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Violence in Montana:

Life for the Natives in the West changed dramatically with the arrival of the White man. The Natives became irritated because they were quickly losing their freedom to travel, losing their way of life, and losing their main source of food, the buffalo.

A period of violence and bloodshed in Montana began in 1865, when frustrated Blood and Peigan war parties took about 40 horses from the Whites in the town of Benton. Later on they killed several miners and traders. The Whites then wanted revenge, so a group went looking for natives, caught three Peigan and hanged them. It turned out that the ones hanged were innocent.

At about the same time, three Blood Natives were killed by a group of drunk Whites on the streets of Benton. Two days later a Blood war party killed ten woodcutters, and a little later some Blood warriors killed another White man. After that four Blood were invited by a group of Whites to a ranch where they were killed. A Peigan revenge party then destroyed an experimental farm and killed the farm instructor.

In 1870, the United States army was ordered to "strike them hard." So they surprised and attacked a Peigan village, killed 173 Natives and captured 300 horses in what became known as the Marias Massacre. Only one soldier was killed. Later, it was learned that it was not really a battle that had been fought, because most that died were women and children. And it turned out that they had picked on the wrong camp. They had attacked a friendly Peigan camp, much of it suffering from smallpox.

While the New York Times questioned if the massacre was necessary, many Montanans saw it as another victory of civilization over savagery. Whenever Natives were killed, Montanans saw it as part of progress, and the White killers were seen as heroes. They were making society more stable and this would help to protect defenseless White women and children.


  to Part 3: More Violence in Whoop-Up Country.


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