# Montana

Montana
Nickname(s)
Big Sky Country, The Treasure State
Motto(s)
"Oro y Plata" (Spanish)
"Gold and Silver"
Anthem: "Montana"
Map of the United States with Montana highlighted
CountryUnited States
Before statehoodMontana Territory
Admitted to the UnionNovember 8, 1889 (41st)
CapitalHelena
Largest cityBillings
Largest metro and urban areasBillings
Government
• Governor
• Lieutenant Governor
LegislatureMontana Legislature
• Upper houseSenate
• Lower houseHouse of Representatives
JudiciaryMontana Supreme Court
U.S. senators
Steve Daines (R)
U.S. House delegation (list)
Area
• Total147,040 sq mi (380,800 km2)
• Land145,552 sq mi (376,980 km2)
• Water1,491 sq mi (3,862 km2)  1%
• Rank4th
Dimensions
• Length255 mi (410 km)
• Width630 mi (1,015 km)
Elevation3,400 ft (1,040 m)
Highest elevation12,807 ft (3,903.5 m)
Lowest elevation
(Kootenai River at Idaho border)
1,804 ft (557 m)
Population
(2020)
• Total1,085,407
• Rank43rd
• Density7.09/sq mi (2.73/km2)
• Rank48th
• Median household income$56,539 • Income rank40th DemonymMontanan Language • Official languageEnglish Time zoneUTC−07:00 (Mountain) • Summer (DST)UTC−06:00 (MDT) USPS abbreviation MT ISO 3166 codeUS-MT Traditional abbreviationMont. Latitude44° 21′ N to 49° N Longitude104° 2′ W to 116° 3′ W Websitewww.mt.gov Montana state symbols Living insignia BirdWestern meadowlark ButterflyMourning cloak FishWestslope cutthroat trout FlowerBitterroot MammalGrizzly bear TreePonderosa pine Inanimate insignia FossilMaiasaura peeblesorum GemstoneSapphire, Agate State route marker Lists of United States state symbols Montana (/mɒnˈtænə/ ()) is a state in the Mountain West division 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 the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan to the north. It is the fourth-largest state by area, the eighth-least populous state, and the third-least densely populated state. Its state capital is Helena, while the largest city is Billings. 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. 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, with 12.6 million tourists (as of 2019) visiting the state each year. ## Etymology The name Montana comes from the Spanish word montaña, which in turn comes from the Latin word montanea, meaning "mountain" or more broadly "mountainous country." Montaña del Norte was the name given by early Spanish explorers to the entire mountainous region of the west. The name Montana was added in 1863 to a bill by the United States House Committee on Territories (chaired at the time by James Ashley of Ohio) for the territory that would become Idaho Territory. The name was changed by representatives Henry Wilson (Massachusetts) and Benjamin F. Harding (Oregon), who complained that Montana had "no meaning". When Ashley presented a bill to establish a temporary government in 1864 for a new territory to be carved out of Idaho, he again chose Montana Territory. This time, Rep. Samuel Cox, also of Ohio, objected to the name. Cox complained that the name was a misnomer given that most of the territory was not mountainous and thought a Native American name would be more appropriate than a Spanish one. Other names, such as Shoshone, were suggested, but the Committee on Territories decided that they had discretion to choose the name, so the original name of Montana was adopted. ## History Assiniboine family, Montana, 1890–91 Various indigenous peoples have 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. A part of southeastern Montana was used as a corridor between the Crows and the related Hidatsas in North Dakota. As part of the Missouri River watershed, all of 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, European, Canadian and American traders operated a fur trade, trading with indigenous peoples, in both eastern and western portions of what would become Montana. Though the increased interaction between fur traders and indigenous peoples frequently proved to be a profitable partnership, conflicts broke out when indigenous interests were threatened, such as the conflict between American trappers and the Blackfeet. Indigenous peoples in the region were also decimated by diseases introduced by fur traders to which they had no immunity. The trading post Fort Raymond (1807–1811) was constructed in Crow Indian country in 1807. Until the Oregon Treaty of 1846, land west of the continental divide was disputed between the British and U.S. governments and was known as the Oregon Country. The first permanent settlement by Euro-Americans in what today is Montana was St. Mary's, established in 1841 near present-day Stevensville. In 1847, Fort Benton was built 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. Gold rushes to the region commenced in earnest starting in 1862. A series of major mineral discoveries in the western part of the state found gold, silver, copper, lead, and coal (and later oil) which attracted tens of thousands of miners to the area. The richest of all gold placer diggings was discovered at Alder Gulch, where the town of Virginia City was established. Other rich placer deposits were found at Last Chance Gulch, where the city of Helena now stands, Confederate Gulch, Silver Bow, Emigrant Gulch, and Cooke City. Gold output between 1862 and 1876 reached$144 million, after which silver became even more important. The largest mining operations were at Butte, with important silver deposits and expansive copper deposits.

### Montana territory

Montana Territory in 1865

Before the creation of Montana Territory (1864–1889), areas within present-day Montana were part of the Oregon Territory (1848–1859), Washington Territory (1853–1863), Idaho Territory (1863–1864), and Dakota Territory (1861–1864). Montana Territory became one of the territories of the United States on May 26, 1864. The first territorial capital was located at Bannack. Sidney Edgerton served as the first territorial governor. The capital moved to Virginia City in 1865 and to Helena in 1875. In 1870, the non-Indian population of the Montana Territory was 20,595. The Montana Historical Society, founded on February 2, 1865, in Virginia City, is the oldest such institution west of the Mississippi (excluding Louisiana). In 1869 and 1870 respectively, the Cook–Folsom–Peterson and the Washburn–Langford–Doane Expeditions were launched from Helena into the Upper Yellowstone region. The extraordinary discoveries and reports from these expeditions led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.

### Conflicts

As 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 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 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 to Fort Benton. 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, and the Nez Perce War and in conflicts with Piegan Blackfeet. The most notable 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. Native survivors who had signed treaties were generally required to move onto reservations.

Chief Joseph and Col. John Gibbon met again on the Big Hole Battlefield site in 1889.

Simultaneously with these conflicts, bison, a keystone species and the primary protein source that Native people had survived on for many centuries, were being destroyed. Experts estimate that around 13 million bison roamed Montana in 1870. In 1875, General Philip Sheridan pleaded to a joint session of Congress to authorize the slaughtering of bison herds to deprive Native people 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

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. Operated by the National Park Service, it is a 1,900-acre (7.7 km2) working ranch.

Buffalo Soldiers, Ft. Keogh, Montana, 1890. The nickname was given to the "Black Cavalry" by the Native American tribes they fought.

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 the 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.

In 1881, the Utah and Northern Railway, a branch line of the Union Pacific, completed a narrow-gauge line from northern Utah to Butte. A number of smaller spur lines operated in Montana from 1881 into the 20th century, including the Oregon Short Line, Montana Railroad, and Milwaukee Road.

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 and is known as the Hi Line, being the northern most transcontinental rail line in the United States.

### Statehood

• The official telegram:

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 7, 1889
To Hon. Joseph K. Toole, Governor of the State of Montana:
The president signed and issued the proclamation declaring Montana a state of the union at 10:40 o'clock this morning.

JAMES G. BLAINE
Secretary of State
This article in a Butte newspaper celebrates "the blessings of true citizenship".

Under Territorial Governor Thomas Meagher, Montanans held a constitutional convention in 1866 in a failed bid for statehood. A second constitutional convention held in Helena in 1884 produced a constitution ratified 3:1 by Montana citizens in November 1884. For political reasons, Congress did not approve Montana statehood until 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. In July 1889, Montanans convened their third constitutional convention and produced a constitution accepted by the people and the federal government. On November 8, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed Montana the union's 41st state. The first state governor was Joseph K. Toole. In the 1880s, Helena (the state capital) had more millionaires per capita than any other United States city.

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 were usually insufficient to support a family in the arid territory. The first homestead claim under the act in Montana was made by David Carpenter near Helena in 1868. The first claim by a woman was made near Warm Springs Creek by Gwenllian Evans, the daughter of Deer Lodge Montana pioneer, Morgan Evans. By 1880, farms were in the more verdant valleys of central and western Montana, but few were on the eastern plains.

### Federal offices and courts

The U.S. Constitution provides each state with two senators. Montana's two U.S. senators are Jon Tester (Democrat), who was reelected in 2018, and Steve Daines (Republican), first elected in 2014 and later reelected in 2020. The U.S. Constitution provides each state with a single representative, with additional representatives apportioned based on population. From statehood in 1889 until 1913, Montana was represented in the United States House of Representatives by a single representative, elected at-large. Montana received a second representative in 1913, following the 1910 census and reapportionment. Both members, however, were still elected at-large. Beginning in 1919, Montana moved to district, rather than at-large, elections for its two House members. This created Montana's 1st congressional district in the west and Montana's 2nd congressional district in the east. In the reapportionment following the 1990 census, Montana lost one of its House seats. The remaining seat was again elected at-large. Matt Rosendale is the current officeholder.

In the reapportionment following the 2020 census, Montana regained a House seat, increasing the state's number of representatives in the House to two after a thirty-year break, starting from 2023.

Montana's Senate district is the fourth largest by area, behind Alaska, Texas, and California. The most notorious of Montana's early senators was William A. Clark, a "Copper King" and one of the 50 richest Americans ever. He is well known for having bribed his way into the U.S. Senate. Among Montana's most historically prominent senators are Thomas J. Walsh (serving from 1913 to 1933), who was President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt's choice for attorney general when he died; Burton K. Wheeler (serving from 1923 to 1947), an oft-mentioned presidential candidate and strong supporter of isolationism; Mike Mansfield, the longest-serving Senate majority leader in U.S. history; Max Baucus (served 1978 to 2014), longest-serving U.S. senator in Montana history, and the senator who shepherded the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through the Senate in 2010; and Lee Metcalf (served 1961 to 1978), a pioneer of the environmental movement.

Montana's House district is the largest congressional district in the United States by population, with just over 1,023,000 constituents. It is the second-largest House district by area, after Alaska's at-large congressional district. Of Montana's House delegates, Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to hold national office in the United States when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. Also notable is Representative (later Senator) Thomas H. Carter, the first Catholic to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee (from 1892 to 1896).

Federal courts in Montana include the United States District Court for the District of Montana and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Montana. Three former Montana politicians have been named judges on the U.S. District Court: Charles Nelson Pray (who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1907 to 1913), James F. Battin (who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969), and Paul G. Hatfield (who served as an appointed U.S. Senator in 1978). Brian Morris, who served as an associate justice of the Montana Supreme Court from 2005 to 2013, currently serves as a judge on the court.

## Politics

United States presidential election results for Montana
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 343,602 56.92% 244,786 40.55% 15,286 2.53%
2016 279,240 55.65% 177,709 35.41% 44,873 8.94%
2012 267,928 55.30% 201,839 41.66% 14,717 3.04%
2008 243,882 49.49% 232,159 47.11% 16,709 3.39%
2004 266,063 59.07% 173,710 38.56% 10,672 2.37%
2000 240,178 58.44% 137,126 33.36% 33,693 8.20%
1996 179,652 44.11% 167,922 41.23% 59,687 14.66%
1992 144,207 35.12% 154,507 37.63% 111,897 27.25%
1988 190,412 52.07% 168,936 46.20% 6,326 1.73%
1984 232,450 60.47% 146,742 38.18% 5,185 1.35%
1980 206,814 56.82% 118,032 32.43% 39,106 10.74%
1976 173,703 52.84% 149,259 45.40% 5,772 1.76%
1972 183,976 57.93% 120,197 37.85% 13,430 4.23%
1968 138,835 50.60% 114,117 41.59% 21,452 7.82%
1964 113,032 40.57% 164,246 58.95% 1,350 0.48%
1960 141,841 51.10% 134,891 48.60% 847 0.31%
1956 154,933 57.13% 116,238 42.87% 0 0.00%
1952 157,394 59.39% 106,213 40.07% 1,430 0.54%
1948 96,770 43.15% 119,071 53.09% 8,437 3.76%
1944 93,163 44.93% 112,556 54.28% 1,636 0.79%
1940 99,579 40.17% 145,698 58.78% 2,596 1.05%
1936 63,598 27.59% 159,690 69.28% 7,224 3.13%
1932 78,078 36.07% 127,286 58.80% 11,115 5.13%
1928 113,300 58.37% 78,578 40.48% 2,230 1.15%
1924 74,138 42.50% 33,805 19.38% 66,480 38.11%
1920 109,430 61.13% 57,372 32.05% 12,204 6.82%
1916 66,750 37.57% 101,063 56.88% 9,866 5.55%
1912 18,512 23.19% 27,941 35.00% 33,373 41.81%
1908 32,333 46.98% 29,326 42.61% 7,163 10.41%
1904 34,932 54.21% 21,773 33.79% 7,739 12.01%
1900 25,409 39.79% 37,311 58.43% 1,136 1.78%
1896 10,509 19.71% 42,628 79.93% 193 0.36%
1892 18,871 42.44% 17,690 39.79% 7,900 17.77%
Treemap of the popular vote by county, 2016 presidential election

Elections in the state have been historically competitive, particularly for state-level offices. The Democratic Party's strength in the state is gained from support among unionized miners and railroad workers, while farmers generally vote Republican.

Montana has a history of voters splitting their tickets and filling elected offices with individuals from both parties. Through the mid-20th century, the state had a tradition of "sending the liberals to Washington and the conservatives to Helena". Between 1988 and 2006, the pattern flipped, with voters more likely to elect conservatives to federal offices. There have also been long-term shifts in party control. From 1968 through 1988, the state was dominated by the Democratic Party, with Democratic governors for a 20-year period, and a Democratic majority of both the national congressional delegation and during many sessions of the state legislature. This pattern shifted, beginning with the 1988 election when Montana elected a Republican governor for the first time since 1964 and sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate for the first time since 1948. This shift continued with the reapportionment of the state's legislative districts that took effect in 1994, when the Republican Party took control of both chambers of the state legislature, consolidating a Republican party dominance that lasted until the 2004 reapportionment produced more swing districts and a brief period of Democratic legislative majorities in the mid-2000s.

Montana has voted for the Republican nominee in all but two presidential elections since 1952. The state last supported a Democrat for president in 1992, when Bill Clinton won a plurality victory. However, since 1889 the state has voted for Democratic governors 60 percent of the time, and Republican governors 40 percent of the time. In the 2008 presidential election, Montana was considered a swing state and was ultimately won by Republican John McCain by a narrow margin of two percent.

At the state level, the pattern of split-ticket voting and divided government holds. Democrats hold one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats with Jon Tester. The lone congressional district has been Republican since 1996, and its Class 2 Senate seat has been held by Republican Steve Daines since 2014. The two chambers of the state's legislature had split party control from 2004 to 2010, when that year's mid-term elections decisively returned both branches to Republican control. The Montana Senate is, as of 2021, controlled by Republicans 31 to 19, and the House of Representatives is currently 67 to 33. Historically, Republicans are strongest in the east, while Democrats are strongest in the west.

Montana has only one representative in the U.S. House, having lost its second district in the 1990 census reapportionment. However, it will get its second district back due to reapportionment following the 2020 census. Montana's at-large congressional district holds the largest population of any district in the country, which means its one member in the House of Representatives represents more people than any other member of the U.S. House (see List of U.S. states by population). Montana's population grew at about the national average during the 2000s, but it failed to regain its second seat in 2010.

In a 2020 study, Montana was ranked as the 21st easiest state for citizens to vote in.