The state of Montana is located in the western United States. It is bordered by Idaho to the west, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south, and Canada to the north. Montana's two largest cities are Billings (population: 12,251) and Havre (population: 9,620), as well as tribal communities such as Blackfeet (population: 9,319).
As the fourth largest state in the United States, Montana has an extremely diverse geography. It is surrounded by Idaho to the west and southwest, Wyoming to the south, and North Dakota and South Dakota to the east.
Montana is essentially divided into two distinct geographies: the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. The western two-fifths of Montana fall within the Rocky Mountains, and the eastern three-fifths lie upon the Great Plains. This division is due to the Continental Divide, which stretches all the way from Alaska in the north to Chile in the south, encompassing both North America and South America.
In the Rocky Mountains of Montana, the mountain ranges are generally aligned from north-northwest to south-southeast and were formed millions of years ago. During the last Ice Age, some 11,500 years ago, glaciers carved the mountain crest lines and high valleys from rounded, convex terrain into sharp, rugged, concave topography. When this feature melted, it left the material as glacial deposits. Over time, the size of these glaciers has decreased, and they are much smaller than when they initially formed during the last Ice Age.
There is a contrast within Rocky Mountain Montana between mountains with narrow valleys and those with broad valleys. One is northwestern Montana, which includes Glacier National Park and most of Montana’s glaciers. The other lies in south-central Montana at the northern end of Yellowstone National Park; this area contains the highest point in Montana, Granite Peak, which has an elevation of 12,799 feet (3,901 meters). These regions are divided within the state by a broad valley.
Most of the Great Plains Montana is rather rough land, with the area south of Yellowstone River consisting of hills. Surrounding a long segment of the Missouri River in the north-central part of the state are the Missouri River Breaks, which make up part of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. The rocks underlying Great Plains Montana, except for the mountain outliers, are younger and softer than those of the Rocky Mountains.
The climate of most of the Great Plains of Montana is semiarid, with hot summers and cold winters. Average annual precipitation is only about 13 inches (330 mm); the plains are subject to cycles of drought followed by periods of unusually heavy rainfall and flooding. Total snowfall is light, though frost or freezing occurs more than 200 days of the year. The chinook, a warm winter wind that blows on the plains near the foot of the Rockies, allows for January temperatures to average just above freezing. As for Rocky Mountain Montana, there are several different climates arranged one above the other in different zones. The climate of the lowest zone—the dry valley bottoms—is like that in eastern Montana. The climates of the other zones become progressively cooler, wetter, and snowier with higher elevations.
Florida People and Population
Demographically, Montanans mostly consider themselves descended from Europeans. African Americans are a minuscule number of the population, while Asians and the Hispanic community make up the other small percentage of people. Notably, the second largest demographic in the state is the Native American population. Montana has seven reservations, and Native Americans constitute more than one-tenth of the state’s total population. Nearly two-thirds of them live on reservations, and most of the rest live in the cities near the reservations, notably Missoula, Great Falls, and Billings. These are the seven reservations:
Kootenai, located on the western side of the state.
Pend d’Oreille & Salish, located on the western side of the state.
Confederated Reserve, 1855, Flathead (Salish), located on the western side of the state.
Blackfeet & Gros Ventre, located in the north-central part of the state.
Crow, located in the south-central part of the state.
Assiniboine, located on the eastern side of the state.
Hidatsa, Mandan & Arikara, located on the eastern side of the state.
About seventy percent of Montanans affiliate with organized religious groups. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest single denomination, but Protestantism has the greatest number of people. Smaller groups such as Mormons, Buddhists, and traditional Native beliefs exist as well.
Montana law officially started on a federal and state level with its original constitution, which was written in 1889 but was replaced in 1972. The new document provided for a voter initiative process and a voter review of local government every 10 years.
The executive branch of state government includes a governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, and superintendent of public instruction, all of whom are elected to four-year terms. The executive branch also includes a cabinet appointed by the governor, who controls virtually all appointments of government officers who are not elected. The bicameral legislature is composed of 50 senators elected to four-year terms and 100 representatives elected to two-year terms.
Judges are elected without party designation, and seven members make up the Montana Supreme Court.
Montana includes 56 counties. Municipalities have police forces, and each county has an elected sheriff, who appoints deputies and has jurisdiction outside towns and cities. Some sheriffs and deputies, as well as federal officers, act as brand inspectors to prevent the sale of stolen livestock.
Historically, Montanans have supported worker’s rights and labor unions. This shifted the political landscape of the states towards the Democratic Party during the late 20th century. In the 21st century, a conservative trend took shape and split both the Democratic and Republican parties evenly.
Montana’s economy is dominated by the primary sector, which is mostly agriculture, ranching, forestry, mining, energy production, and other services. The outdoor recreation industry has become important, especially due to the national parks within the state, and some high-technology industries have come to the state. Similar to other states, the healthcare and government sectors are economically important as well. While Montana has no sales tax, and goods are exempt from property taxes, the per capita income is far lower than the national average, coming in a little over $33,000, and poverty is a problem in several parts of the state, especially on reservations.
Florida Interesting Facts
Most artistic activity occurs in the cities with colleges and universities, several of which sponsor visits by lecturers and professional artists of various kinds in addition to presenting the work of faculty members and students. Several cities have symphony orchestras that include some professional musicians.
The Montana Institute of the Arts, founded in 1948, is an important organization that brings together people from across the state through publications, festivals, and traveling exhibits. Native American tribes also hold traditional dance ceremonies. Reenactments of famous battles in the state’s history are performed as well.
Furthermore, Montana’s scenery causes people to be attracted to visit the state. Whether it is Glacier National Park, Big Hole National Battlefield, or Fort Benton, Montana’s natural and historical landscapes attract visitors year-round.
While Montana does not have any professional sports teams, people in the state still enjoy local sports. Whether it is on the high school level, university level through the Montana University System such as the University of Montana, or minor league baseball, Montanans love sports.
Archaeological evidence places a human presence to Montana to roughly 12,700 years ago when the burial of a young boy was found near Wilsall in 1968. Alongside other artifacts from the Clovis Culture, the remains of this boy indicated the earliest dated burial site in North America. Over the course of the next 10,00 years, countless individuals roamed the region of Montana as nomads, following buffalo herds and other game.
By the 17th century, Plains Indians began arriving from the east, and in the 18th century, the Crow, or the Apsáalooke, were the first of the native nations currently living in Montana to arrive in the region. They migrated from the area that is now Alberta Canada to the southern and central parts of Montana, as well as northern Wyoming. Today, the modern Crown Indian Reservation is the largest in Montana, located in the southeastern portion of the state along the Big Horn River near the modern town of Hardin.
Other indigenous tribes who migrated to the region prior to European contact include the Cheyenne, the Blackfeet, the Assiniboine (Asiniibwaan), Gros Ventre (A’ani/A’aninin), and the Kootenai. Most of the known information about these tribes comes from post-European contact, as well as their current locations within the state of Montana. The Cheyenne tribe is located in the southeastern corner of the state. The Blackfeet are in the central and north-central areas. The Assiniboine and A’ani (Gros Ventre) are of the northeastern corner, while the Kutenai are in the northwestern corner. These are not the only tribes who had a presence in Montana. The Lakota, Shoshone, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, and Arapaho all claim an early history to the state in the 17th century stating they were nomads who roamed between the Yellowstone River and Missouri River. However, these tribes do not currently have a reservation within the state.
With Napoleon Bonaparte selling land to Thomas Jefferson and the United States in what became the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Montana officially became a United States territory. The first known non-Native American explorers to traverse through Montana were member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806. Soon after the Lewis and Clark Expedition, fur traders and trappers followed into the region. Though the increased interaction between fur traders and indigenous peoples initially proved to be a profitable partnership, conflicts eventually broke out when indigenous interests were threatened. Indigenous peoples were also decimated by diseases introduced by the traders and trappers to which they had no immunity. One of the first trading posts, Fort Raymond (1807–1811) was constructed in Crow country in 1807. The first permanent settlement by Euro-Americans was St. Mary's. This was established in 1841 near present-day Stevensville by Roman Catholic missionaries who followed fur traders to Montana. In 1847, Fort Benton, which is still the oldest continuously used settlement in Montana, was built as the uppermost fur-trading post on the Missouri River. By the 1850s, settlers began moving into the Beaverhead and Big Hole valleys from the Oregon Trail and into the Clark's Fork valley.
As gold rushes took over throughout the United States in the 19th century, Montana was a perfect spot for gold prospectors. First discovered in 1852, large scale gold mining did not take place until 1862 in Bannack. Over the next two years more gold was discovered in Virginia City (1863), Helena (1864), and Butte (1864). Eager to secure the area and its mineral wealth for the union due to the ongoing United States Civil War, the U.S. federal government established Montana Territory in 1864 with Bannack, on Grasshopper Creek, as its first capital, and Virginia City, in Alder Gulch, as its second. This led to an increase of pressure on the Native Americans from U.S. settlers. As a result, the natives fought to protect their land. The Dakota (Sioux) and Cheyenne won their last major victory in June 1876, against the United States, who were led by Gen. George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In 1877, Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé won a battle in the Big Hole Basin and fled toward Canada only to be met and defeated by U.S. troops near the border. The last major conflict between Native Americans and the United States federal government was the Crow War in 1887 which saw the Crow leader Swordbearer led a group of Crow warriors at the Battle of Crow Agency. With the Crow loss, this ended armed conflict between the U.S. government and indigenous tribes in the Montana territory.
Montana officially became the 41st state on Nov. 8, 1889, with Helena as the capital. Butte still played an important role as a gold camp. However, by the 1880s, hard-rock mining had begun in the town, but shaft mining emerged when vast deposits of copper were discovered. Butte subsequently became known as the “Richest Hill on Earth,” and the world’s largest smelter was built at nearby Anaconda. Thus, the so-called “War of the Copper Kings” began. Three men: Marcus Daly, William A. Clark (no known relation to William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition), and F. Augustus Heinze all fought over control of the newly formed copper mining industry. Eventually, this battle was won by Marcus Daly, whose Anaconda Company became one of the largest mining conglomerates in the world by the turn of the 20th century. Throughout the 20th century, the company destroyed the mining unions, acquired most of the media in the state, and influenced state politics and the state legislature until the 1970s.
20th and 21st Centuries
Gold, copper, and hard-rock mining were not the only natural resources that were exploited in Montana during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cattle and sheep grazing in Great Plains Montana started in the 1860s as herds were driven from Texas. The vast grasslands of Montana seemed geographically ideal for cattle, but a harsh winter in 1886 and 1887 wiped out almost all of the herds. Around 1900, homesteaders evolved their farming techniques and moved into the plains country to grow grain on semiarid, largely non-irrigated land. After a few years of bad crops and high prices, a series of dry years brought financial disaster and mass exodus.
In 1915, petroleum and natural gas production began in Great Plains Montana. Railroads already existed for decades, but the automobile industry was growing throughout the country. By the 1950s, petroleum and natural gas production greatly expanded, and by the 1960s it peaked in Montana. Coal mining, which had existed throughout the 20th century peaked in the 1970s but declined in economic importance in the 1980s and 1990s. In the early 21st century, rising petroleum prices sparked renewed interest in the exploitation of Montana’s vast coal reserves.
With the closing of the copper mines at Butte, the smelter in Anaconda, and the copper refinery at Great Falls in the early 1980s, there was a turning point in Montana’s history. The state does not heavily rely on the primary economic sector as more emphasis has been placed on tourism and on new and innovative businesses that provide jobs without causing deterioration of the state’s natural resources. In the 1990s the environment of the state began to draw newcomers to the state in large numbers, notably retirees from both the east and the west coast. That trend continued into the 21st century, although it is not as a rapid pace as the 1990s.
People Also Ask...
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What is Montana known for?
Montana is most known for its environment. From its natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and natural resources, Montana is known as both the Treasure State and Big Sky Country. Yellowstone National Park and the Rocky Mountains are the two most famous landscapes in Montana.
What languages are spoken in Montana?
Outside of English, which is the official language, there are a multitude of indigenous languages that are still spoken in Montana. In all, 12 languages in four language families are represented among Montana’s tribes. Linguist Dr. Logan Sutton notes that four language families: Algonquian, Kutenai, Salishan and Siouan, give the state a rich diversity of Native American languages.
What is the coldest month in Montana?
January is typically the coldest month in Montana. Typically, the temperature ranges from a low of 15 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. On average, the temperature in January is 22 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest recorded temperature in Montana was -43 degrees Fahrenheit in 1936.
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Selected famous natives and residents:
- Dorothy Baker author;
- Dirk Benedict actor;
- W. A. (Tony) Boyle labor union official;
- Gary Cooper actor;
- John Cowan prospector and founder of Last Chance Gulch (now Helena);
- Alfred Bertram Guthrie Pulitzer Prizeâ€“winning author;
- Chet Huntley TV newscaster;
- Will James writer and artist;
- Dorothy Johnson author;
- Evel Knievel daredevil motorcyclist;
- Myrna Loy actress;
- David Lynch filmmaker;
- Mike Mansfield senator;
- George Montgomery actor;
- Jeannette Rankin first woman elected to Congress;
- Martha Raye actress;
- Charles M. Russell painter;
- Michael Smuin choreographer;
- Lester C. Thurow economist and educator.