Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 22 - Living in a New Montana, 1970-2007

Learning From Historical Documents

Terry Murphy, testimony on House Bill #492, February 1, 1973. Montana Legislature (43rd: 1973-1974) records, 1973-1974. Legislative Records 43 and Dolph Harris, February 5, 1971, testimony on House Bill #534. Montana Legislative Assembly (42nd: 1971) records, 1971. Legislative Records 42. [box 1 folder 9]. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 276-77.

Context for Terry Murphy's and Dolph Harris's Testimony:

National energy problems and policies called attention to a significant energy source in eastern Montana - coal. The low-grade deposits necessitated strip mining to be economical, while Montana's low population density and alternative power sources meant little coal was needed for statewide use. Consequently, the bulk of the product left the state by train to fire-generating plants elsewhere or it stoked nearby generators and left Montana via high-voltage transmission lines. Neither alternative escaped controversy. Montana's legislature and state agencies spent the 1970s dealing with problems of strip-mining, generating plants, power transmission lines, and the like, listening to Montanans passionately expressing views on both sides of the issue. Similar debates occur today.

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.

Spurs, photo by Alexandra Swaney, courtesy Montana Arts Council
Fox sculpture
Kit Fox, sculpture by Jay Laber, Montana Historical Society Museum