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Template:US state Montana is an inland U.S. state with around 60% of the state dominated by the vast expanse of the Great Plains, partly contributing to the state nickname of "Big Sky Country." Other well-known nicknames include the "Treasure State" and "Land of Shining Mountains." The central and western third of the state has numerous mountain ranges (approximately 77 named) of the northern Rocky Mountains; thus the name, derived from the Spanish word montaña ("mountain"). The state ranks fourth in size (~145,000 square miles) but has a relatively low population (with only six states having fewer people) and consequently a very low population density. The economy is primarily based on agriculture (wheat, barley, sugar beets, oats, rye, seed potatoes, honey and cherries) as well as cattle and sheep ranching, and significant lumber and mineral extraction (gold, coal, silver, talc, and vermiculite) industries. Tourism is also important to the economy with millions of visitors a year to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, the Missouri River headwaters, the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn and 3 of the 5 entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

Originally inhabited by several ethnolinguistic groups of American Indians, including the Blackfoot, (Siksika), Crow, Cheyenne, Bannock, Shoshoni, Nez Perce. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 18041806 was the first group of European-American explorers to cross Montana. Today, most of these Native American nations still call Montana home and Montana has more Native American Indian reservations than any other state (7). Modern-day Montana became Montana Territory in 1864 by the appointment of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and later became the 41st state in 1889. The state became the first to elect a female member of Congress, Jeannette Rankin, and was one of the first states to give women voting rights; (see Suffrage). Despite its sizable American Indian population, Montana is one of the most homogenous states— nearly nine-tenths of its residents are of European descent, with a large number of immigrants of German, Irish, Norwegian, Welsh/Cornish, Italian and Slovak heritage arriving from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. A significant portion of Chinese (Canton) immigrants also came and left an indelible mark on the state, especially in the mining cities of Helena and Butte. Outside of the state, Montana is generally regarded as Republican; however, the state currently has a Democratic governor (Brian Schweitzer), Democratic-controlled legislature (the Montana State Legislature), and one Democratic U.S. Senator (Max Baucus).

The state capital is Helena (nicknamed "Queen City of the Rockies"), hometown of the late Gary Cooper and Myrna Loy, and sister city of Kumamoto, Japan. The largest city is Billings with a metro area of over 100,000. The state's U.S. postal abbreviation is MT. The USS Montana was named in honor of the state.


Missouri Breaks region in central Montana

Main articles: List of Montana counties, List of Montana rivers

Montana and Canada share a 545 mile (877 km) northern border portion of the world's longest undefended border. The state borders the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, more provinces than any other state. This area, following U.S. Highway 2, is often called the "High Line." To the east is the border with North Dakota; to the southeast is a short border with South Dakota. In the south is the Wyoming border, and on the west and southwest is the Idaho border.

With a land area of 145,552 square miles (376,978 km²), the state of Montana is the fourth largest in the United States (after Alaska, Texas, and California). Major rivers in the state include the Missouri, Clark Fork of the Columbia, Milk, Flathead, and Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in North America. Montana is also one of several areas to claim the disputed title of "world's shortest river" (the Roe River).

Montana contains Glacier National Park and portions of Yellowstone National Park. Other sites include the Little Bighorn National Monument, Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area, Big Hole National Battlefield, Lewis and Clark Caverns, and the National Bison Range. There are also a number of National Forests and National Wildlife Refuges. The Federal government administers 36,000,000 acres (146,000 km²). 275,000 acres (1100 km²) are administered as state parks and forests.

File:Glacier np.jpg
St. Mary's Lake in Glacier National Park

The topography of the state is highly diverse. In the western third it is extremely mountainous. The Bitterroot Mountains form most of the western boundary line. East of this almost continuous boundary the main chain of the Rocky Mountains cross the state. Between the Bitterroot Mountains and the Rocky Mountain Front are many parallel valleys (Gallatin Valley, Big Hole Valley, Bitterroot Valley, Flathead Valley), separated by spur ranges. East of the main range of the Rocky Mountains is a high tableland with several isolated 'island ranges.' Farther east and north of this transition zone are the empty Great Plains, with rolling tablelands and rough badlands which extend into the Dakotas, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Wyoming.

Just east of the Rocky Mountains lie the Sun River and Chestnut Valleys (west and south of Great Falls). Three stately buttes are familiar landmarks. These buttes, Square Butte, Shaw Butte, and Crown Butte, are made of igneous rock, which is dense and has withstood weathering for many years. The underlying surface consists of shale. Many areas around these buttes are covered with clay surface soils. These soils have been derived from the weathering of the Colorado Formation.

In the south near the Yellowstone River lies the Absaroka Mountains and the Beartooth Plateau, where many of the mountains reach an altitude of over 10,500 feet (3,200 m) and the peaks are perpetually covered with snow. The Beartooth Plateau is the largest contiguous land mass over 10,000 feet in the lower 48 states. Besides the prominent mountain ranges there are many spurs, detached ridges, and smooth, sloping buttes. The mountains are intersected by numerous small valleys and canyons, through which flow several pristine rivers. The highest point in the state, Granite Peak, is 12,807 feet (3,901 m) high.

The principal river systems in Montana are the Clark Fork of the Columbia, the Missouri, and the Yellowstone. The Clark Fork of the Columbia (not to be confused with the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River) rises in the Rocky Mountains near Butte, and after flowing west turns north and forms a portion of the Idaho boundary. The Missouri river, formed by the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers crosses the central part of the state, flows through the Missouri breaks and later enters North Dakota. The Yellowstone, a tributary of the Missouri, rises in Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, flows northeast across the state through canyons and gorges, and enters the Missouri River a few miles east of the North Dakota boundary.

Vegetation of the state includes ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, larch, fir, spruce, aspen, birch, redcedar, ash, alder, rocky mountain maple and cottonwood trees. Forests cover one-fourth of the state. Flowers native to Montana include asters, bitterroots, daisies, lupins, poppies, primroses, columbine, lilies, orchids and dryads. Several species of sagebrush and cactus and many species of grasses are common plants in some regions. Many species of mushrooms and lichens are also found in the state.


Main article: History of Montana

Native Americans were the first inhabitants of modern-day Montana. Groups included the Crows in the south-central area, the Cheyenne in the southeast, the Blackfeet, Assiniboine and Gros Ventres in the central and north-central region and the Kootenai and Salish in the western sector. The smaller Pend d'Oreille and Kalispel tribes were found around Flathead Lake and the western mountains, respectively.

Subsequent to the Lewis and Clark expeditions and after the finding of gold and copper in the state in the late 1850's, Montana became a United States territory (Montana Territory) on May 26, 1864 and the 41st state on November 8, 1889.

Fort Shaw, (Montana Territory), was established in the spring of 1867. Fort Shaw is located west of Great Falls in the Sun River Valley. Fort Shaw was one of three posts authorized to be built by Congress in 1865. The other two posts in the Montana Territory were Camp Cooke on the Judith River and Fort C.F. Smith on the Bozeman Trail in southcentral Montana Territory. Fort Shaw, named after Colonel Robert G. Shaw, who commanded one of the first all African-American regiments (54th Massachusetts) during the American Civil War, was built of adobe and lumber by the 13th Infantry. The fort had a parade ground that was 400 feet square and consisted of barracks for officers, a hospital, and a trading post and could house up to 450 soldiers. Completed in 1868, the fort was used by military personnel until 1891.

After the close of the military post in 1891, the government established Fort Shaw as a school to provide industrial training to young Native-Americans. The Fort Shaw Indian Industrial School was opened on April 30, 1892. The school had at one time 17 faculty members, 11 Indian assistants and 300 students. The school made use of over twenty of the buildings originally built by the Army. In 1902, a group of female students from the Indian school began playing basketball and traveled throughout Montana, defeating high school teams as well as some college teams. In 1904, the girls basketball team traveled by train to the St. Louis World's Fair. Over five months' time the team was challenged by numerous other basketball teams and won every contest, returning to Fort Shaw with the "world champion" trophy. On May 1, 2004 a monument in honor of the basketball team was unveiled at the entrance of the present day Fort Shaw Elementary School.

The Enlarged Homestead Act of the early 1900's greatly affected the settlement of Montana. This Act expanded the land that was provided by the Homestead Act of 1862 from 160 acres to 320 acres. When the latter Act was signed by President Taft, it also reduced the time necessary to prove up from five years to three years and permitted five months absence from the claim each year.

In 1908, the Sun River Irrigation Project, west of Great Falls was opened up for homesteading. Under this Reclamation Act, a person could obtain 40 acres. Most of the people who came to file on these homesteads were young couples who were eager to live near the mountains where hunting and fishing were good. Many of these homesteaders came from the Midwest and Minnesota.

Montana was the scene of the Native Americans' last effort to keep their land. For instance, the last stand of U.S. Army Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer was fought in Montana near the present day town of Hardin. Montana was also the location of the final battles of the Nez Perce Wars.

Cattle ranching has long been central to Montana's history and economy. The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deer Lodge Valley is maintained as a link to the ranching style of the late 19th century. It is operated by the National Park Service, but is also a 1900 acre (7.7 km²) working ranch.

Law and government

See: List of Montana Governors

The capital of Montana is Helena and its current Governor is Brian Schweitzer (Democrat) who was sworn in on January 3, 2005. Its two U.S. senators are Max Baucus (Democrat) and Conrad Burns (Republican). Montana's lone congressman is Denny Rehberg (Republican).

Though generally considered a Republican state (George W. Bush won it by twenty percentage points with 59.1% of the vote in 2004), Montana elected its first Democratic Governor in 16 years in 2004, and both chambers of the legislature are currently controlled by the Democrats. The state last supported a Democrat for president in 1992, Bill Clinton's first election. Only five of Montana's counties tend to vote for Democratic candidates in national elections, they are Big Horn County, Glacier County, Silver Bow County, Roosevelt County and Deer Lodge County. In 2004, Missoula County voted Democratic, while it went Republican in 2000.

Several Indian reservations are located in Montana: Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Crow Indian Reservation, Rocky Boys Indian Reservation, Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and the Flathead Indian Reservation.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Montana's total state product in 2003 was $26 billion. Per capita personal income in 2003 was $25,406, 47th in the nation. Its major agricultural outputs are cattle, wheat, barley, sugar beets and hay. Its industrial outputs are mining, lumber and wood products, and food processing. Tourism is also an extremely important facet of Montana's economy.



Historical populations

1870 20,595
1880 39,159
1890 142,924
1900 243,329
1910 376,053
1920 548,889
1930 537,606
1940 559,456
1950 591,024
1960 674,767
1970 694,409
1980 786,690
1990 799,065
2000 902,195

As of 2004, the population of Montana was estimated to be 926,865. 16,500 of state residents are foreign-born, accounting for 1.8% of the total population. Montana's population increased 128,000 between 1990 and 2004, a 16% growth.



The five largest reported ancestries in Montana are:
German (27%), Irish (14.8%), English (12.7%), Norwegian (10.6%), American (5.1%).

German ancestry is the largest reported ancestry in most of Montana. Residents of Scandinavian ancestry are a plurality in parts of the state, particularly in the northeast. There are several predominantly Native American counties, especially in the north and east. The residents of the western Rocky Mountains are largely of British origin.


The religious affiliations of the people of Montana:

Important cities and towns

Montana's largest city is Billings.

Some of the major cities and towns in Montana are:


Colleges and universities

Professional sports teams

The Minor League baseball teams are:

Famous People from Montana

Ski areas

Montana has several ski areas including:

Miscellaneous information

  • Shortest river in the world: The Roe River
  • In the movie 'Star Trek: First Contact', Montana is the location of the historical first contact between humans and an alien race, the Vulcans.


The current Montana sample license plate. A variety of other license plate images are available in Montana as fund-raisers for non-profit organizations.

Major highways include:

Further reading

  • William Kittredge The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology. (From the back cover: ...over 230 stories, poems, reminiscences, and reports written by 140 men and women. The book is divided into eight sections with introductory essays by William Bevis, Mary Blew, William Kittredge, William Lang, Richard Roeder, Annick Smith, and James Welch.)University of Washington Press ed edition 1990. 1158 pages. ISBN: 0295969741.
  • Howard, Joseph Kinsey. Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome. Bison Books: 2003. ISBN 0803273398.
  • Lang, William L., et. al. Montana: A History of Two Centuries. University of Washington: 1991. ISBN 0295971290.
  • Toole, Kenneth Ross. Montana: An Uncommon Land. University of Oklahoma: 1984. ISBN 0806118903.
  • Doig, Ivan, Dancing at the Rascal Fair.
  • Doig, Ivan, English Creek.
  • MacLean, Norman, A River Runs Through It.
  • MacLean, Norman, Young Men and Fire.
  • Walker, Mildred, Winter Wheat ISBN: 0151972230

External links


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