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History of Montana

Montana, nicknamed as the “Treasure State” or the “Land of Shining Mountains”, is situated in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Plains regions of the Unites States of America. The first inhabitants of Montana were Native Americans grouped into several tribes like the Crow in the south-central area; Kootenai and Salish in the west; the Cheyenne in the southeast; the Assiniboine, Gros Ventres, and Black-feet in north-central and central area. The smaller tribes such as the Kalispell and Pend d’Oreille lived near the western mountains and the Flathead Lake respectively. In the year 1803, Montana east of the continental divide was made a part of the Louisiana Purchase.

In the late 1850s, the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition took place. After the finding of copper and gold in the State, Montana was made a United States Territory on May 26, 1864. However, it was on November 8, 1889, that Montana was designated as the 41st State of the US. The most significant post in the Montana Territory was Fort Shaw, situated to the west of Great Falls in the Sun River Valley. This post was established by the Congress in 1867 and was named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts regiment during the American Civil War. Fort Shaw was used by the military personnel until 1891, after which, the government established this military post as a school to impart industrial training to the young Native Americans. This school had nearly 20 buildings, 300 students, 11 Indian assistants, and 17 faculty members. The other two posts in the Montana Territory were Camp Cooke on the Judith River and Fort C. F. Smith on the Bozeman Trail.

The settlement of Montana was considerably influenced by the revised Homestead Act of the early 1900s. As per this act, the land provided by the Homestead Act of 1862 was expanded from 160 acres (0.64 sq-km) to 320 acres (1.29 sq. km.). Another advance in the history of Montana was the Sun River Irrigation Project, which was opened for homesteading in the year 1908. This Reclamation Act attracted several young homesteaders who had come from Minnesota and the Midwest. Montana was the land where the Native Americans made their last effort to keep their land. It was also the field of the final battles of the Nez Perce Wars. Besides, the activity that was central to the history and economy of Montana was cattle ranching. The only link to the ranching style of the late 19th century is the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. This 1900 acre (7.6 sq. km.) working ranch is situated in the Deer Lodge Valley and is operated by the National Park Service at present.

 
 
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