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Prehistory: First Inhabitants
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Montana Early History
First Early Inhabitants of Montana
Early history examines the archaeological record that tells the story of the first inhabitants of Montana. Learn about the prehistory and culture of the first early inhabitants, and what lessons it might teach us about the early history of Montana.
Montana First Early Inhabitants Timeline
Early History of Native Americans in Montana
The Indigenous People of Montana
The first inhabitants of the area now known as Montana were nomadic people who followed the mammoth and the buffalo and gathered plants. Although some tribal people believe their ancestors have lived in the northern Rocky Mountain region since the world began, archaeologists believe the first inhabitants crossed the Bering Strait from Asia around 12,000 years ago. There is evidence of a thriving culture living west of the Rocky Mountains as early as 9,000 years ago.
Before the white settlers arrived, two groups of Indian tribes lived in the region that is now Montana. The Arapaho, Assiniboine, Atsina, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, and Crow tribes lived on the plains. The mountains in the west were the home of the Bannack, Flathead, Kalispell, Kootenai, and Shoshone tribes. Other nearby tribes (such as the Sioux, Mandan, and Nez Perce) hunted in the Montana region. When the first white traders came west, there may have been as many as 15,000 people belonging to the Blackfeet Nation living in this area.
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