Montana Historical Society

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 7 - Two Worlds Collide, 1850-1887

Learning From Historical Documents

Letter from Chief Victor to Territorial Gov. Sidney Edgerton, April 25, 1865. Sidney Edgerton family papers, 1859-1884. Manuscript Collection 26. [box 1 folder 8a]. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 56-57.

Context for Chief Victor's Letter:

Misunderstandings abounded regarding the terms of the Hellgate Treaty of 1855. The interpreters were so poor that, according to one witness, less than a tenth of what was said "was actually understood by either party." Among the main points of misunderstanding was the fate of the Bitterroot Valley. Salish leaders believed they had reserved the land for their people; the U.S. government believed that the Salish had ceded all lands except the present-day Flathead Reservation. In this letter to Territorial Governor Sidney Edgerton, Salish Chief Victor strategically expressed his desire for peaceful coexistence before asking Edgerton to keep white settlers out of the Bitterroot, land that Victor insisted was guaranteed to his tribe.

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.

Little Wolf and Dull Knife
Little Wolf, standing, Dull Knife, seated, 1873, courtesy Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives, Bureau of American Ethnology Collection
Curley, Crow Indian, photo by D. F. Barry, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 955-712