Montana entered the Union as the 41st state on November 8, 1889. The first white explorers were the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1804 to 1806. Not long after that, fur trappers and traders flocked to the area, especially to collect beaver pelts. By the 1840s, however, the beaver hat had lost its popularity, and the fur trade started to die down.
In the 1860s, after gold was discovered, settlers came to the area. Plenty of other precious jewels were mined as well, giving the area one of its nicknames: Treasure State. In 1864, Montana became a territory. Unfortunately, the surge of new settlements spread on to Native American lands, causing battles and skirmishes. Perhaps the most famous in all American history was the Battle of the Little Big Horn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand, where the natives were able to win against the U.S. Army.
Battle of Little Big Horn
In 1868, a treaty was signed between the U.S. and the Lakota people, which guaranteed the people a section of land in South Dakota. This included the Black Hills, where gold was later discovered. Gold is a mighty motivator and people began to encroach on Native land. The U.S. decided the land was too rich in the resource and tried to force the Lakota off the land. The Army was sent to remove any remaining tribes in the area.
Word spread of a large group of Native Americans gathering near the Little Bighorn River, so General George Custer and his men were sent to investigate and keep the tribes from advancing any further. Meanwhile, Lakota Chief Sitting Bull and members of several other tribes gathered more than 2,000 warriors. Custer only had about 650 soldiers, and he split them into two groups. Custer’s group didn’t have any survivors, but the other group was rescued when reinforcements showed up.
Today, Montana is known as the Big Sky Country. It is the fourth largest state, but also the most spacious, with an average of six people per square mile. It is home to the first national park established in the nation, Yellowstone National Park, which is located in the southern part of the state and northern Wyoming.