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 5 - Beaver, Bison, and Black Robes: Montana's Fur Trade, 1800-1860

Educator Resources

Educational Trunks


  • Inspired by reading specialist Tammy Elser, who was in turn inspired by SKC graduate Taylor Crawford, we've created a "Takeaway" bookmark for every chapter of Montana: Stories of the Land. Before starting a chapter, print and cut out these bookmarks and distribute them to your students. Ask them to use the Takeaway to summarize the GIST of what they learn from reading assigned sections of the chapter. Remind them that they don't have much room, so they'll need to think before they write down the most important idea they want to take away from the section. Learn a little more about the GIST strategy.

  • Even though we've created Takeaways for every chapter, we don't recommend you have your students complete a Takeaway for every section of every chapter they read. That would be exceedingly tedious. However, used appropriately, they can be a useful tool for encouraging reflection and teaching students how to summarize information.

Websites and Online Lesson Plans

  • The Gabriel Dumont Institute's Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture is an amazing clearinghouse of material relating to the Métis. You may wish to direct students conducting projects to the bottom of the Learning Resources page where there is information on many aspects of the traditional Métis culture. You can also find some of their videos on the Gabriel Dumont Institute's YouTube channel.

  • The Utah Education Network has general instructions for creating a school wide Rendezvous where students learn about the fur trade. (This is a big project, with many stations on different relevant topics.) 

  • To accompany "The American Buffalo: Spirit of the Nation," an episode of the program Nature, PBS created this website.

  • Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site has created a 60-minute lesson plan, Fort Union Fur Trade Overview, geared toward third-fifth grade (but it can be addapted upwards), on the fur trade. Included in the lesson plan is a link to short multimedia presentatons.

  • A good bibliography of books and articles relating to the fur trade in Montana is available through the Montana History Compass.

  • The Indian Education Unit at the Montana Office of Public Instruction has a lesson plan on the spread of infectious diseases (particularly the Blackfeet and the small pox epidemic of 1837.

  • The 10,000 Year Significance of Bison: A Curriculum Sequence on the Past, Present and Future of Bison is designed for sixth through ninth grade science, social studies, and language arts classes. In all, five interactive, hands-on, and student-driven units highlight bison’s integral role culturally, politically, socially, and ecologically both before and after Euroamerican contact. Throughout the curriculum sequence, students uncover bison’s dynamic and turbulent past, discover bison’s central placement within Native cultures, and are challenged to critically engage with the processes leading to the near-extinction of bison in the late 1800s. From this understanding, students are tasked with determining potential steps forward in bison restoration and management.

  • The Métis of British Columbia: Culture, History, and the Contemporary Community is an online version of a DVD project created to help disseminate information on Métis history and culture. It includes many short videos, including ones on music and dance and other aspects of culture. There are two main sections: Culture, History, and Dance, and Music and Dance. Although it is from Canada the material is relevant to Montana as well. 

  • Deb Mitchell, a program specialist at the Montana Historical Society, created a lesson plan, "Who Are the Métis," to accompany this PowerPoint presentation of the same title.

Videos or DVDs

  • Crossing Boundaries: The Story of Sophie Morigeau, by Salish Kootenai College - 27 minutes. Available through SKC Media (call 406-275-4879 or email

  • In the Spirit of Atatice, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, 29 minutes

Possible Fieldtrips: View the Map

Alignment to ELA Common Core Standards

Alignment to Content Standards and Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians (EU)

Tests and Answer Keys

Free Trapper
Detail, Free Trappers, 1911, C. M. Russell, Montana Historical Society Museum
Buffalo Bones
Buffalo Bones along the Northern Pacific, photo by Charles Spencer Francis, illustration from Sport Among the Rockies: The Record of a Fishing and Hunting Trip in North-Western Montana (Troy, NY, 1889), p. 13 Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 945-968