A special report on race in Montana by The University of Montana School of Journalism

The Native News Honors Project is reported, photographed, edited and designed by students at The University of Montana School of Journalism. This is the 14th annual edition of Montana Indians.

Financial support for this project was provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Montana School of Journalism. The Davidson Honors College at UM and the Great Falls Tribune, Billings Gazette and Missoulian also contributed funds for the publication.

The School of Journalism appreciates the advice and counsel received from Donna McCrea, head of archives at Mansfield Library; Jodi R. Rave, national correspondent for Lee Enterprises; Michael Rollins, Living section editor at The Oregonian; Renée Taaffe, education curator at the Missoula Art Museum; photographer David Spear; educator Jennifer Greene; Salish Kootenai College students Wayne Smith, Vonnie Jo Alberts and Kolynn Plumage; and photojournalist Amber D’Hooge.

If you have comments about this series, we’d like to hear from you.

Write to:
Native News Honors Project, School of Journalism, 32 Campus Drive, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812,
or email us at:, or

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  Photo by Lee Tortorelli

Residents sit outside of Ick’s Place, a liquor store on the main street in Browning.


Race matters.

American Indians living in Montana report that their ethnicity matters in nearly every aspect of their lives. It matters in understanding who they are, where they are from, and where they are going. It matters in their sense of community, their culture, their religion. Often it’s part of facing, with their communities, the social ills that persist in places where poverty and a lack of jobs tear at the fabric of a place.

But in Montana being Indian also often means dealing with racism, of encountering people who treat you differently because of the color of your skin. Sometimes that treatment comes from outside Indian communities, but sometimes it is internal, stemming perhaps from inter-tribal jealousy or suspicion.

Journalism students at the University of Montana set out to investigate how Montanans’ perceptions of people who are of a different race — or a different tribe — affect the way we treat one another. They traveled to all seven of the state’s reservations and, in some cases, to towns that border reservations to see how people of different races and cultures interact.

What they found is that in Montana, race does matter.

The region’s first residents are frequently treated as if they don’t belong, or aren’t welcome here. Of course, not all Montanans display that perception and many Montanans of all backgrounds are working hard to ensure all of us are treated with civility and respect. The students did not make judgments about what was in the minds of the people whose stories are told here. But they have reported what they saw so that you can reach your own conclusions.

Race is about peoples’ perceptions. In this publication we invite you to see how those perceptions can affect the daily lives of the state’s 70,000 Indians.

Click Index to see a complete list of Montana reservations and stories.


©Copyright 2005 The University of Montana School of Journalism
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