Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

Museum and research center closed for renovations. For more info, call (406) 444-2694.

Montana: Stories of the Land

Companion Website and Online Teacher's Guide

Chapter 11 - The Early Reservation Years, 1880-1920

Learning From Historical Documents

Letter from Charles Broadwater to Martin Maginnis, December 6, 1881. Martin Maginnis papers, 1864-1912. Manuscript Collection 50. [box 1 folder 25]. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 66.

Context for Charles Broadwater's Letter:

The U.S. government selected reservation and agency sites to keep tribes away from the path of white settlement and, therefore, on less desirable land. However, the definition of desirable land kept changing. By 1880, expansion in mining, farming, and ranching made much of this previously undesirable land appealing. As a result, the federal government pushed tribes into ceding additional portions of their reservations in exchange for annuities and other benefits. Charles A. Broadwater, contractor and partner in post traderships at Fort Assiniboine, sought special consideration in redrawing the reservation lines. Using his considerable power in the Democratic Party, he asked Delegate Martin Maginnis, a Democrat who pushed for the reduction of the size of Montana's Indian reservations, to arrange preferential treatment to improve business at the mercantile establishments that Broadwater controlled. His words typified the expansionist views most Euro-American Montanans held regarding tribal land.

About Primary Sources:

Letters, diary entries, census records, newspapers, and photographs are all examples of "primary sources," material created at a particular moment in the past that has survived into the present. Primary sources can provide clues to the past. They are our windows into an earlier time. The Montana Historical Society contains thousands of primary sources. In the 1970s, archivists collected just a few snippets into a book, which they called Not in Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana. That book is now on the web in its entirety. The above sample from that book relates directly to this chapter.
Midwinter Fair
Midwinter Fair, Browning, MT, 1920s, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 955-532
Crow Indians
Crow Indians, 1888, photo by O. S. Goff, Fort Custer, MT, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 955-809