NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA
Montana is the least populated state in the United States. It's a place where the Old West is
preserved in the lifestyle and spirit of modern Montanans. In the 1860's a gold rush in the mountains of western Montana
brought settlers who established the first towns, but it also precipitated conflicts with Native Americans, primarily the
Souix. The battles continued through the 1870's and included General Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876.
Glacier National Park is the largest of the national parks in the USA with over 1600 square miles (1,013,598
acres). It is located in the northern west section of Montana and western Alberta Canada where
it straddles the Rocky Mountains. It is renowned for its spectacular mountains that are steep &
snowcapped with stunning mountain lakes and creeks. The park includes 6 peaks over
10,000 feet, 50 glaciers, 650 lakes, 200 streams and a diverse variety of wildlife.
Glacier National Park is considered one of the most spectacular sites of nature as the mountains in Glacier
rank as some of the most beautiful in the world. The diversity of wildlife and ecosystems is incredible, with plants
and animals of the humid Pacific Northwest meeting those of the Great Plains and Northern forests. You can travel from lush cedar and hemlock forests though alpine
meadows to the edge of the western prairies.
The Glacier area was called "The Backbone of the World" by the Blackfoot Indians and the "Crown of the Continent" by
18th century writer George Grinnell. The mountains are high, steep and carved in unusual shapes by the actions
of glaciers and other agents of erosion. A prime example of this appearance is Heavy Runner Mountain which rises above
the valley of St. Mary's Creek and Lake. This type of mountain is
called a "horn" that is formed when glaciers carved away the rock on several sides.
The rock in the mountains of the park are some of the oldest and best preserved sedimentary rocks in the world.
Most of this land was formerly under the sea but was thrust upward ages ago. The result of this upward movement of these
rocks is accentuated by their rise above the flat surface of St. Mary Lake. Much of the land remains wild and pristine, a result of its remote location and the lack
of visitation in the 19th century. The Glacier area has been visited and inhabited by human
beings for 8000 years. Very little is know abiout the earliest inhabitants but many agree that this is a sacred
site where many centuries of spiritual practices were conducted.
In more recent times the area was used by a several Indian tribes, although the fearsome Blackfoot tribe controlled
access to the area during much of the 18th and 19th centuries. This was the sacred homeland of the Blackfoot, Salish and
Kootenai Indian tribes who knew the natural splendor and abundant resources who used many sites in the park are sacred spiritual
sites. Other tribes included the Kootenai, Kalispell, and Flathead on the west
side of the mountains and Stoney on the east. Blackfoot domination was ended by the end of the 19th century by war,
whiskey, smallpox and the disappearance of the buffalo upon which their economy largely depended.
Much of the park is backcountry and wilderness considered by many to be the most beautiful of America's national
parks. John Muir called it "the best care-killing scenery on the continent." The diversity of the wildlife
and plants and the distinctiveness of the geographic landscape provided the early Native Indians with both
the physical and spiritual sustenance. The region continues to hold spiritual value to these tribes.
Lake McDonald is known as the "Sacred Dancing Lake" to the Blackfeet tribe, who considered the craggy mountain peaks
of the Continental Divide as the "Backbone of the World." Native people climbed the mountains to collect herbs,
roots, berries, and special plants for food and medicine. The lake was considered a very holy place where the ancestor spirits
The soaring peaks of Glacier National Park especially Chief Mountain
were revered by several Plains Indians tribes. They would climb the mountains on vision quests or ascend the high peaks
to pick select plants for ceremonial and medicinal uses. This impressive mountain is over 9100 feet and is visible
anywhere in Blackfeet territory. The summit of Chief Mountain was the most acclaimed
vision quest site in Montana to the Blackfeet, Blood and Piegan Indians. It was recognized as being home to
the greatly revered Thunderbird deity. According to the Blackfeet legend, the butte shaped mountain is in the "Center
of the World."
According to the oral histories passed down, Chief Mountain was the only land left unsubmerged after a great flood
covered the earth. From that spot, Creator made the present earth and the source of human creation for all the two-legged
Another Blackfeet legend states that when Chief Mountain crumbles it will be the end of all humanity. Carved
by glaciers and perhpas ending with glacial erosion, Chief Mountain is seen as a metaphor for the health of the planet.
Native Legends tell of brave warriors who climbed the ultra holy Chief Mountain with buffalo skulls on their backs
who made offerings. These offererings were made in ceremonial practice that saved the people. Buffalo skulls can
still be seen in the offering sites.
Along the route to the summit are many offerings left in prayer fields. Blackfeet tribal members are available
to accompany people who want to climb this sacred mountain.
Going to the Sun Highway (Road) in Glacier National Park is an exciting,
breathtaking 50 mile journey from one side of the Continental Divide to the other. It is considered a sacred site as being
a place of emergence, symbolizing the goddess energy side of nature. The Going-to-the-Sun Road has a rich history
as local legends tell of a deity, “Sour Spirit” who came down from the mountain to teach Blackfeet hunters how
to be successful, then had his image reproduced on the top of the mountains for inspiration
on his way back to the sun.
Going-to-the-Sun Road crosses Glacier Park through Logan Pass, resulting
in many spectacular views of the park as it winds for 52 miles past Lake McDonald, through the loop, and past Saint Mary Lake.
The scenery is like nothing else in the world. Here you can see Mountain Peaks, Glaciers, Sacred Goats,
Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Wolves, Waterfalls, Wildflowers and the Weeping Wall where water comes right out of the rock wall
along the road side.
Running Eagle Falls is a highlight of a trip to Two Medicine Lake. In the spring water
rushes over the upper fall so thick that the lower fall is completely hidden. Later in summer, as flows decrease, the water
seems to change course and flow almost exclusively out of the lower fall. It's easy to see why this waterfall used to be named
Trick Falls. This area holds great spiritual significance for local Blackfeet
UPPER TWO MEDICINE LAKE
Sunset at Lake McDonald,
Glacier National Park, MT