Montana facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
|State of Montana|
Big Sky Country, The Treasure State
"Oro y Plata" (Spanish)
"Gold and Silver"
Map of the United States with Montana highlighted
|Before statehood||Montana Territory|
|Admitted to the Union||November 8, 1889 (41st)|
|• Upper house||Senate|
|• Lower house||House of Representatives|
|• Total||147,040 sq mi (380,800 km2)|
|• Land||145,552 sq mi (145,552 square miles (376,980 km2) km2)|
|• Water||1,491 sq mi (3,862 km2) 1%|
|• Length||255 mi (410 km)|
|• Width||630 mi (1,015 km)|
|Elevation||3,400 ft (1,040 m)|
|Highest elevation||12,807 ft (3,903.5 m)|
|Lowest elevation||1,804 ft (557 m)|
|• Density||7.09/sq mi (2.73/km2)|
|• Density rank||48th|
|• Median household income||$53,386|
|• Income rank||40th|
|• Official language||English|
|Time zone||UTC−07:00 (Mountain)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−06:00 (MDT)|
|ISO 3166 code||US-MT|
|Latitude||44° 21′ N to 49° N|
|Longitude||104° 2′ W to 116° 3′ W|
|Montana state symbols|
The Flag of Montana
The Seal of Montana
|Fish||Westslope cutthroat trout|
|State route marker|
|Lists of United States state symbols|
Montana is a state in the Mountain West subregion of 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 by the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan to the north. It is the fourth-largest state by area, the seventh-least populous state, and the third-least densely populated state. Its state capital is Helena. The western half of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges, while the eastern half is characterized by western prairie terrain and badlands, with smaller mountain ranges found throughout the state. In all, 77 named ranges are part of the Rocky Mountains.
Montana has no official nickname but several unofficial ones, most notably "Big Sky Country", "The Treasure State", "Land of the Shining Mountains", and "The Last Best Place". The economy is primarily based on agriculture, including ranching and cereal grain farming. Other significant economic resources include oil, gas, coal, mining, and lumber. The health care, service, and government sectors are also significant to the state's economy. Montana's fastest-growing sector is tourism; nearly 13 million annual tourists visit Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Beartooth Highway, Flathead Lake, Big Sky Resort, and other attractions.
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With an area of 147,040 square miles (380,800 km2), Montana is slightly larger than Japan. It is the fourth largest state in the United States after Alaska, Texas, and California; the largest landlocked U.S. state; and the world's 56th largest national state/province subdivision.
To the north, Montana shares a 545-mile (877 km) border with three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, the only state to do so. It borders North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south and Idaho to the west and southwest.
Most of Montana's 100 or more named mountain ranges are in the state's western half, most of which is geologically and geographically part of the Northern Rocky Mountains.
The Rocky Mountain Front is a significant feature in the state's north-central portion, and isolated island ranges that interrupt the prairie landscape common in the central and eastern parts of the state.
About 60 percent of the state is prairie, part of the northern Great Plains.
The Bitterroot Mountains— one of the longest continuous ranges in the Rocky Mountain chain from Alaska to Mexico along with smaller ranges, including the Coeur d'Alene Mountains and the Cabinet Mountains, divide the state from Idaho. The southern third of the Bitterroot range blends into the Continental Divide. Other major mountain ranges west of the Divide include the Cabinet Mountains, the Anaconda Range, the Missions, the Garnet Range, Sapphire Mountains, and Flint Creek Range.
The Divide's northern section, where the mountains rapidly give way to prairie, is part of the Rocky Mountain Front.
The front is most pronounced in the Lewis Range, located primarily in Glacier National Park. Due to the configuration of mountain ranges in Glacier National Park, the Northern Divide (which begins in Alaska's Seward Peninsula) crosses this region and turns east in Montana at Triple Divide Peak. It causes the Waterton River, Belly, and Saint Mary rivers to flow north into Alberta, Canada. There they join the Saskatchewan River, which ultimately empties into Hudson Bay.
The Beartooth Plateau is the largest continuous land mass over 10,000 feet (3,000 m) high in the continental United States. It contains the state's highest point, Granite Peak, 12,799 feet (3,901 m) high.
Between many mountain ranges are rich river valleys. The Big Hole Valley, Bitterroot Valley, Gallatin Valley, Flathead Valley and Paradise Valley have extensive agricultural resources and multiple opportunities for tourism and recreation.
East and north of this transition zone are the expansive and sparsely populated Northern Plains, with tableland prairies, smaller island mountain ranges, and badlands. The isolated island ranges east of the Divide include the Bear Paw Mountains, Bull Mountains, Castle Mountains, Crazy Mountains, Highwood Mountains, Judith Mountains, Little Belt Mountains, Little Rocky Mountains, the Pryor Mountains, Snowy Mountains, Sweet Grass Hills, and in the state's southeastern corner near Ekalaka the Long Pines. Many of these isolated eastern ranges were created about 120 to 66 million years ago when magma welling up from the interior cracked and bowed the earth's surface here.
Three buttes south of Great Falls are major landmarks: Cascade, Crown, Square, Shaw and Buttes. Known as laccoliths, they formed when igneous rock protruded through cracks in the sedimentary rock. The underlying surface consists of sandstone and shale. Farther east, areas such as Makoshika State Park near Glendive and Medicine Rocks State Park near Ekalaka contain some of the most scenic badlands regions in the state.
The Hell Creek Formation in Northeast Montana is a major source of dinosaur fossils. Paleontologist Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman brought this formation to the world's attention with several major finds.
Rivers, lakes and reservoirs
Montana has thousands of named rivers and creeks, 450 miles (720 km) of which are known for "blue-ribbon" trout fishing. Montana's water resources provide for recreation, hydropower, crop and forage irrigation, mining, and water for human consumption. Montana is one of few geographic areas in the world whose rivers form parts of three major watersheds (i.e. where two continental divides intersect). Its rivers feed the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay. The watersheds divide at Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.
Lakes and reservoirs
There are at least 3,223 named lakes and reservoirs in Montana, including Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States. Other major lakes include Whitefish Lake in the Flathead Valley and Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park. The largest reservoir in the state is Fort Peck Reservoir on the Missouri river, which is contained by the second largest earthen dam and largest hydraulically filled dam in the world.
Flora and fauna
Vegetation of the state includes lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine; Douglas fir, larch, spruce; aspen, birch, red cedar, hemlock, ash, alder; rocky mountain maple and cottonwood trees. Forests cover approximately 25 percent 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. Many species of mushrooms and lichens are also found in the state.
Montana is home to a diverse array of fauna that includes 14 amphibian, 90 fish, 117 mammal, 20 reptile and 427 bird species. Additionally, there are over 10,000 invertebrate species, including 180 mollusks and 30 crustaceans.
Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states. Montana hosts five federally endangered species–black-footed ferret, whooping crane, least tern, pallid sturgeon and white sturgeon and seven threatened species including the grizzly bear, Canadian lynx and bull trout. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks manages fishing and hunting seasons for at least 17 species of game fish including seven species of trout, walleye and smallmouth bass and at least 29 species of game birds and animals including ring-neck pheasant, grey partridge, elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, whitetail deer, gray wolf and bighorn sheep.
Montana contains Glacier National Park, "The Crown of the Continent"; and portions of Yellowstone National Park, including three of the park's five entrances. Other federally recognized sites include the Little Bighorn National Monument, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Big Hole National Battlefield, and the National Bison Range.
Areas managed by the National Park Service include:
- Big Hole National Battlefield near Wisdom
- Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area near Fort Smith
- Glacier National Park
- Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site at Deer Lodge
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency
- Nez Perce National Historical Park
- Yellowstone National Park
Montana is a large state with considerable variation in geography, and the climate is, therefore, equally varied.
The western half is mountainous, interrupted by numerous large valleys. Eastern Montana comprises plains and badlands, broken by hills and isolated mountain ranges, and has a semi-arid, continental climate. The Continental Divide has a considerable effect on the climate, as it restricts the flow of warmer air from the Pacific from moving east, and drier continental air from moving west. The area west of the divide has a modified northern Pacific coast climate, with milder winters, cooler summers, less wind and a longer growing season. Low clouds and fog often form in the valleys west of the divide in winter, but this is rarely seen in the east.
Average daytime temperatures vary from 28 °F or −2.2 °C in January to 84.5 °F or 29.2 °C in July. The variation in geography leads to great variation in temperature. The highest observed summer temperature was 117 °F or 47.2 °C at Glendive on July 20, 1893, and Medicine Lake on July 5, 1937. Throughout the state, summer nights are generally cool and pleasant. Extremely hot weather is less common above 4,000 feet or 1,200 metres. Snowfall has been recorded in all months of the year in the more mountainous areas of central and western Montana, though it is rare in July and August.
The coldest temperature on record for Montana is also the coldest temperature for the entire contiguous U.S. On January 20, 1954, −70 °F or −56.7 °C was recorded at a gold mining camp near Rogers Pass.
The climate has become warmer in Montana. Winters are warmer, too, and have fewer cold spells. The warmer winters in the region have allowed various species to expand their ranges and proliferate. The combination of warmer weather, attack by beetles, and mismanagement during past years has led to a substantial increase in the severity of forest fires in Montana.
Montana is one of only two continental US states (along with Colorado) which is antipodal to land. The Kerguelen Islands are antipodal to the Montana–Saskatchewan–Alberta border. No towns are precisely antipodal to Kerguelen, though Chester and Rudyard are close.
Various indigenous peoples lived in the territory of the present-day state of Montana for thousands of years. Historic tribes encountered by Europeans and settlers from the United States included the Crow in the south-central area; the Cheyenne in the southeast; the Blackfeet, Assiniboine and Gros Ventres in the central and north-central area; and the Kootenai and Salish in the west. The smaller Pend d'Oreille and Kalispel tribes lived near Flathead Lake and the western mountains, respectively.
The land in Montana east of the continental divide was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Subsequent to and particularly in the decades following the Lewis and Clark Expedition, American, British and French traders operated a fur trade, typically working with indigenous peoples, in both eastern and western portions of what would become Montana.
The first permanent settlement by Euro-Americans in what today is Montana was St. Mary's (1841) near present-day Stevensville. In 1847, Fort Benton was established as the uppermost fur-trading post on the Missouri River. In the 1850s, settlers began moving into the Beaverhead and Big Hole valleys from the Oregon Trail and into the Clark's Fork valley.
The first gold discovered in Montana was at Gold Creek near present-day Garrison in 1852. A series of major mining discoveries in the western third of the state starting in 1862 found gold, silver, copper, lead, coal (and later oil) that attracted tens of thousands of miners to the area. Gold output from 1862 through 1876 reached $144 million; silver then became even more important. The largest mining operations were in the city of Butte, which had important silver deposits and gigantic copper deposits.
Before the creation of Montana Territory (1864–1889), various parts of what is now Montana were parts of Oregon Territory (1848–1859), Washington Territory (1853–1863), Idaho Territory (1863–1864), and Dakota Territory (1861–1864). Montana became a United States territory (Montana Territory) on May 26, 1864.
The first territorial capital was at Bannack. The first territorial governor was Sidney Edgerton. The capital moved to Virginia City in 1865 and to Helena in 1875. In 1870, the non-Indian population of Montana Territory was 20,595.
As white settlers began populating Montana from the 1850s through the 1870s, disputes with Native Americans ensued, primarily over land ownership and control. In 1855, Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens negotiated the Hellgate treaty between the United States Government and the Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and the Kootenai people of western Montana, which established boundaries for the tribal nations. The treaty was ratified in 1859. While the treaty established what later became the Flathead Indian Reservation, trouble with interpreters and confusion over the terms of the treaty led whites to believe that the Bitterroot Valley was opened to settlement, but the tribal nations disputed those provisions. The Salish remained in the Bitterroot Valley until 1891.
The first U.S. Army post established in Montana was Camp Cooke in 1866, on the Missouri River, to protect steamboat traffic going to Fort Benton, Montana. More than a dozen additional military outposts were established in the state.
Pressure over land ownership and control increased due to discoveries of gold in various parts of Montana and surrounding states. Major battles occurred in Montana during Red Cloud's War, the Great Sioux War of 1876, the Nez Perce War and in conflicts with Piegan Blackfeet. The most notable of these were the Marias Massacre (1870), Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876), Battle of the Big Hole (1877) and Battle of Bear Paw (1877). The last recorded conflict in Montana between the U.S. Army and Native Americans occurred in 1887 during the Battle of Crow Agency in the Big Horn country. Indian survivors who had signed treaties were generally required to move onto reservations.
Simultaneously with these conflicts, bison, a keystone species and the primary protein source that Native people had survived on for centuries were being destroyed. Some estimates say there were over 13 million bison in Montana in 1870. In 1875, General Philip Sheridan pleaded to a joint session of Congress to authorize the slaughtering of herds in order to deprive the Indians of their source of food. By 1884, commercial hunting had brought bison to the verge of extinction; only about 325 bison remained in the entire United States.
Cattle ranching has been central to Montana's history and economy since Johnny Grant began wintering cattle in the Deer Lodge Valley in the 1850s and traded cattle fattened in fertile Montana valleys with emigrants on the Oregon Trail.
Nelson Story brought the first Texas Longhorn cattle into the territory in 1866. Granville Stuart, Samuel Hauser and Andrew J. Davis started a major open range cattle operation in Fergus County in 1879. The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deer Lodge is maintained today as a link to the ranching style of the late 19th century.
Tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad (NPR) reached Montana from the west in 1881 and from the east in 1882. However, the railroad played a major role in sparking tensions with Native American tribes in the 1870s. Jay Cooke, the NPR president launched major surveys into the Yellowstone valley in 1871, 1872 and 1873 which were challenged forcefully by the Sioux under chief Sitting Bull. These clashes, in part, contributed to the Panic of 1873, a financial crisis that delayed construction of the railroad into Montana. Surveys in 1874, 1875 and 1876 helped spark the Great Sioux War of 1876. The transcontinental NPR was completed on September 8, 1883, at Gold Creek.
Tracks of the Great Northern Railroad (GNR) reached eastern Montana in 1887 and when they reached the northern Rocky Mountains in 1890, the GNR became a significant promoter of tourism to Glacier National Park region. The transcontinental GNR was completed on January 6, 1893, at Scenic, Washington.
Congress approved Montana statehood in February 1889 and President Grover Cleveland signed an omnibus bill granting statehood to Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington once the appropriate state constitutions were crafted.
On November 8, 1889 President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed Montana the forty-first state in the union. The first state governor was Joseph K. Toole.
The Homestead Act of 1862 provided free land to settlers who could claim and "prove-up" 160 acres (0.65 km2) of federal land in the midwest and western United States. Montana did not see a large influx of immigrants from this act because 160 acres was usually insufficient to support a family in the arid territory. By 1880, there were farms in the more verdant valleys of central and western Montana, but few on the eastern plains.
The Desert Land Act of 1877 was passed to allow settlement of arid lands in the west and allotted to settlers for a fee of $.25 per acre and a promise to irrigate the land. After three years, a fee of one dollar per acre would be paid and the land would be owned by the settler. This act brought mostly cattle and sheep ranchers into Montana, many of whom grazed their herds on the Montana prairie for three years, did little to irrigate the land and then abandoned it without paying the final fees.
In the early 1900s, James J. Hill of the Great Northern began promoting settlement in the Montana prairie to fill his trains with settlers and goods. Other railroads followed suit. In 1902, the Reclamation Act was passed, allowing irrigation projects to be built in Montana's eastern river valleys.
In 1909, Congress passed the Enlarged Homestead Act that expanded the amount of free land from 160 to 320 acres (0.6 to 1.3 km2) per family and in 1912 reduced the time to "prove up" on a claim to three years.
In 1916, the Stock-Raising Homestead Act allowed homesteads of 640 acres in areas unsuitable for irrigation. This combination of advertising and changes in the Homestead Act drew tens of thousands of homesteaders, lured by free land, with World War I bringing particularly high wheat prices. In addition, Montana was going through a temporary period of higher-than-average precipitation.
However, farmers faced a number of problems. Massive debt was one. Also, most settlers were from wetter regions, unprepared for the dry climate, lack of trees, and scarce water resources. In addition, small homesteads of fewer than 320 acres (130 ha) were unsuited to the environment. Weather and agricultural conditions are much harsher and drier west of the 100th meridian. Then, the droughts of 1917–1921 proved devastating. Many people left, and half the banks in the state went bankrupt as a result of providing mortgages that could not be repaid. As a result, farm sizes increased while the number of farms decreased.
By 1910, homesteaders filed claims on over five million acres, and by 1923, over 93 million acres were farmed.
Montana and World War I
In 1917–18, due to a miscalculation of Montana's population, approximately 40,000 Montanans, ten percent of the state's population, either volunteered or were drafted into the armed forces. This represented a manpower contribution to the war that was 25 percent higher than any other state on a per capita basis. Approximately 1500 Montanans died as a result of the war and 2437 were wounded, also higher than any other state on a per capita basis. Montana's Remount station in Miles City provided 10,000 cavalry horses for the war, more than any other Army post in the US. The war created a boom for Montana mining, lumber and farming interests as demand for war materials and food increased.
An economic depression began in Montana after World War I and lasted through the Great Depression until the beginning of World War II. This caused great hardship for farmers, ranchers, and miners. The wheat farms in eastern Montana make the state a major producer; the wheat has a relatively high protein content and thus commands premium prices.
Montana and World War II
When the U.S. entered World War II on December 8, 1941, many Montanans already had enlisted in the military to escape the poor national economy of the previous decade. Another 40,000-plus Montanans entered the armed forces in the first year following the declaration of war, and over 57,000 joined up before the war ended. These numbers constituted about 10 percent of the state's total population, and Montana again contributed one of the highest numbers of soldiers per capita of any state.
Many Native Americans were among those who served, including soldiers from the Crow Nation who became Code Talkers. At least 1500 Montanans died in the war. Air bases were built in Great Falls, Lewistown, Cut Bank and Glasgow, some of which were used as staging areas to prepare planes to be sent to allied forces in the Soviet Union. During the war, about 30 Japanese balloon bombs were documented to have landed in Montana, though no casualties nor major forest fires were attributed to them.
Cold War Montana
In the post-World War II Cold War era, Montana became host to U.S. Air Force Military Air Transport Service (1947) for airlift training in C-54 Skymasters and eventually, in 1953 Strategic Air Command air and missile forces were based at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.
The base also hosted the 29th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Air Defense Command from 1953 to 1968. In December 1959, Malmstrom AFB was selected as the home of the new Minuteman I ballistic missile. The first operational missiles were in-place and ready in early 1962. In late 1962 missiles assigned to the 341st Strategic Missile Wing would play a major role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. When the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba, President John F. Kennedy said the Soviets backed down because they knew he had an "Ace in the Hole," referring directly to the Minuteman missiles in Montana. Montana eventually became home to the largest ICBM field in the U.S. covering 23,500 square miles (61,000 km2).
The United States Census Bureau states that the population of Montana was 1,085,407 on April 1, 2020, an 9.7% increase since the 2010 United States census. The 2010 census put Montana's population at 989,415. During the first decade of the new century, growth was mainly concentrated in Montana's seven largest counties, with the highest percentage growth in Gallatin County, which had a 32% increase in its population from 2000 to 2010. The city having the largest percentage growth was Kalispell, with 40.1%, and the city with the largest increase in actual residents was Billings, with an increase in population of 14,323 from 2000 to 2010.
On January 3, 2012, the Census and Economic Information Center (CEIC) at the Montana Department of Commerce estimated Montana had hit the one million population mark sometime between November and December 2011.
According to the 2020 census, 88.9% of the population was White (87.8% non-Hispanic White), 6.7% American Indian and Alaska Native, 4.1% Hispanics and Latinos of any race, 0.9% Asian, 0.6% Black or African American, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and 2.8% from two or more races. The largest European ancestry groups in Montana as of 2010 were: German (27.0%), Irish (14.8%), English (12.6%), Norwegian (10.9%), French (4.7%), and Italian (3.4%).
|Native Hawaiian and
other Pacific Islander
|Two or more races||–||1.7%||2.5%||2.8%|
Montana has a larger Native American population, both numerically and as a percentage, than most U.S. states. Ranked 45th in population (by the 2010 Census) it is 19th in native people, who are 6.5% of the state's population—the sixth-highest percentage of all fifty. Of Montana's 56 counties, Native Americans constitute a majority in three: Big Horn, Glacier, and Roosevelt. Other counties with large Native American populations include Blaine, Cascade, Hill, Missoula, and Yellowstone Counties. The state's Native American population grew by 27.9% between 1980 and 1990 (at a time when Montana's entire population rose 1.6%), and by 18.5 percent between 2000 and 2010.
As of 2009, almost two-thirds of Native Americans in the state live in urban areas. Of Montana's 20 largest cities, Polson (15.7%), Havre (13.0%), Great Falls (5.0%), Billings (4.4%), and Anaconda (3.1%) had the greatest percentages of Native American residents in 2010. Billings (4,619), Great Falls (2,942), Missoula (1,838), Havre (1,210), and Polson (706) have the most Native Americans living there. The state's seven reservations include more than 12 distinct Native American ethnolinguistic groups.
While the largest European-American population in Montana overall is German (which may also include Austrian and Swiss, among other groups), pockets of significant Scandinavian ancestry are prevalent in some of the farming-dominated northern and eastern prairie regions, parallel to nearby regions of North Dakota and Minnesota. Farmers of Irish, Scots, and English roots also settled in Montana. The historically mining-oriented communities of western Montana such as Butte have a wider range of European-American ethnicity; Finns, Eastern Europeans and especially Irish settlers left an indelible mark on the area, as well as people originally from British mining regions such as Cornwall, Devon, and Wales. The nearby city of Helena, also founded as a mining camp, had a similar mix in addition to a small Chinatown. Many of Montana's historic logging communities originally attracted people of Scottish, Scandinavian, Slavic, English, and Scots-Irish descent.
The Hutterites, an Anabaptist sect originally from Switzerland, settled here, and today Montana is second only to South Dakota in U.S. Hutterite population, with several colonies spread across the state. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the state also had an influx of Amish, who moved to Montana from the increasingly urbanized areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Montana's Hispanic population is concentrated in the Billings area in south-central Montana, where many of Montana's Mexican-Americans have been in the state for generations. Great Falls has the highest percentage of African-Americans in its population, although Billings has more African-American residents than Great Falls.
The Chinese in Montana, while a low percentage today, have been an important presence. About 2000–3000 Chinese miners were in the mining areas of Montana by 1870, and 2500 in 1890. However, public opinion grew increasingly negative toward them in the 1890s, and nearly half of the state's Asian population left the state by 1900. Today, the Missoula area has a large Hmong population and the nearly 3,000 Montanans who claim Filipino ancestry are the largest Asian-American group in the state.
In the 2015 United States census estimates, Montana had the second-highest percentage of U.S. military veterans of another state. Only the state of Alaska had a higher percentage with Alaska having roughly 14 percent of its population over 18 being veterans and Montana having roughly 12 percent of its population over 18 being veterans.
About 66,000 people of Native American heritage live in Montana. Stemming from multiple treaties and federal legislation, including the Indian Appropriations Act (1851), the Dawes Act (1887), and the Indian Reorganization Act (1934), seven Indian reservations, encompassing 11 federally recognized tribal nations, were created in Montana. A 12th nation, the Little Shell Chippewa is a "landless" people headquartered in Great Falls; it is recognized by the state of Montana, but not by the U.S. government. The Blackfeet nation is headquartered on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation (1851) in Browning, Crow on the Crow Indian Reservation (1868) in Crow Agency, Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Pend d'Oreille on the Flathead Indian Reservation (1855) in Pablo, Northern Cheyenne on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation (1884) at Lame Deer, Assiniboine and Gros Ventre on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation (1888) in Fort Belknap Agency, Assiniboine and Sioux on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation (1888) at Poplar, and Chippewa-Cree on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation (1916) near Box Elder. Approximately 63% of all Native people live off the reservations, concentrated in the larger Montana cities, with the largest concentration of urban Indians in Great Falls. The state also has a small Métis population and 1990 census data indicated that people from as many as 275 different tribes lived in Montana.
Montana's Constitution specifically reads, "the state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity." It is the only state in the U.S. with such a constitutional mandate. The Indian Education for All Act was passed in 1999 to provide funding for this mandate and ensure implementation. It mandates that all schools teach American Indian history, culture, and heritage from preschool through college. For kindergarten through 12th-grade students, an "Indian Education for All" curriculum from the Montana Office of Public Instruction is available free to all schools. The state was sued in 2004 because of lack of funding, and the state has increased its support of the program. South Dakota passed similar legislation in 2007, and Wisconsin was working to strengthen its own program based on this model—and the current practices of Montana's schools. Each Indian reservation in the state has a fully accredited tribal college. The University of Montana "was the first to establish dual admission agreements with all of the tribal colleges and as such it was the first institution in the nation to actively facilitate student transfer from the tribal colleges."
English is the official language in the state of Montana, as it is in many U.S. states. According to the 2000 Census, 94.8% of the population aged five and older speak English at home. Spanish is the language next most commonly spoken at home, with about 13,040 Spanish-language speakers in the state (1.4% of the population) in 2011. Also, 15,438 (1.7% of the state population) were speakers of Indo-European languages other than English or Spanish, 10,154 (1.1%) were speakers of a Native American language, and 4,052 (0.4%) were speakers of an Asian or Pacific Islander language. Other languages spoken in Montana (as of 2013) include Assiniboine (about 150 speakers in Montana and Canada), Blackfoot (about 100 speakers), Cheyenne (about 1,700 speakers), Plains Cree (about 100 speakers), Crow (about 3,000 speakers), Dakota (about 18,800 speakers in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota), German Hutterite (about 5,600 speakers), Gros Ventre (about 10 speakers), Kalispel-Pend d'Oreille (about 64 speakers), Kutenai (about six speakers), and Lakota (about 6,000 speakers in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota). The United States Department of Education estimated in 2009 that 5,274 students in Montana spoke a language at home other than English. These included a Native American language (64%), German (4%), Spanish (3%), Russian (1%), and Chinese (less than 0.5%).
|Language||Percentage of population
(as of 2000)
|French and Crow (tied)||0.4%|
|Scandinavian languages (including Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish)||0.2%|
|Italian, Japanese, Russian, Native American languages (other than Crow; significantly Cheyenne), Slavic languages (including Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian) (tied)||0.1%|
|Religion in Montana|
|Declined to answer||6%|
According to the Pew Forum, the religious affiliations of the people of Montana are: Protestant 47%, Catholic 23%, LDS (Mormon) 5%, Jehovah's Witness 2%, Buddhist 1%, Jewish 0.5%, Muslim 0.5%, Hindu 0.5% and nonreligious at 20%.
The largest denominations in Montana as of 2010 were the Catholic Church with 127,612 adherents, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 46,484 adherents, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 38,665 adherents, and nondenominational Evangelical Protestant with 27,370 adherents.
- Total employment: 371,239 (As of 2018[update])
- Total employer establishments: 38,720 (As of 2018[update])
Montana is a relative hub of beer microbrewing, ranking third in the nation in number of craft breweries per capita in 2011. Significant industries exist for lumber and mineral extraction; the state's resources include gold, coal, silver, talc, and vermiculite. Ecotaxes on resource extraction are numerous. A 1974 state severance tax on coal (which varied from 20 to 30%) was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609 (1981).
Tourism is also important to the economy, with more than ten million visitors a year to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, the Missouri River headwaters, the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.
Montana's personal income tax contains seven brackets, with rates ranging from 1.0 to 6.9 percent. Montana has no sales tax*, and household goods are exempt from property taxes. However, property taxes are assessed on livestock, farm machinery, heavy equipment, automobiles, trucks, and business equipment. The amount of property tax owed is not determined solely by the property's value. The property's value is multiplied by a tax rate, set by the Montana Legislature, to determine its taxable value. The taxable value is then multiplied by the mill levy established by various taxing jurisdictions—city and county government, school districts, and others.
In the 1980s the absence of a sales tax became economically deleterious to communities bound to the state's tourism industry, as the revenue from income and property taxes provided by residents was grossly insignificant in regards to paying for the impact of non-residential travel—especially road repair. In 1985, the Montana Legislature passed a law allowing towns with fewer than 5,500 residents and unincorporated communities with fewer than 2,500 to levy a resort tax if more than half the community's income came from tourism. The resort tax is a sales tax that applies to hotels, motels and other lodging and camping facilities; restaurants, fast-food stores, and other food service establishments; taverns, bars, night clubs, lounges, or other public establishments that serve alcohol; as well as destination ski resorts or other destination recreational facilities.
It also applies to "luxuries"- defined by law as any item normally sold to the public or to transient visitors or tourists that does not include food purchased unprepared or unserved, medicine, medical supplies and services, appliances, hardware supplies and tools, or any necessities of life. Approximately 12.2 million non-residents visited Montana in 2018, and the population was estimated to be 1.06 million. This extremely disproportionate ratio of residents paying taxes vs. non-residents using state-funded services and infrastructure makes Montana's resort tax crucial in order to safely maintain heavily used roads and highways, as well as protect and preserve state parks.
As of August 2021[update], the state's unemployment rate is 3.5%.
Major cultural events
Montana hosts numerous arts and cultural festivals and events every year. Major events include:
- Bozeman was once known as the "Sweet Pea capital of the nation" referencing the prolific edible pea crop. To promote the area and celebrate its prosperity, local business owners began a "Sweet Pea Carnival" that included a parade and queen contest. The annual event lasted from 1906 to 1916. Promoters used the inedible but fragrant and colorful sweet pea flower as an emblem of the celebration. In 1977 the "Sweet Pea" concept was revived as an arts festival rather than a harvest celebration, growing into a three-day event that is one of the largest festivals in Montana.
- Montana Shakespeare in the Parks has been performing free, live theatrical productions of Shakespeare and other classics throughout Montana since 1973. The Montana Shakespeare Company is based in Helena.
- Since 1909, the Crow Fair and Rodeo, near Hardin, has been an annual event every August in Crow Agency and is currently the largest Northern Native American gathering, attracting nearly 45,000 spectators and participants. Since 1952, North American Indian Days has been held every July in Browning.
- Lame Deer hosts the annual Northern Cheyenne Powwow.
Montana provides year-round recreation opportunities for residents and visitors. Hiking, fishing, hunting, watercraft recreation, camping, golf, cycling, horseback riding, and skiing are popular activities.
Fishing and hunting
Montana has been a destination for its world-class trout fisheries since the 1930s. Fly fishing for several species of native and introduced trout in rivers and lakes is popular for both residents and tourists throughout the state. Robert Redford's 1992 film of Norman Mclean's novel, A River Runs Through It, was filmed in Montana and brought national attention to fly fishing and the state.
Montana is home to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and has a historic big game hunting tradition. There are fall bow and general hunting seasons for elk, pronghorn antelope, whitetail deer and mule deer. A random draw grants a limited number of permits for moose, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. There is a spring hunting season for black bear and in most years, limited hunting of bison that leave Yellowstone National Park is allowed.
- Bear Paw Ski Bowl near Havre, Montana
- Big Sky Resort, at Big Sky
- Blacktail Mountain near Lakeside
- Bridger Bowl Ski Area near Bozeman
- Discovery Basin between Philipsburg and Anaconda
- Great Divide near Helena, Montana
- Lookout Pass off Interstate 90 at the Montana-Idaho border
- Lost Trail near Darby, Montana
- Maverick Mountain near Dillon, Montana
- Moonlight Basin near Big Sky
- Red Lodge Mountain Resort near Red Lodge
- Showdown Ski Area near White Sulphur Springs, Montana
- Snowbowl Ski Area near Missoula
- Teton Pass Ski Area near Choteau
- Turner Mountain Ski Resort near Libby
- Whitefish Mountain Resort near Whitefish
Big Sky, Moonlight Basin, Red Lodge, and Whitefish Mountain are destination resorts, while the remaining areas do not have overnight lodging at the ski area, though several host restaurants and other amenities. These day-use resorts partner with local lodging businesses to offer ski and lodging packages.
Montana also has millions of acres open to cross-country skiing on nine of its national forests plus in Glacier National Park. In addition to cross-country trails at most of the downhill ski areas, there are also 13 private cross-country skiing resorts. Yellowstone National Park also allows cross-country skiing.
Snowmobiling is popular in Montana which boasts over 4000 miles of trails and frozen lakes available in winter. There are 24 areas where snowmobile trails are maintained, most also offering ungroomed trails. West Yellowstone offers a large selection of trails and is the primary starting point for snowmobile trips into Yellowstone National Park, where "oversnow" vehicle use is strictly limited, usually to guided tours, and regulations are in considerable flux.
Snow coach tours are offered at Big Sky, Whitefish, West Yellowstone and into Yellowstone National Park. Equestrian skijoring has a niche in Montana, which hosts the World Skijoring Championships in Whitefish as part of the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival.
Railroads have been an important method of transportation in Montana since the 1880s. Historically, the state was traversed by the main lines of three east–west transcontinental routes: the Milwaukee Road, the Great Northern, and the Northern Pacific. Today, the BNSF Railway is the state's largest railroad, its main transcontinental route incorporating the former Great Northern main line across the state. Montana RailLink, a privately held Class II railroad, operates former Northern Pacific trackage in western Montana.
In addition, Amtrak's Empire Builder train runs through the north of the state, stopping in Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Havre, Malta, Glasgow, and Wolf Point.
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the busiest airport in the state of Montana, surpassing Billings Logan International Airport in the spring of 2013. Montana's other major airports include Missoula International Airport, Great Falls International Airport, Glacier Park International Airport, Helena Regional Airport, Bert Mooney Airport and Yellowstone Airport. Eight smaller communities have airports designated for commercial service under the Essential Air Service program.
Historically, U.S. Route 10 was the primary east–west highway route across Montana, connecting the major cities in the southern half of the state. Still, the state's most important east–west travel corridor, the route is today served by Interstate 90 and Interstate 94 which roughly follow the same route as the Northern Pacific. U.S. Routes 2 and 12 and Montana Highway 200 also traverse the entire state from east to west.
Montana's only north–south Interstate Highway is Interstate 15. Other major north–south highways include U.S. Routes 87, 89, 93 and 191.
Montana and South Dakota are the only states to share a land border that is not traversed by a paved road. Highway 212, the primary paved route between the two, passes through the northeast corner of Wyoming between Montana and South Dakota.
Cities and towns
Montana has 56 counties. Incorporated places consist of 52 cities, 75 towns, and two consolidated city-counties. Montana has one city, Billings, with a population over 100,000; and two cities with populations over 50,000, Missoula and Great Falls. These three communities are considered the centers of Montana's three Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Montana's seven most populous cities, in rank order, are Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Kalispell. Based on 2013 census numbers, they collectively contain 35 percent of Montana's population and the counties containing these communities hold 62 percent of the state's population.
Montana schoolchildren played a significant role in selecting several state symbols. The state tree, the ponderosa pine, was selected by Montana schoolchildren as the preferred state tree by an overwhelming majority in a referendum held in 1908. Schoolchildren also chose the western meadowlark as the state bird, in a 1930. Similarly, the secretary of state sponsored a children's vote in 1981 to choose a state animal, and after 74 animals were nominated, the grizzly bear won over the elk by a 2–1 margin. The students of Livingston started a statewide school petition drive plus lobbied the governor and the state legislature to name the Maiasaura as the state fossil in 1985.
Various community civic groups also played a role in selecting the state grass and the state gemstones. When broadcaster Norma Ashby discovered there was no state fish, she initiated a drive via her television show, Today in Montana, and an informal citizen's election to select a state fish resulted in a win for the blackspotted cutthroat trout after hot competition from the Arctic grayling.
|State animal||Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)||1983|
|State bird||Western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)||1931|
|State butterfly||Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)||2001|
|State fish||Blackspotted cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii)||1977|
|State flower||Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva)||1895|
|State fossil||Duck-billed dinosaur (Maiasaura peeblesorum)||1985|
|State gemstones||Sapphire and agate||1969|
|State grass||Bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata)||1973|
|State motto||"Oro y Plata" (Spanish for "Gold and Silver")||1865|
|State tree||Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)||1949|
Colleges and universities
The Montana University System consists of:
- Dawson Community College
- Flathead Valley Community College
- Miles Community College
- Montana State University Bozeman
- Gallatin College Montana State University Bozeman
- Montana State University Billings
- City College at Montana State University Billings Billings
- Montana State University-Northern Havre
- Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls
- University of Montana Missoula
- Missoula College University of Montana Missoula
- Montana Tech of the University of Montana Butte
- Highlands College of Montana Tech Butte
- University of Montana Western Dillon
- Helena College University of Montana Helena
- Bitterroot College University of Montana Hamilton
Tribal colleges in Montana include:
Four private colleges are in Montana:
- Carroll College
- Rocky Mountain College
- University of Providence
- Apollos University
The Montana Territory was formed on April 26, 1864, when the U.S. passed the Organic Act. Schools started forming in the area before it was officially a territory as families started settling into the area. The first schools were subscription schools that typically met in the teacher's home. The first formal school on record was at Fort Owen in Bitterroot valley in 1862. The students were Indian children and the children of Fort Owen employees. The first school term started in early winter and lasted only until February 28. Classes were taught by Mr. Robinson. Another early subscription school was started by Thomas Dimsdale in Virginia City in 1863. In this school students were charged $1.75 per week. The Montana Territorial Legislative Assembly had its inaugural meeting in 1864. The first legislature authorized counties to levy taxes for schools, which set the foundations for public schooling. Madison County was the first to take advantage of the newly authorized taxes and it formed the first public school in Virginia City in 1886. The first school year was scheduled to begin in January 1866, but severe weather postponed its opening until March. The first school year ran through the summer and did not end until August 17. One of the first teachers at the school was Sarah Raymond. She was a 25-year-old woman who had traveled to Virginia City via wagon train in 1865. To become a certified teacher, Raymond took a test in her home and paid a $6 fee in gold dust to obtain a teaching certificate. With the help of an assistant teacher, Mrs. Farley, Raymond was responsible for teaching 50 to 60 students each day out of the 81 students enrolled at the school. Sarah Raymond was paid $125 per month, and Mrs. Farley was paid $75 per month. No textbooks were used in the school. In their place was an assortment of books brought by various emigrants. Sarah quit teaching the following year, but she later became the Madison County superintendent of schools.
Images for kids
Temperature and precipitation for Montana's capital city, Helena
Köppen climate types of Montana, using 1991-2020 climate normals.
Lone Mountain at Big Sky Ski Resort
In Spanish: Montana para niños
Montana Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.