Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Dan Flores

Commitee Members

Jeffrey Gritzner, Jeffrey Wiltse


Great Northern Railway, Louis W. Hill, National Parks, North Fork, Conservation, George Bird Grinnell, Glacier National Park, Thomas H. Carter, Homesteaders


University of Montana


This project examines the creation of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana in 1910, and argues that the effort to create Glacier National Park included a class struggle between a small group of elite, upper-class proponents of the park (including George Bird Grinnell, Louis Hill, and the merchants of Kalispell, MT) and lower-class, local citizens who relied on the resources of the West Glacier area for subsistence. Traditionally, the historiography of the American conservation movement and national parks presents the creation of Glacier and other preserved areas in a very triumphant tone. Histories of national parks often read as exultant tales, where enlightened conservationists and prescient administrators saved pristine landscapes of sublime beauty from misuse and destruction at the hands of greedy exploiters. However, these types of histories present an incomplete narrative concerning the creation of Glacier and other national parks. While Glacier was, and continues to be, a picturesque area of the country, the lands that now exist as Glacier National Park were never truly pristine or uninhabited. Native Americans have lived, hunted, and enjoyed this area of present-day Montana for thousands of years. Beginning in the late 19th century, white settlers and homesteaders began moving into the Glacier area, in search of viable farmland and attracted by the vast natural resources available in the region. Both the Blackfeet Indians, who lived in the eastern areas of the present-day park, and white settlers in the western lands of Glacier, relied on the bountiful timber, water, and game for survival. The effort to create Glacier National Park in 1910, an endeavor led by a small group of wealthy, Eastern conservationists, challenged and eventually ended the subsistence practices of these local residents. The history of the creation of Glacier National Park provides an opportunity to examine the issue of class conflict as it relates to the conservation movement and offers a valuable historical context for evaluating modern public lands debates.

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© Copyright 2009 Shawn Patrick Bailey