• Chief Plenty Coups. Courtesy of Chief Plenty Coups State Park

    Chief Plenty Coups: A diplomat in difficult times

    We told you about the plethora of stories that the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center is collecting as it continues to recognize inductees, which range from everything from a women’s basketball team to a Kentucky Derby champion horse.

    We share the story of the hall of fame and introduced readers to several inductees inside our Nov/Dec issue. One is Chief Plenty Coups, a man who was considered both a great cowboy and diplomat.

    2008 inductee: Aleek-chea-ahoosh, Chief Plenty Coups:

    By Cathy Melin Moser

    Of all the great American Indian chiefs who struggled in the era of white settlement, only one achieved lasting peace with white men and retained his people’s homeland in perpetuity. He was Aleek-chea-ahoosh, born in 1848 near present-day Billings. His name meant, prophetically, Many Achievements. White men knew him as Plenty Coups.

    Chief Plenty Coups. Photo courtesy of Chief Plenty Coups State Park

    Chief Plenty Coups. Photo courtesy of Chief Plenty Coups State Park

    At age 28, he became chief of the Mountain Crows.

    Chief Plenty Coups concluded that the Crows must follow the white man’s ways if they were to survive. He traveled to Washington, D.C., multiple times where he impressed officials. Thanks to Plenty Coups, they realized, at least in part, the complex problems confronting the Crows.

    Chief Plenty Coups was promised material aid, teachers and agriculture instructors, as well as a permanent reservation in the Crow lands of southern Montana.

    Within his lifetime, Chief Plenty Coups was revered for placing diplomacy and cooperation above force of arms. His diplomatic skills helped his people transition from a nomadic lifestyle to settled agriculturalists confined to a reservation.

    Despite having secured a peaceful existence for his people, Chief Plenty Coups acknowledged, “When the buffalo went away, the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again.” 

    Want to learn more?  You can visit Chief Plenty Coups State Park outside Billings.

    - Jenna 

  • Courtesy of the Missoulian

    Montana prepping for 2014 Brawl of the Wild

    Whose your pick to win the 2014 Brawl of the Wild?  Not like you need an explainer, but that’s when the MSU Bobcats play the UM Grizzlies in what is for many the most anticipated football game of the year. It will kickoff at 3:15 p.m. in Missoula on Saturday.

    Who’s going to win? It’s anybody’s game.

    There’s a lot riding on a win for the Griz, as Missoulian reporter Bill Speltz explains.

    As for the Cats, they’re confident they can win even without their first string quarterback.

    Either way, it’s high stakes, as the Billings Gazette reporter Greg Rachac explains.

    Even Montana elected officials are getting in on the fun.

    Congressman Steve Daines and Attorney General Tim Fox again have placed a friendly wager over the upcoming Montana–Montana State football game.

    The winner will provide the loser with a bumper sticker of the winning team, which must be placed on the loser’s personal vehicle for a month.

    If you can’t make the game Saturday, here’s a photo gallery of past Brawls to get you in the spirit.

    - Jenna

  • Cactus the horse, Jack Ballad and his son Micah revel in the mountain view while transporting the meat from a cow elk to camp. Photo by Lisa Ballard

    Top 10 elk camp essentials

    Montana hunters have some of the best traditions of any group around – many of rooted in the quest to hunt elk. We gave readers a glimpse into one tradition in our Nov/Dec issue, when writer and photographer Jack Ballard gave us a look inside his family’s elk camp.

    Home Base” tells of the tradition and the memories created at the Ballard camp – which has been hosted hunters for more than 50 years.

    Ostensibly, the purpose of the elk camp is to facilitate elk hunting, the goal of which is most simply defined as killing an elk.

    But the camp likely plays a much more complex role in the lives of the hunters, at least in bivouacs with a long history, such as that which surrounds my family’s camp.

    In 2003 my uncle Tom celebrated his 50th consecutive year of hunting elk from the same camp, with the ridgepole of the cook tent fastened to the same wind-scarred lodgepole pine.

     “That old guy must really be into killing things,” a cynical soul of the nonsporting public might conclude. Such a simplistic conclusion ignores the fact that for at least the last decade before his silver anniversary, Tom spent precious little time hunting, preferring instead to hone his culinary skills in the camp kitchen and pass many precious hours reading, tinkering or surveying the broad, untrammeled view of a yonder mountain range perched on a folding metal chair outside the cook tent.

    The Ballards have created many lifetimes worth of memories at its elk camp in Montana’s southwestern wilderness where the scenery is epic and the tents are warm. The annual fall ritual that brings hunters together through stalwart tradition creates a place that, Ballard says, is more like home than most houses.

    But what makes camp so comfortable? Ballard’s top 10 elk camp essentials include:

    1) Wall tent
    2) Tent frame
    3) Tent fly
    4) Wood-burning stove
    5) Firewood
    6) Chainsaw
    7) Cots
    8) Real sleeping bags and pads
    9) Outhouse (luxury option No. 1)
    10) Elk (luxury option No. 2)

    - Jenna

  • A rendering of the proposed Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame campus in Big Timber. Photo courtesy of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center

    Story keepers: Cowboy hall of fame works to preserve western past

    The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame doesn’t discriminate when it comes to accepting inductees. Not in the least.

    There have been men, women, horses and bars inducted into the hall, which aims to preserve the western culture that was for so long defined across Montana.

    We told our readers about the organization”s mission in a feature in our Nov/Dec 14 issue. Writer Cathy Moser spent some time with inductees and told some of their wild stories.

    Along with preserving the stories of inductees, the organization is working to fundraise so it can build a full “homestead campus” in Big Timber that will include an museum and heritage center. See a slideshow of renderings for the campus here.

    And if you know someone or something that personifies Montana’s western culture, the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame is accepting nominations through March, 31, 2015.

    You can nominate a candidate for induction in the 2015 class by visiting the hall of fame’s website.

    - Jenna

  • Skip Erickson stands inside the World Wildlife Experience inside the Children's Museum of Northeastern Montana. Photo by Sean Heavey

    Glasgow native donates wild gift to children’s museum

    The Children’s Museum of Northeastern Montana in downtown Glasgow is a cool place to play. It’s full of books, toys and even has a treehouse.

    Now, thanks to Glasgow native Skip Erickson, it’s home to an almost unbelievable set of wildlife trophies.

    As writer Andrew McKean explains in our Nov/Dec issue, it’s hard to imagine the menagerie that Erickson has donated to the museum. The hunter, who is battling colon cancer, has donated everything from a 12-foot alligator to a wildebeest.

    It amounts to a wildlife collection – called the World Wildlife Experience – that Erickson hopes will allow area kids to be transported around the world.

    “Not everyone is going to be able to travel the world and have the experiences that I’ve had,” acknowledges Erickson. “But I hope that when a kid looks at these animals, that they are transported, even for a few minutes, from Glasgow, Montana to the Himalayas or to Central Asia or to Australia.”

    We’ve put the full story about the World Wildlife Experience online today. To say the least, it’s a heartwarming piece that captures the love Skip has for his hometown, and the passion the town shares for giving its kids a window to the bigger world.

    - Jenna

  • Erik Goodge. Photo courtesy of "Not Yet Begun to Fight"

    Veteran-focused film documents healing powers of Montana rivers

    We’re joining the rest of the country and saying thanks today, to the wonderfully brave women and men who serve our country. We are forever grateful.

    Veterans Day marks an exciting day for a film made in Montana and featuring the state as a place where American warriors can find solace.

    “Not Yet Begun to Fight” was shot on the shores of Montana rivers and made by Bozeman directors. It premieres today on Netflix. You can also buy the film on iTunes for 99 cents.

    “Not Yet Begun to Fight”focuses on five warriors who join retired Marine Colonel Eric Hastings, who heads the local non-profit Warriors and Quiet Waters, for a week of fly-fishing. Hastings, who flew missions “high above the death and destruction” in Vietnam, returned home to Montana in 1969 battling dark dreams. His solace was fishing. “When I came back from combat, I found I needed relief, and the more I went fly-fishing, the more I knew I needed more of it,” he recalls. “It became an absolute desperate physical and mental need. I had to do it, or I was going to kill someone.”  

    Montana Magazine contributor Corinne Garcia sent us the information about the film, which has screened on PBS and been praised by major critics across the country.

    Directors and Bozeman residents Shasta Grenier and Sabrina Lee shadow Colonel Hastings as he reaches out to a new generation of traumatized combat veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Hastings knows too well that the war is never over for those who fight.  On the rivers of Montana, with a fly rod in hand, he shares the balm that soothed his wounds:  “Fly-fishing is a series of opportunities for hope,” he says, “This river healed me.”  

    He leads five remarkable, intense, and vulnerable young men (three marines, a soldier and a Navy SEAL) to the quiet waters of Montana. His mission is to help them find their way through the space between the war they have just left behind and the new battles they face. 

    “The hardest thing, and this probably goes for just about any wounded warrior out there, is having to learn every little thing all over again,” says Elliott Miller, a Navy SEAL featured in the film who now communicates with the automated voice of an iPad. “Only this time, where you were once an able, barrel-chested freedom fighter and proud, now you are broken and weak and humble. And so it just adds a whole new level of difficulty to it.”   

    You can view the trailer for “Not Yet Begun to Fight” here.

    - Jenna 

  • Earl and Esther Vance. Photo from the Montana Historical Society archives

    Stories, history project celebrate the women of Montana

    We’re proud of our Nov/Dec 2014 issue for a lot of reasons. One is the Women of Montana Section, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the successful women’s suffrage movement in Montana and features stories on author Mildred Walker and pilot Esther Vance.

    Nov. 3 was the official 100th anniversary date. There was lots to celebrate. Here’s a story about Jeanette Rankin from the Billings Gazette. Here’s a story about the pioneer women who first explored Glacier National Park.

    Our stories include features on Esther Vance and Mildred Walker – a couple of the other women who have made important marks on the history of Montana.

    On some fronts, Montana has been a progressive place when it comes to gender equality. Montana women won the right to vote a full six years before the right was granted nationwide with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

    To celebrate and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the successful Montana women’s suffrage movement, the Montana Historical Society has created its Montana Women’s History Matters project.

    The extensive collection of stories, photos, oral histories and educator resources is designed to help the Montana Historical Society promote an increased appreciation and understanding of the role of women in the Treasure State’s past.

    It’s available to view online at MontanaWomensHistory.org.

    On the project’s website you’ll be introduced to Montana women like Mamie Anderson Bridgewater, a leader of Helena’s black Baptist congregation in the early 1900s, and Bertha Grimm Gonder, one of the many women who were employed by Great Northern Railroad during WWI. Gonder’s career at Great Northern spanned almost 30 years.

    In all, the Montana Women’s History Matters project will include more than 100 stories about Montana women’s history by the of 2014. A book based on the stories is set to be released in 2015.

    Find more at MontanaWomensHistory.org.

    - Jenna

  • oneill

    Montana news: Osama bin Laden shooter from Butte?

    Montana is making news in a big way today with a story coming from across the ocean.

    The Montana Standard had a story online today saying that a British tabloid is reporting that it was a Butte native who killed Osama bin Laden.

    Rob O’Neill grew up in Butte and his father, Tom, still lives there.

    A 16-year veteran of military service, Rob O’Neill is now a motivational speaker. He spoke late least year at the Maroon Activity Center.

    “It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can do anything,” he told The Montana Standard in an interview before his speech. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do the best you can.”

    At the time, he declined to discuss the specifics of the raid that led to the bin Laden’s death. 

    Here’s a 2013 story by Angela Brandt about Rob’s return to Butte.

    According to the Standard’s story, Tom told the UK’s  Daily Mail  that Rob did kill Osama. He also took part in the mission that helped save “Captain Philips” from Somali pirates. That mission inspired the movie starring Tom Hanks.

    - Jenna

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