Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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High School Resources

The following resources, many of which are interdisciplinary, were designed for use with high school students.

New! The Montana 1972 Constitutional Convention (Designed for grades 11-12) This intensive dive into Montana’s constitutional convention asks students to analyze and compare the preambles of both the 1889 and 1972 Montana Constitutions before exploring how the 1972 constitution came to be, researching some of the major people and events of the 1972 Constitutional Convention, and presenting their findings in a digital “yearbook.” While the full lesson takes eight to eleven 50-minute class periods, parts can be used independently.

Montana Women's Legal History Lesson Plan. (Designed for grades 11-12). In this 1-2 period activity, students will examine sample Montana legislation from 1871 to 1991 that particularly affected women's lives to explore the impact laws have on the lives of ordinary people and why laws change.

The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives includes a hands-on art lesson plan and PowerPoint to facilitate exploration of ledger art and the effects of federal Indian policies on Montana tribes.

Montana’s Charlie Russell  includes hands-on art lesson and lessons that use Russell's art to explore stereotyping and how artists' perspectives shape the story, even in "realistic" paintings. 

Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War asks students to work in groups to read and interpret letters written by soldiers at war, from the Civil War to the Operation Iraqi Freedom. After engaging in close reading and conducting research to interpret the letters, they will perform the letters as reader’s theater. Preview this lesson by watching Rob Hoffman perform one of the letters, a 2005 email from Helenan Cory Swanson, who was serving in Iraq.

"Poems for Two Voices" is a two- to three-day lesson that uses the same documents featured in "Hearing Native Voices: Analyzing Differing Tribal Perspectives in the Oratory of Sitting Bull and Plenty Coups." After analyzing Plenty Coups' and Sitting Bull's rhetoric, student pairs will write a poem for two voices, comparing and contrasting the tribal leaders' perspectives, gaining a better understanding of Essential Understanding regarding Montana Indians #1: "There is great diversity among the twelve tribal nations of Montana in their languages, cultures, histories and governments."

A Beautiful Tradition: Ingenuity and Adaptation in a Century of Plateau Women's Art includes a PowerPoint and script and a worksheet to facilitate the exploration of Plateau cultures through art, particularly corn husk and beaded bags.

Resilience: Stories of Montana Indian Women This booklet collects essays originally written for the Women's History Matters website and later published in Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women's Lives (Montana Historical Society Press, 2015.) It is a useful companion to the lesson Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things.

Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things! Connecting Biography to Larger Social Themes Lesson Plan (Designed for grades 8-12) This lesson uses essays published on the Women’s History Matters website to help students explore how ordinary people’s lives intersect with larger historical events and trends and to investigate how people’s choices impact their communities. After analyzing two essays on American Indian women from the Women’s History Matters website, students are asked to conduct interviews with people in their own community to learn about how that person has chosen to shape the world around him or her.

"Mining Sacred Ground: Environment, Culture, and Economic Development on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation" challenges students to better appreciate the complexities of promoting resource-based economic development when such action conflicts with traditional cultural values.

Resources Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Marias Massacre. To recognize and remember the tragedy of the Marias Massacre, Montana The Magazine of Western History has made available an article on the event as well as discussion questions for classroom use. Also included on this page are links to a primary source based lesson plan and other information.

Multimedia Resources

Montana Mosaic: 20th-Century People and Events explores twentieth-century Montana through twelve brief films. Copies of the DVD were sent to every middle and high school library in Montana. User guides are available as downloadable pdf files.

"Sun Dance in Silver Bow: Urban Indian Poverty in the Shadow of the Richest Hill on Earth" is a PowerPoint-based lesson plan that explores the complexity underpinning the change-over (or reconfiguration) of the West (and particularly Montana) from Aboriginal lands into Euro-American hands at the end of the nineteenth century.

Teaching with Primary Sources

Learning from Historical Documents provides sample primary sources relating to almost every era in Montana history. Links include a typed excerpt, a link to the original, a brief context, and a copy of the National Archives Document Analysis Worksheet is posted for each document.

Hazel Hunkins, Billings Suffragist: A Primary Source Investigation asks student historians to analyze photos, letters, newspaper articles, and other sources to learn more about the suffrage movement as experienced by Billings, Montana, native and National Woman's Party activist Hazel Hunkins.

"Montana's Landless Indians and the Assimilation Era of Federal Indian Policy: A Case of Contradiction" is a week-long primary-source based unit designed to introduce students to the history of the landless Métis, Cree, and Chippewa Indians in Montana between 1889 and 1916, while giving them an opportunity to do their own guided analysis of historical and primary source materials. In this Common Core-aligned unit, students will wrestle with issues of perspective, power, ideology, and prejudice and will closely examine the role Montana newspapers played in shaping public opinion toward the tribes’ attempts to maintain economic independence and gain a land base and political recognition.

Montana Newspapers Online provides access to over a million pages of digitized newspapers for use in research projects and explorations of everyday life in past times.

Oral History in the Classroom provides detailed lesson plans for creating a classroom-based oral history project. Reserve the Oral History in the Classroom Mini Footlocker to also get access to eight Sony IC Audio Recorders, batteries and chargers and additional reference material.

Women at Work Lesson Plan: Clothesline Timeline asks students to analyze historic photographs to draw conclusions about women and work from the 1870s through the 2010s. Students will discover that Montana women have always worked, but that discrimination, cultural expectations, and changing technology have influenced the types of work women undertook.

Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan Study Guide (Designed for grades 6-10). This study guide includes lesson plans, vocabulary, chapter summaries and questions, alignment to the Common Core, and other information to facilitate classroom use of Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan, as told to Margaret Ronan, edited by Ellen Baumler. Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, this highly readable 222-page memoir details Mary Sheehan Ronan’s journey across the Great Plains, her childhood on the Colorado and Montana mining frontiers, her ascent to young womanhood in Southern California, her return to Montana as a young bride, and her life on the Flathead Indian Reservation as the wife of an Indian agent. Book One, which provides a child’s-eye view of the mining frontier, is available to download as a PDF. Classroom sets of Girl from the Gulches can be purchased from the Montana Historical Society Museum Store by calling toll free 1-800-243-9900.

Digital Projects

Montana and the Great War provides resources to investigate World War I's transformative and complicated legacy in our home state, including two lesson plans, story maps, digitized articles, and a World War I scavenger hunt.

Montana's African American Heritage Resources is a gateway for exploring this understudied aspect of Montana history.

Relationships, Agency, and Power Dynamics: Photographers of the US West and Their Photographic 'Subjects' is an online exhibit featuring photographs of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow people taken from over a thousand images donated to the Montana Historical Society. The entire collection is available to view through the Montana History Portal. Exhibit creator Jacey Anderson also created a scavenger hunt for your students as a Google Form. If you wish your students to complete the scavenger hunt, MAKE SURE TO SAVE YOUR OWN COPY of this form--otherwise, you will not be able to access your student answers. (If you have problems accessing or saving the scavenger hunt, email

Women's History Matters offers hundreds of popular and scholarly articles relating to Montana women's history as well as bibliographies and other resource materials.

Historic Montana is a website and mobile app to help you discover Montana’s rich cultural resources. Curated by the Montana Historical Society, Historic Montana shares the history and architecture of selected buildings, neighborhoods, and cultural sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation's official list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation.

Other Resources

Montana The Magazine of Western History Curriculum Guides provide questions for digitized theme issues on Butte, western gold rushes, and transportation.