Before the Rest

Long before Bill Fairweather, et al., stumbled on gold in Alder Gulch, long before Lewis and Clark blundered through Southwest Montana, complaining of mosquitoes, even before bemused French voyguers stood on the plains and wrote of “shining mountains” to the west, Montana provided abundant shelter and sustenance to a diverse array of peoples. Archeological evidence suggests that people called Montana home over two thousand years ago. In more recent times, modern Indian tribes began moving into the region between A.D. 1600 and 1700. Southwest Montana was not the clear territory of any one tribe, rather, it served as a crossroads, a comfortable place for a number of tribes to rest and regroup on their way to or from the buffalo grounds to the east. Among others, the Bannock, Shoshone, Crow, Nez Perce, and Blackfeet used the area. Most of that we know of Montana's tribes before the 1800s comes from legend and conjecture. In the recorded annals of Montana history, two tales of Southwest Montana bear repeating.