I’ve never been to Montana. And I know very little about the state. When I learned that the people of Montana had chosen body slamming Greg Gianforte to represent them in Congress, I was stunned. I wondered what kind of people could possibly be living in that state.
So I looked up Montana on the web. I learned that Montana is a relative newcomer to the Union. The territory was acquired in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase and joined the Union in 1889.
You remember the Louisiana Purchase? Thomas Jefferson (one of my heroes) paid $15 million for the vast region between the Mississippi and the Rockies (see map above). which worked out to about 3 cents an acre.
As well as Montana, that chunk of real estate now includes Louisiana (of course), Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Colorado/
Jefferson didn’t know that most of his purchase would turn out to be a bastion of Republicanism. So don’t blame him.
You think the French would give us back our money if we gave them back their land? (Just kidding!)
The area now called Montana was mostly wilderness. which Lewis and Clark risked their lives to explore. Native people had lived there for thousands of years, of course, but they were soon dispossessed by “civilization,” and now occupy “reservations.”
The first European settlers were Jesuit missionaries and fur traders, who seemed to live in peace with the Native People, but as more white people arrived, conflicts erupted (including one you probably know about – Custer’s Last Stand.)
Then gold was discovered and I’m sure you know the kind of lifestyle that brought. Next came the ranchers, bringing beef and mutton to feed the miners. But it was copper and silver that put Montana on the map.
Today, the state economy has moved away from mining, farming and other resource industries to become more service oriented. Tourism, for example, is its number two industry (thanks to natural wonders like Yellowstone Park).
Montana is an overwhelmingly white state – and a hotbed of white supremacy (photo at right), Calling Montanans conservative is like calling the Pope Catholic.
Having looked up Montana, I am still stunned by their choice of that awful Gianforte guy. But I have learned enough to know I wouldn’tt want to live there.