Sunset over the Bear Paw Mountains


Road trips here in Montana are a real kick. There’s so much to see, so many places to stop in at, and the beauty just goes on and on for miles and miles.

The other day we did a road trip up to Glasgow. Our son wasn’t so much very impressed with all of the seemingly endless rolling fields until we got into the conversation about dry land farming.

When my son asked me what I saw in those fields, I told him that I saw history and industry — I explained to him of how dry land farming works and that it’s important that the rains come in order for it all to work out.

Festive Lewistown, Montana
Festive Lewistown, Montana

When we left Glasgow, we turned off at Malta and headed for Lewistown. I stopped in the middle of the road and snapped a shot of the Bear Paws with my phone. One day I think that I should take a few days off, take my good camera and my time and just take pictures where ever I go.

At any rate, I posted the picture I took on a few social sites and was nearly immediately called on the cuff for calling these mountains the Bearpaws by a friend in Havre.

He insisted that they’re called the ‘Bears Paw Mountains’ .. fair enough I suppose, but I can’t find anything historical on the actual “Bears Paw” name.

The Assiniboine translation literally means ‘bear paws’.
Crow translates to ‘bear’s little hand’.
Gros Ventre (pronounced GROH-vont of the Hidatsa) translates to ‘there are many buttes’.

In 1877 there was the ‘Battle of Bear Paw’, and even the USGS refers to them as the Bearpaws … i.e. ‘Cretaceous Bearpaw Formation’ — The USGS still uses Bearpaw Mountains on it’s publications.

On the internet, the site Discovering Montana refers to them as being the ‘Bear Paw Mountains’, while the site Bigskyfishing refers to them as being the ‘Bears Paw Mountains’

The MTDOT sign just south of Box Elder also refers to them being the ‘Bear Paw Mountains’.

I had no idea that there was such a controversy on how to use the Bear Paw title. I sort of think that the ‘Bears Paw’ moniker is more of a Hill County thing than it is anything else, because everyone I’ve ever known throughout the years, with the exception of those in Hill County, have always referred to these mountains as being the Bear Paw Mountains, or just the Bearpaws.

Native oral history ties the name ‘Bear Paw’ to a lone hunter in search of deer to feed his clan. He killed a deer, but while returning to the prairie, encountered a bear. The bear held the hunter to the ground, and the hunter appealed to the Great Spirit to release him. The Great Spirit filled the heavens with lightning and thunder, striking the bear dead and severing its paw to release the hunter.

Bears Paw, Bear Paw, or Bearpaws — It really doesn’t make a difference because these mountains are a beautiful reminder of just how blessed we are to be living here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here