History of Montana
The region of today’s Montana has been inhabited by indigenous tribes for thousands of years before the coming of the Europeans. Some of those tribes that the European settlers encountered upon their arrival were the Kalispel tribe in the western parts of the state, Pend d’Oreile in the vicinity of the Flathead Lake, Salish and Kootenai tribes in the western regions of the territory, Gros Ventres, Assiniboine and Blackfeet tribes in the north-central and central regions, Cheyenne tribe in the southeastern regions and the Crow tribe in the south-central region of the state’s territory.
The parts of the state that are located to the east of the continental divide became a part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Montana Territory was organized in 1864, after copper and gold were found in the region. Certain regions of the newly formed territory belonged to other territories up to that point, namely the Dakota Territory, Idaho Territory, Washington Territory and Oregon Territory.
A number of army posts were established in the region during the 1860s, including Fort C.F. Smith on the Bozeman Trail, Camp Cooke on the Judith River and Fort Shaw. The region of today’s Montana has seen a number of battles between the indigenous populace and the European settlers, the most notable conflict of this type being the Battle of Little Bighorn that took place in the vicinity of today’s town of Hardin. Montana is also where the last battles of the Nez Perce Wars were fought.
Additional discovers of oil, coal, copper lead, silver and gold in the western parts of the territory attracted a number of new settlers, eager to exploit the land’s natural resources. One of the locations that was the richest in gold eventually grew into the prosperous Virginia City. Other important mining locations were the Cooke City, Emigrant Gulch, Silver Bow, Confederate Gulch, and the region of today’s city of Helena, then known as the Last Chance Gulch. However, the largest findings of the precious metals and copper deposits were recorded in the city of Butte. Between the years 1862 and 1876, the state’s gold output amounted to $144 million, with silver becoming increasingly significant.
TheGrant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site which covers 1,900 acres is one of the reminders of the importance that ranching had in Montana’s 19th century economy. It is located in the Deer Lodge Valley, and is under the protection and care of the National Park Service.
During the 1880s railroads were being built in the state by the major railroad companies such as the Denver based Union Pacific Railroad, Minneapolis based Northern Pacific Railroad and the Great Northern Railroad. The centers of railroad industry in the state were located in the cities of Havre and Billings. Montana’s transcontinental Pacific lines were crucial for the transportation of the metals mined in the state to the prospective buyers. In 1889, Montana became a US state, along with the new states of Washington, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The state was incredibly prosperous in this period, as its current capital, Helena, had the highest percentage of millionaire inhabitants in the world.
The settling in the state was greatly influenced by the revised Homestead Act. The act that was revised in 1909 now increased the amount of free land that the settling family would get from 160 acres to 320 acres. This has caused a surge in new settlers, who were attracted not only by the land, but also the favorable prices of wheat in the state. However, their eagerness could not compensate for their lack of experience and the state’s specific climate with long dry periods which necessitated the appropriate approach to farming. When one of such periods of prolonged droughts struck in the 1917, a number of new settlers that were not prepared for such eventuality went bankrupt, left the state, and caused a number of banks to go out of business because of the unpaid mortgages. This coincided with the Great Depression, which further inconvenienced the state’s inhabitants, and the effects of which only lessened somewhere in the 1940s. At the time, wheat farming was still a major industry in the state, while tourism was just beginning to develop, mainly because of the Glacier and Yellowstone national parks.
The state has seven American Indian reservations: Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the Flathead Reservation, Blackfeet Reservation, Rocky Boy's Reservation, Crow Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Reservation and Fort Peck Reservation.
Economy of Montana
In 2003 Montana’s GSP (gross state product) amounted to $26 billion. In the same year, the state’s per capita income was $25,406, which made it the 47th highest per capita personal income in the nation. One of the industries that Montana is known for is micro brewing, as a matter of fact, Montana is the 2nd state in the US when it comes to the number of breweries per inhabitant. Some of the more important resources of Montana are vermiculite, talc, silver, coal and gold, which makes mineral extraction one of major state industries, but which also influenced the introduction of a number of ecotaxes. Montana also has a developed lumber industry. Yellowstone National Park, the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn, Missouri River headwaters, Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park play important roles in the state’s economy by attracting large numbers of tourists to the state.
Personal income tax in the state comes in one of 7 brackets, ranging from 6.9% down to 1%. There is no sales tax in the state. Property taxes in the state apply on business equipment, trucks, cars, heavy equipment, farm machinery and livestock, but household items are exempt. Unemployment rate in Montana amounts to 6.8%.
Montana Geography and Climate
Montana covers 147,046 square miles, which means that it is the 4th largest state in the nation, just after California, Texas and Alaska. It borders Idaho on the southwest and west, South and North Dakota on the east, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Colombia on the north. The state’s terrain is heavily influenced by the continental divide which runs diagonally through the state, splitting it into western and eastern regions. Most of the western portion of the state is mountainous, and belongs to the Rocky Mountains region. Western regions of the state are a part of the Northern Rocky Mountains, while southern ranges of Beartooth and Absaroka belong to the Central Rocky Mountains. More than half of Montana is covered in prairies, as the state is partially located in the northern region of Great Plains. Even the eastern, mostly flat parts of the state have several isolated mountain ranges.
The state is divided in half by one of the longest Rocky Mountains ranges, the Bitterroot Mountains. Other notable ranges in that region include the Flint Creek Range, the Sapphire Mountains, the Garnet Range, the Missions, the Anaconda Range, and the Cabinet Mountains. The most important ranges in the eastern part of the state are the Beartooth Mountains, the Absaroka Mountains, the Bridger Mountains, Big Belt Mountains, Gallatin Range, Madison Range, Tobacco Roots and Gravelly Range. The highest point in Montana is found on the Granite Peak in the Beartooth Plateau at 12,799 feet of altitude. The valleys between ranges are both fertile agricultural areas, and great tourist attractions.
The eastern and northern parts of the state, which are a part of the Northern Plains, mainly consist of prairies, badlands, and an occasional island mountain range. The largest of these isolated mountain ranges are the long Pines, located in the southeastern part of Montana in the vicinity of Ekalaka, the Pryor mountains, Bull Mountains, Sweet Grass Hills, Snowy Mountains, Little Rocky Mountains, Little Belt Mountains, Judith Mountains, Highwood Mountains, Crazy Mountains, Castle Mountains and the Bear Paw Mountains.
Montana has a number of larger rivers, which form three different watersheds at the Triple Divide Peak, the Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean watershed. One of the major rivers in the state is the Clark Fork, with its tributaries, Colombia River, Pend Oraille River, the Flathead River, Bitterroot River and Blackfoot River. Missouri River also rises in western Montana. It is formed by the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson rivers. Some of its larger tributaries include Musselshell River, Tongue River, Marias River, Milk River, and most notably, the longest free flowing river in the US, the Yellowstone River, which rises in Wyoming’s part of the Yellowstone Park. Montana can also boast the largest natural lake in the western US, the Flathead Lake.
Somewhere around a quarter of the state is covered in forests. The state has a rather rich and diverse flora, with species like cactus, sagebrush, dryads, orchids, lilies, columbine, primroses, poppies, lupins, daisies, bitterroots, asters, cottonwood, maple, alder, ash, hemlock, red cedar, birch, aspen, spruce, larch, douglas fir, ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, and many other.
Apart from having 3 entrances to the Yellowstone Park and containing the Glacier National Park, Montana is also where the Lewis and Clark Caverns are located, as well as the Big Hole National Battlefield, Bighorn Canyon Recreational Area, the National Bison Range and the Little Bighorn National monument. Montana has more than twenty National Wildlife Refuges and ten National Forests. Apart from these, some of the areas under the supervision of the National Park Service are the Nez Perce National Historical Park, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site.
Montana’s topographical diversity heavily influences the state’s climate. The state extends from the 49th to 45th parallel and its different regions are found on altitudes from as high as 13,000 feet to as low as 2,000, likewise, its eastern regions mostly consist of flat prairies, while the western portion of the stat is covered in mountains. All of this has tremendous effect on the differences in the climate of state’s regions, as does the Continental Divide. The climate in the east of the state is described as semi-arid continental. Because of the Continental Divide, the dry and cool continental air cannot move into the western parts of the state, and the warmer air from Pacific cannot reach the eastern parts. This is why the western parts of the state have a less windy northern Pacific climate characterized by somewhat warmer winters and moderately hot summers.
Average summer daytime temperatures are usually around 84.5 °F, while winter temperatures are usually somewhere around 28 °F, although this is highly dependent on the region. The highest temperature in the state of 117 °F was recorded both in 1937 at Medicine Lake and in 1893 at Glendive. Naturally, as the altitude of the region increases, the average temperatures decrease. The lowest temperature in Montana, which is also the lowest temperature ever recorded in the contiguous US was −70 °F and it was recorded in 1954 at Rogers Pass.
On average, the state gets 15 inches of rainfall every year, but this also significantly varies from one region to another. For instance, the region to the south of Belfry only gets 6.6 inches every year, while Deer Lodge gets 11, Lonepine 11.45, Heron 34.7 and the Grinell Glacier gets an amazing 105 inches of rainfall every year. When it comes to snowfall, mountains often get more than 300 inches per year, while the urbanized areas are averaging some 50 inches. Montana is gradually getting warmer. The summer of 2007 was one of the hottest summers ever recorded in the state, and it is predicted that the glaciers in the state will probably melt in the next couple of decades.
Population of Montana
In 2011 Montana had a population of 998,199 inhabitants, which presented an increase of 0.89% when compared to the previous year. With the surface area of 147,042 square miles, this means that its population density is 6.86 residents per square mile, which is the 48th highest population density in the nation. In the year 2010 state’s population stood at 989,415, which was a 9.7% or 87,220 people increase since the year 2000. This increase of population has been most pronounced in the state’s largest and most urbanized counties, especially in the Gallatin County, the population of which has gone through an increase of 32% since the year 2000. Kalispell is the city with the fastest growth rate of 40.1%, while Billings is the city with the highest number of new inhabitants, as its population has grown by 14,323 people since the same year.
When it comes to ethnicity of the state’s inhabitants, it is estimated that 87.8% of the state’s residents are non-Hispanic white people, Hispanic white make up for 1.6%, African Americans for 0.4%, American Indians and Alaskan Natives for 6.3%, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders for 0.1%, 0.6% of the people belong to some of the other races, while 2.5% of the state’s population are multiethnic people.
As far as ancestry is concerned, 29.3% of the state’s residents are of German ancestry, 16.4% of Irish, 13.1% of English, 5.9% of American and 10% of Norwegian. City of White Sulphur Springs in the Meagher County is where the state’s center of population is located. Most populated areas in the state are Kalispell, Helena, Butte, Bozeman, Great Falls, Missoula and Billings.
Most of the state’s residents are of European origin (somewhere around 90%), most of them descendants of the Scandinavian, Italian, Slavic, British, Irish and German immigrants that came to the US at the beginning of the 20th century. When it comes to religion, it is estimated that some 82% of the state’s residents belong to some of the Christian denominations, with 24% of them being Roman Catholic, while 55% are Protestants. This is further divided into 15% of Lutheran Protestants, 8% Methodists, 5% Baptists, 4% of Presbyterian Protestants, 2% belonging to the United Church of Christ and 21% belonging to some of the other Protestants denominations. Some 5% of the state’s residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 18% are not religious and other religions are represented by less than one percent of the state’s inhabitants.
Montana Government and Legislation
The government of Montana, just like the government of the United States, is divided into three branches, the executive, legislative and judicial. The chief executive of the state’s executive branch is the state Governor, the duties of whom can be transferred onto the state’s Lieutenant Governor if the Governor becomes unable to perform them. The Governor’s powers and duties include commanding the state National Guard, issuing pardons to convicted criminals and vetoing or signing bills that were passed by the state’s legislative branch. Apart from Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the executive branch has a number of other officials, including the State Auditor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of the State. The executive branch works through a number of different agencies, commissions and departments, including the Department of Administration, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Corrections, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Justice, Aeronautics Board, Board of Housing, Board of Public Education and many other. Officials of the executive branch are responsible for the state budget and most of the decisions pertaining to it.
Just like the legislative branches of most of the other states, the legislative branch of Montana is bicameral, meaning that it is composed of two bodies, Montana Senate and Montana House of Representatives. If a bill is to become a law it needs to gain the majority of votes in both of the houses, and be approved by the state Governor. If the Governor decides to veto the bill, the houses can overturn the Governor’s veto by a two thirds majority of votes in favor of it. Montana Senate has 50 members, while the House of Representatives has 100. Most of the other states have the same Representative to Senator ratio of 2:1. The members of the houses are elected by the people and not appointed. Since 1992, Senators are allowed to serve two four year terms, while the members of the House of Representatives can serve four two year terms.
Montana’s highest court is the Montana State Supreme Court. Seeing that Montana, unlike most of the other states, doesn’t have an appellate court, one of the duties of the Supreme Court is hearing all of the appeals. Its other duties include interpreting the administrative rules, state constitution and the state statues, as well as dealing with the cases revolving around the state government. It is also in charge of disciplining the members of the judicial branch and revising certain rules, such as the Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rules of Professional Conduct or Montana Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure. There are a number of lower courts in the state, including the City Courts, Municipal Courts and Justice Courts, all of which are considered courts of limited jurisdiction, as well as the Water Court, the Workers' Compensation Court, and the District Courts.