of their time. The sixth in this Mountain Press s state-by-state series for teen readers, Bold Women in Montana History reveals the feminine side of the Tresure State s storied past.
Within these pages are stories of fearless femmes who dared to dream and resolved to take action. Among them we meet Annie Morgan, a Philipsburg homesteader whose mysterious life is only now coming to light; the bronc-riding Greenough sisters, Alice and Marge, who became rodeo stars during the sport s heyday; and Elouise Cobell, champion of Native American rights.
Perfect for school or home, this collection of short but informative biographies is both a valuable resource and an entertaining read. For readers young and old, Bold Women in Montana History proves what women can accomplish when they dare to be bold.

Montana Before History

By Douglas H. MacDonald

Mountain Press Publishing Company
Paperback (204 pages)

Montana Before History
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Dig into Montana s past with this guide to the state s best archaeological sites. A cache north of Livingston, the oldest known evidence of humans in Montana, was left by mammoth hunters more than 11,000 years ago. Their cultural descendents survived in Montana until modern times, hunting game and gathering roots and berries. Montana Before History, organized chronologically from the Paleoindian period to the Late Prehistoric period, details how Montana s early peoples adapted to the rugged environment and several dramatic changes in climate. Learn how they hunted bison and other game before the introduction of the horse, how archaeologists can identify a culture by its projectile point, and where Montana s original hard-rock miners worked their quarries.

Tribes and Trappers: A History of Montana, Volume One (Montana History Series) (Volume 1)

By Greg Strandberg

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (320 pages)

Tribes and Trappers: A History of Montana, Volume One (Montana History Series) (Volume 1)
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Montana's history is rich, colorful, and full of excitement in this fully-illustrated volume. See how Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridger blazed trails and made their names under the Big Sky. 

Read  about the day John Colter ran naked for his life, Blackfeet Indians fast on his heels. Watch as Hugh Glass is mauled by a grizzly, then left to die alone by the friends that had been paid to stay by his side. 
Have a toast with rowdy Mike Fink before he shoots a tin cup of whiskey from your head. And meet James Beckwourth, a former slave who became at home in the mountains of Montana.
  • Discover how the Native American tribes were pushed from their lands by westward expansion, first by Europeans and then Americans. 
  • Find out how tribes shook off their settled ways of life to become nomads of the Great Plains, hunting buffalo, stealing horses, and encountering whites and each other for the first time. 
  •  Learn of the Blackfeet, and their warrior ways. Discover the peaceful Shoshone, and how they were pushed from their lands. 
  • And find out about other, lesser known tribes like the Kootenai, Pend d'Oreilles, Gros Ventre, and Assiniboine. 
Montana comes alive from the time of the dinosaurs to the mid-19th century in this exciting first volume of the state's history, Tribes and Trappers.

Montana: An Uncommon Land

By K. Ross Toole

Brand: University of Oklahoma Press
Paperback (288 pages)

Montana: An Uncommon Land
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Perhaps once in a generation it is possible for a historian to reinterpret the long sweep of an area and a period in our history. K. Ross Toole has chosen Montana for this purpose, and the brilliant success of his achievement must be apparent to all who read these pages.

He has consciously avoided a systematic presentation of the history of this "uncommon land," Instead, he has chosen to put the great and many of the smaller but significant episodes of a century and a half into new perspective. The record, in its colorful and romantic aspects, stretches from the days of Lewis and Clark; and in its more recent aspects, from the subjugation of the Indian to the predominance of big mining and timber enterprises. The resulting portrait is sharply drawn by a man who knows not only how to interpret the remote and recent past but how to write with great effect.

Montana is best remembered by most Americans as the state in which the Indian played his last dramatic role with the annihilation of General George Armstrong Custer. But it was also the area in which the fur trade had its roots; where the sheepherders and the cattlemen vied with each other for the right to graze the land; where the "honyockers" tried-and often failed to master the land and the seasons; where copper interests have played a powerful role in politics and in the lives of the people; and where, only recently, the oil industry has followed the boom-and-bust cycle so well known in the state.

This story of Montana points up particularly the position which is and has been occupied by the state in relation to the nation as a whole. 

Crow Killer, New Edition: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson

By Raymond W. Thorp Jr.

Indiana University Press
Paperback (208 pages)

Crow Killer, New Edition: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson
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The movie Jeremiah Johnson introduced millions to the legendary mountain man, John Johnson. The real Johnson was a far cry from the Redford version. Standing 6’2" in his stocking feet and weighing nearly 250 pounds, he was a mountain man among mountain men, one of the toughest customers on the western frontier. As the story goes, one morning in 1847 Johnson returned to his Rocky Mountain trapper’s cabin to find the remains of his murdered Indian wife and her unborn child. He vowed vengeance against an entire Indian tribe. Crow Killer tells of that one-man, decades-long war to avenge his beloved. Whether seen as a realistic glimpse of a long ago, fierce frontier world, or as a mythic retelling of the many tales spun around and by Johnson, Crow Killer is unforgettable. This new edition, redesigned for the first time, features an introduction by western frontier expert Nathan E. Bender and a glossary of Indian tribes.

Montana: A History of Two Centuries

By Richard B. Roeder

University of Washington Press
Paperback (480 pages)

Montana: A History of Two Centuries
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Montana: A History of Two Centuries first appeared in 1976 and immediately became the standard work in its field. In this thoroughgoing revision, William L. Lang has joined Michael P. Malone and Richard B. Roeder in carrying forward the narrative to the 1990s. Fully twenty percent of the text is new or revised, incorporating the results of new research and new interpretations dealing with pre-history, Native American studies, ethnic history, women’s studies, oral history, and recent political history. In addition, the bibliography has been updated and greatly expanded, new maps have been drawn, and new photographs have been selected.

Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer

By Wooden Leg

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (128 pages)

Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer
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Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer is a book by Thomas Bailey Marquis about the life of a Northern Cheyenne Indian, Wooden Leg, who fought in several historic battles between United States forces and the Plains Indians, including the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where he faced the troops of George Armstrong Custer. The book is of great value to historians, not only for its eye-witness accounts of battles, but also for its detailed description of the way of life of 19th-century Plains Indians. The book was dictated to Marquis by Wooden Leg in Indian Sign Language, their only common language. Marquis gathered the stories for the book from Wooden Leg and others while he was physician at the agency in Montana from 1922. They were reluctant to open up to him at first, but eventually Marquis gained their trust. Wooden Leg lived through some of the most turbulent times in Cheyenne history, but the book begins with his childhood and descriptions of Cheyenne customs. These include tribal organisation, the warrior societies, sport, religion and mythology, their friendship and cooperation with the Sioux, arrow recognition, warbonnet entitlement, and much more. Wooden Leg was introduced to warfare at a very young age via conflict with the Crow and joined the Elk warrior society at age 14. The book describes Wooden Leg's participation in the important battles of the war of 1876–1877, when the Cheyenne, Sioux, and other plains tribes fought the United States. These included not only the Little Big Horn, but the preceding Battle of the Rosebud and the succeeding Dull Knife Fight. Following the Cheyenne surrender, the tribe was deported to Oklahoma, but eventually Wooden Leg was allowed to return. At Fort Keogh he worked as a scout for the army and was later appointed a judge at the Tongue River Indian Reservation. Wooden Leg describes in detail how he befriended the old chief Little Wolf towards the end of the latter's life. Little Wolf had been a great war leader but was now ostracised for having killed another Cheyenne while drunk. Wooden Leg's description of the Battle of the Little Bighorn caused controversy when the book was first published, particularly his claim that many of the US soldiers committed suicide. This claim is still discussed by scholars and has been investigated by archeologists, but no firm conclusions have been reached.

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