The first residents of Montana arrived from Asia via the Bering Strait land bridge more than 14,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age. These prehistoric people were the ancestors of the North American Indians. However, the Indians who now live in Montana were not native to the area: They were forced westward after being displaced by other tribes and white settlers from the east (see the following sections).
Montana was one of the last states to be settled by whites. Only after gold was discovered in the 1860s did people start to build communities and settle in the state permanently. In addition to the gold diggers from other western states, like California, where gold had already played out, the first towns were peopled by Southerners who had been displaced by the Civil War. Railroads and the Homestead Act made Montana’s free acreage tempting to the thousands of immigrants who poured into the United States in the early 20th century. Many communities still retain their strong European heritage.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition