Sunday, June 1, 2014

Traveling with History: Montana

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

Do you like to travel?  Do you like History?  Do you like combining both?  One of the places to visit with an eye towards history is Montana—a state where you can walk in the steps of Lewis & Clark or dinosaurs, visit Ghost Towns or battlefields, or just soak in the beauty of nature.  Montana is home to all these things, as well as Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. It is also the home of several Indian Nations like the Crow, Blackfeet, and Sioux.  It is a great destination for anyone who loves to travel with a mind to history and nature. 

Some great sites to see:
Billings, Montana-- Montana’s largest city was founded in 1882 and named for Frederick Billings, the president of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  As such, Billings was a transportation hub.  I found Billings to be a nice quaint city.  It was smaller than cities I am used to but certainly was an introduction to how cities in the west are. 

Crow Agency—To the East of Billings is Crow country, and while visiting there I was very excited to witness a PowWow and listen to Vietnam Veteran, Carson Walks Over Ice discuss traditional dances, and another elder educate us as to how a Teepee is set up.  We were also treated to dinner--traditional Indian Taco followed by the powwow program.  The only downside was that it was held indoors because of bad weather.  We were also educated about the Sun Dance which was abolished by government and missionaries because of fear in 1875.  Sun Dance is a way of prayer--Height of Apex of Sun.  Participants go without food and water for 3 days and pray for the 3 days.  Pray for sickness, suffering, soldiers, etc…  In 1941, the Sun Dance was revived.  A Sun Dance is held every August and the older generations teach to the younger the dances and songs.  During the Powwow we saw a number of examples of traditional dress:  such as use of birds, fur bearing animals, shiny things, moccasins, bones, moose teeth, bells, beaded bands for wrists, head and arms, paint on face, colorful – Blended with modern things such as Sponge Bob, flip flops, tennis shoes, basketball shorts, cell phones, etc.

Little Big Horn Battlefield—This is an immense battlefield and I was shocked to see how big this area really is.  This area was changed once gold was discovered in the Black Hills.  Yellow Hair--George Armstrong Custer was sent to take the Black Hills from the Indians.  His opponent was Sitting Bull.  This was the last armed effort of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life.  The Army sent 3 columns of soldiers to create a trap for Indians in the middle which included Custer.  The Calvary was supposed to find the enemy and infantry was supposed to fight, the scouts came across an Indian village camped along Little Big Horn River--Crow’s nest--the largest teepee camp in North America had been formed and was larger than city of Los Angeles.  The scouts described the horses as a brown carpet on the open prairie.  The fight only lasted about 20 minutes and very few Indians were actually killed, Custer was one of the first to die.

Lewis & Clark—Dinosaurs are not the only ones to have left a trail to follow.  On April 25, 1805, Lewis & Clarks’ Corps of Discovery camped by what would become Fort Union.  They hoped they were only weeks away from the Pacific, via the never to be found Northwest Passage. The group rested and celebrated their arrival at the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. The expedition journals noted the spot's potential as a trade location.  Entering what would become Montana but at the time was the land of the Blackfeet.

Dinosaur Trail--The Montana Dinosaur Trail features some of the greatest paleontological finds of the last century. T-rex, Miaisaur, Hadrasaur--these are just a few of the interesting dinosaurs you'll find along Montana's Dinosaur Trail. All of them are dug out from the earth by some of the most prominent paleontologists around.

These are just some of the highlights to see if you head to Montana to experience history and nature.  What would you include in your historical tour of Montana?

No comments:

Post a Comment