Through The Years In Glacier National Park
An Administrative History
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"Land of Shining Mountains," the Indians called it. But there are many shining mountains in the United States, and the white men now have another name for this glorious land. They call it Glacier National Park.

This area in northwestern Montana lies astride the Continental Divide immediately adjacent to the Canadian boundary. Glacier National Park, encompassing an area of nearly 1600 square miles, was set aside as a representative sample of the most beautiful mountain scenery and of glaciation in the United States. It was set aside by an act of Congress in 1910 as a "pleasuring ground" for the American people and is the fourth largest of our twenty-nine national parks.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit the park each summer to enjoy the scenic splendor and relaxation afforded by this vast area of mountains, streams, and lakes. Yet we often wonder how many pause in their pleasurable pursuits to ponder upon the history of the area—for here the panorama of pageantry unfolds before us. A billion years or more ago the Belt seas deposited layer upon layer of sediments which were destined to become the buff, the green, the red, and other layers of the mountains. The Lewis over-thrust built this range, only to have the glaciers scrape, pluck and grind away the rocks and carve out the valleys, cirques, aretes, and mountains.

Into this land then came the Indian; perhaps the legend of Napi will tell of the early beginnings. The story says that in the beginning Napi, Old Man of the Blackfeet, created the rocks and forests, the rivers, mountains, and prairie. He then made the animals and birds and fish. Then Napi molded a clay man and woman and gave them the breath of life. And he gave them dominion over all the creatures of the earth.

For a long time Napi dwelt among men, teaching them to fashion bows and arrows, tan hides, make shelters, use herbs, and know the magic of sacred objects. When man had learned how to take care of himself, Napi bade fare well to his beloved children. Then he returned to his home, the sun, going by way of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. [1]

What did the area look like when white men first saw it, how was it established as a National Park, or how did the first park visitors reach the back country where one now drives a high-powered automobile over surfaced roads?

To fully answer these and other questions we must go back many years and delve into thousands of records, books, newspaper items, and other sources of information that have been deeply buried and long forgotten. Unfortunately much of the history of Glacier National Park has been lost because of lack of interest in its past and the scattering of written records.

Before we delve into the dim and faded records that lie before us, just a word of warning for those to whom the word "history" means merely a dull series of dates or a list of ancient peoples and places—this story is not meant for you. But if to you the history of an area is the re-creating of the past and the re-living of adventures and experiences long since gone—if the past is a living thing, a part and foundation of our present times, then you will surely enjoy the story of Glacier National Park's history that is to follow.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004