Sweet Grass Hills
Sweet Grass Hills are a series of low mountains between 3,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level that lie in Whitlash, Montana in Liberty and Toole County. They’re important because they are sacred to the Blackfoot people.
- The Blackfoot word for the area is Katoyisiks, which means “Sweet Pine Hills.”
- For thousands of years, the Blackfoot people lived and hunted in the area. Many of their earliest stories concern the Sweet Grass Hills.
- One story says that Old Man (God) made the hills with rocks he was carrying after he created the earth.
- Another story describes how the Blackfoot people surrounded a group of Crow Indians on the Middle Butte. Through the night, the Blackfoot circled and pushed the Crow nearer and nearer the top of the hill. The Crow began singing and when the sun rose, they had disappeared. The Blackfoot people still sing the song during traditional activities.
- The hills formed 50 million years ago from hard igneous rock that pushed up through the surface of the earth. A continental glacier moved through the area leaving a sheet of ice 1,000 feet thick. The ice covered two-thirds of the mountains, leaving the tops bare. This is why the tops of the mountains aren’t jagged and rugged like most mountains in Montana. The surrounding sedimentary rock wore away long ago. The hills stand in the middle of a prairie like an island.
- The West Butte is the highest peak, standing at 6,983 feet above sea level.
- The hills were the site of a battle in 1872 between the Blackfoot and wolfers.
- In 1887, the United States government signed a treaty with the Blackfoot taking 17,500,000 acres of their land. The remaining 6,000,000 acres were divided to form three reservations.
- During the 1930s, gold miners searched for gold here.
- Wolfer: someone who hunts wolves
- Igneous: rock formed from hardened magma flow
- Sedimentary: rock formed by sediment deposits (mud, sand, plant and animal debris)
Questions and Answers
Question: What is found at the Sweet Grass Hills today?
Answer: Two small towns are nearby the Sweet Grass Hills. The hills themselves rise very steeply from the prairie and can be seen for miles around. They are covered mostly with tall grass. The area is very windy.
Watch a video about the Sweet Grass Hills.