The Billings Outpost

Awolnation aims for hit

Awolnation plays Friday at MontanaFair.
By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features

Aaron Bruno may have had major success with “Megalithic Symphony,” his first album under the band name Awolnation. That 2011 release spent 111 weeks on the “Billboard” magazine Top 200 album chart and its hit single, “Sail,” hit nearly six million in sales while becoming the second longest charting song on “Billboard’s” all-genre Hot 100 singles chart.

But even though he felt he had proven himself with “Megalithic Symphony,” that didn’t stop Bruno from feeling he still had some doubters to deal with when he went to work on the newly released Awolnation follow-up album, “Run.”

“I’ve always worked best when I’ve had sort of an imaginary or sometimes real enemy, almost,” Bruno said in a recent phone interview. “Music to me is rebellious and has always been a flag to carry for some sort of cause. And that could be just socially, that could be politically.  That could be on a relationship basis, and all of the above. So for me, I kind of knew that there were going to be a lot of people who didn’t think I could possibly repeat the same kind of success. So that was a fun little chip on my shoulder that I got to tap into.

“There are plenty of critics that overlooked the first record,” he added. “They didn’t know that it even happened. Then all of a sudden ‘Sail’ was this massive success, so of course they were going to want to hate on me and say OK, this guy can’t do this again.”

Bruno, though, took his success as a license to challenge himself musically, and not only did he believe he could avoid a sophomore slip-up, he could push his music well beyond the musical template created with “Megalithic Symphony.”

“I think the success of the first record gave me a lot of confidence that people could relate to what a lot of people probably thought was insane in the first record. So it gave me artistic freedom to push myself even further after seeing what really translated and reacted live, and obviously commercially as well,” Bruno said. “(It) certainly gave me a newfound confidence to make the sophomore freak out record that I’ve always wanted to make. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to having this opportunity my whole career, but it just never happened.

When this opportunity presented itself, I was very ready to do it. It was difficult, but a wonderful challenge that I took head on and I’m extremely proud.”

As Bruno’s last comment suggests, he’s not exactly a newcomer to the music business.

In a career that stretches back some 15 years, he had been a key member of two major label bands – Home Town Hero and Under The Influence Of Giants – that seemed positioned to make an impact on the music scene.

It didn’t happen. Home Town Hero, which was signed to the Warner Bros.-affiliated Maverick Records (owned by Madonna), had some modest success with its 2002 self-titled debut, but broke up shortly before the release of its second album, 2004’s “Bitch City.”

Bruno and Hometown Hero bandmate Drew Stewart then formed Under The Influence Of Giants and landed a deal with Island Records. But the group’s 2006 self-titled debut album stiffed and the band ended.

Bruno began developing the Awolnation sound not long after the demise of Under The Influence Of Giants. A big break came in 2009 when Red Bull Records, which had received a recording of a few of Bruno’s new songs, offered to let him use its Los Angeles studio for free to do further recording. After hearing songs Bruno recorded then, Red Bull signed Bruno (as Awolnation), and he went to work in earnest on “Megalithic Symphony,” which was released in March 2011.

Like “Megalithic Symphony,” the “Run” album was entirely written, played and produced by Bruno working in his home studio. He said he realizes some people may see this as an egotistical – maybe even self-indulgent – way to make music, but he said that’s not what attracts him to working this way in the studio.

“I think the satisfaction comes in efficiency for me,” Bruno said. “It’s that, when I have an idea, I can execute that idea right now instead of having to wait or rely on someone else. I think that’s the most satisfying quality to doing it the way I did, and being able to better myself as a songwriter and producer or whatever it is I’m doing that day and not have to rely on other human beings because, I mean, no one else is ever going to care about a song that you wrote and you’re going to perform as much as you do. I think that’s the main point.”

The music he created on “Run” retains the keyboard/electronics-based sound of “Megalithic Symphony,” with new songs like  “Windows,” “Woman Woman” and “I Am,” combining the silky synthesizer/electronic tones, bouncy danceable beats and classic pop hooks that characterized much of the first album.  Meanwhile the frenetic feel of “Burn It Down” and “Soul Wars” (from “Megalithic Symphony”) returns on the new song “Kookseverywhere!!!”

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 August 2015 20:48

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Alligators featured at fair

From deep in the swamps of Florida to the midway at MontanaFair comes the “Kachunga and the Alligator” show. While alligators are clearly not native to Montana, the show is designed as a public awareness campaign and to help students learn about different creatures.

“We are excited to have the show at MontanaFair this year, “ said Bill Dutcher, MontanaFair General Manager. “The show creates a lot of excitement.” The Detroit News called the show “the No. 1 reason to visit the Michigan State Fair.”

Kachunga is a real American bushman who steps into the wet domain of the alligator daily. Kachunga grabs this alligator with his bare hands. This will be your chance to see a real gator up close. 

The show will be at Montana Park near Kids World at MontanaFair. The show is presented by Wildlife Entertainment and Education.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 August 2015 20:45

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Entrepreneurs finding profit in wasted food


Photo courtesy of Imperfect. These heads of cauliflower were rejected because of minor splitting between the florets.    Ron Clark is no stranger to food waste. After more than 20 years of working to supply fresh produce to California’s food banks, he knows every point along the route from farm to table where produce leaves the human food chain to be ploughed under, composted, fed to animals or buried in a landfill.

Most of this food is healthy and delicious, and is discarded for cosmetic reasons. Clark was filling 60-80 truckloads a week with food he recovered from farmers and packers, bringing 125 million pounds of produce to hungry food bank clients, by the time he left the food bank system.

Today he looks on in awe at a new wave of innovators looking to tackle the problem of food waste. Most of them are 20-somethings fresh out of college, he told me. And they’re using business startups, rather than nonprofits, to get it done.

An estimated 40 percent of all food grown never gets eaten by humans, and hunger isn’t the only consequence. Wasted food also represents wasted water, and contributes to global warming, thanks to the methane produced when it rots, anaerobically, in the landfill.

But the movement to stop food waste is booming. In 2014, one of the France’s largest food retailers, Intermarche, began selling “inglorious,” aka cosmetically challenged, produce at a discount. Store traffic increased 24 percent.

In mid-July a petition was initiated at calling on Wal-Mart and Whole Foods to follow Intermarche’s lead. The petition was put forth by Jordan Figueiredo of Figueiredo, whose day job as a municipal solid waste manager in the Bay Area, is an anomaly in the movement, both because of his advanced age – 36 - and because his organization is a nonprofit.

Most of the newer efforts to end food waste are just as mission-driven as a food bank, or, but are sustained by sales of recovered produce, and products made from it, rather than grants and donations. And they are run by kids.

“It really is a millennial movement,” Clark told me. “It’s refreshing to see a whole generation of people so passionate and excited about this issue.” He’s also impressed by their ability to bring in dollars from sales and investors. “They’re money magnets,” Clark says.

“They aren’t interested in old organizations, which tend to be hierarchical and structured, like corporations. The energy in the new generation doesn’t mix with that culture. They’re going after the food waste issue in different ways, and for slightly different reasons. The millennials certainly care deeply about hunger, but are primarily concerned with saving the planet.”

Wasted food is responsible for about 45 trillion gallons of wasted water, according to 22-year-old Evan Lutz, chief executive officer of Hungry Harvest in Baltimore. Hungry Harvest recovers surplus produce from farms and wholesalers, and sells it in CSA-style boxes at a steep discount to what non-cosmetically-challenged produce would cost. For each box sold, a healthy meal is donated to someone in need. Lutz sees his work as inevitable, given the profoundly unsustainable situation.

“Our society can’t sustain itself when 6 billion pounds of produce is wasted annually, while 51 million Americans are food-insecure,” he told me.

Despite being mission-driven, Lutz has no reservations about turning a profit on his work.

“We are for-profit so we can scale in a sustainable way.” A year into the project, Hungry Harvest is comfortably afloat. It recently secured some investments that “exceeded our expectations,” Lutz says.

On the other coast, a Bay Area startup called Revive Foods began making jam out of recovered produce about a year ago. Co-founder Zoe Wong came from a nonprofit background, where, she says, “I felt frustrated constantly having to rely on donations in the nonprofit world, and wanted to have the ability to be financially sustainable so I could get stuff done.”

The business was going well, but she and co-founder Kay Feker weren’t satisfied.

“We realized that remaining a consumer product food business was going to be tough to scale from an impact perspective,” Wong told me. So they “pivoted,” changing the focus to selling recovered produce to food businesses. She says doing so will allow them to divert “... so much more produce from going to waste streams.”

In their new model, recovered produce will be sorted and stabilized-for example by freezing-for sale to food businesses like caterers, juicers, and restaurants.

One yet-unnamed “major baby food company,” she told me, is “super interested in the possibility of building out a dedicated product line made from our recovered produce.”

Wong and Feker share space with another Oakland-based startup called Imperfect, which aims to create the first national brand of cosmetically challenged produce. A major step in that direction was recently taken in the form of a pilot project called Real Good. On July 11, ten outlets of the Sacramento-based supermarket chain Raley’s began selling “ugly” produce at a discount. If it goes well, they hope to expand the program to all 127 Raley’s stores, Imperfect co-founder and CEO Ben Simon explained. Ultimately, they want their Imperfect produce in every store, nationwide.

Simon had co-founded Hungry Harvest with Lutz before moving west to pursue his national vision. And like Hungry Harvest, Imperfect also operates a CSA-style box delivery service, delivering throughout the Bay Area.

One of the first steps Simon took in creating Imperfect was to bring in Ron Clark, the former food bank supplier. Clark is THE go-to guy for sourcing wasted food in California, Simon told me. The partnership started with a three-day tour of various “sheds,” as produce packing-houses are called, in the heart of California’s Central Valley. Clark’s connections quickly proved a priceless commodity.

“Imperfect is a great combination,” Clark told me. “A group of bright, ambitious, energetic millennials, and the old guy here who is well-connected to the supply side.”

While these startups are riding a wave of success, Wong of Revive says “We will only feel successful if ‘surplus food’ is no longer a term, because we’ve reached that level of efficiency. Given how much is being wasted out there, I don’t think we will hit that point any time soon.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:45

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Montana natives raise $285,000

MSU photo by Kelly Gorham Matt and Michelle Hertel pose with the prototype of the desktop computer-driven mill that is the inspiration for their startup company Pocket NC.
MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – A Montana State University alumna and her husband are preparing for the next step with their startup company, Pocket NC, after they successfully closed out a Kickstarter campaign last week, out-raising their goal by more than $285,000.

“It’s been a wild ride,” said Michelle Hertel, who graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2010. “We’ve been in the design and prototype configuration stage for over four years. So we are very excited that we’re going to get into the production phase.”

After launching Pocket NC’s Kickstarter this month with a goal of raising $70,000, Michelle and Matt Hertel attracted 280 backers pledging more than $355,000 in support for their project.

They blew past their fundraising goal in the first hour, Michelle said.

The Pocket NC product – a small, tabletop computer-driven mill with five-axis movement and capable of fabricating small items from aluminum and other soft materials – began as a project for Matt in the couple’s backyard shed at their home in the Seattle area. The Hertels, who were both raised in Montana, moved to Washington when Michelle got a job with Boeing after graduation. Matt, who also attended MSU and then earned an associate’s degree in machining from Helena College-UM, was working in the aerospace industry as a machinist.

That’s really why he got interested in building a small desktop computer numerically controlled (CNC) mill, Michelle said. A look at the market revealed that small mills intended for the hobbyist typically did not have the control and precision of larger, professional-grade mills.

They were also priced beyond the reach of most individuals.

So Matt went to work on developing an affordable state-of-the-art tabletop mill made from better components than the typical hobbyist machine.

“He’s kind of the creative genius behind this project,” Michelle added.

Once they had a working prototype, the couple entered the World Maker Faire in New York. At that event, which drew some 100,000 people, Michelle said they received some very positive feedback on their project.

That kind of response gave them the confidence to quit their day jobs and move back to Montana, moving into Matt’s parent’s basement.

Near the top of their entrepreneurial to-do list was visit the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU for support to help get their idea off the ground. The LaunchPad, a campus entrepreneurship program funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, offers advising services to startups and budding entrepreneurs.

“We’d been back less than two months when we visited the LaunchPad,” Michelle said. “They really helped us a lot with our financial planning, and by connecting us with an adviser who could help verify that the price point that we wanted to sell at wasn’t crazy.”

The LaunchPad also advised the Hertels about their approach to a Kickstarter campaign. Audrey Wooding, deputy director of Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU, said the Hertels did their homework and took advantage of the expertise and networking that the MSU community and the LaunchPad have to offer.

“When you look at the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship and other people connected with MSU and Bozeman, there is a great community of entrepreneurs,” Wooding said. “These are people who are happy to share their knowledge and show their support for others that are on that (startup) journey as well.”

Given their Kickstarter success, the Hertels provide an excellent case study to other would-be entrepreneurs, Wooding added.

“We’ve seen other startups reach their Kickstarter goals, but (the Hertels) have been the most successful in terms of a Kickstarter campaign,” Wooding said. “They just blew it out of the water.”

That success came in pledges to donate anywhere from $3,500 to $5, and it sets up the next step – the production of a limited run (now sold out) of 100 machines. At a pledge of $3,500, backers have pre-ordered one of the Pocket NC machines.

With suppliers lined up and materials stacked in their garage – they’ve moved out of the basement and into their own place – Michelle Hertel said they are feeling optimistic that they will meet their goal of shipping the last of the Pocket NC’s orders by March.

“It’s pretty exciting to have had this overwhelmingly positive response,” she said. “We’ve moved from the shed to the basement to the garage. And now we’re going to begin making our product.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:40

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Leadership Montana picks class

Leadership Montana has announced the selection of 44 community, business, education, healthcare, nonprofit and government leaders from across the state for the Class of 2016. They make up the 12th class in the program.

Leadership Montana presents an annual seven-session program of leadership development, education about issues facing Montana today, and opportunities for networking and collaboration. This year’s class will begin in September 2015 at Big Sky for the orientation and retreat and conclude with graduation in Billings in April 2016. Other program sites this year will include Pablo, Whitefish, Livingston, Bozeman, Helena, White Sulphur Springs, Great Falls and Glasgow.

To date, there are more than 460 graduates of the program representing more than 50 communities across the state.

Here are Billings members of the Leadership Montana Class of 2016: Heidi Duncan, Billings Clinic; Scot Gudger, St. Vincent Healthcare; Eric Halvorsen, Center for Children and Families; Lisa Jensen, D. A. Davidson; Steve Knudson, Stifel Financial; Shawneal Krauszer, Krauszer Funeral Solutions; Toni Schneider, CTA Architects; Scott Sehnert, Rocky Mountain Bank; and Kirk Spalding, Sanderson Stewart.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:39

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SBA winners announced

HELENA – The Montana District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration has announced this year’s Small Business Week award winners for Montana:

Small Business Person of the Year (fewer than 11 employees): Rich Naylor, My Handyman Service & Construction, Inc., Billings

Small Business Person (11-50 employees): Shalon Hastings, Hub Coffee and Taco del Sol, Helena

Small Business Person (more than 50 employees): Debora Poteet, Poteet Construction, Missoula

Exporter: Logan Freeney and Trapper Clark, Alcom, Bonner

Women Entrepreneur: Karyn Bonderud and Sari Feenstra, Eskay Bridal, Bozeman

Women-Owned Small Business: Haley Vannatta, Yellowstone Valley Women’s Magazine, Billings

Encore Entrepreneur: John Armstrong, Q’s Art Shop and Gallery 15 North, Billings

Veteran Small Business: Bryan and Kari Schultz, Roughstock Distillery, Inc., Bozeman

Millennial Entrepreneur: Jordan Husted, Edward Jones, Great Falls

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:38

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Telecommuting seen as key to keeping workers here

By DAVID CRISP - The Billings Outpost

As members of the burgeoning Montana High Tech Business Alliance prepared to meet last week in Bozeman, they announced that the alliance includes 200 high-tech firms just a year after it was founded.

The announcement came as Greg Gianforte, who founded the alliance and is chairman of its board of directors, was meeting with chambers of commerce and local officials around the state, urging them to get on board in an effort to bring Montana natives back to the state to work.

“The number of high tech and manufacturing firms in Montana is astonishing,” Mr. Gianforte said in a news release. “The speed in which these firms have identified themselves and joined the Alliance is an indication of something great. These businesses represent the fastest growing industry in Montana. To see so many of them come to the table to decide how to improve and grow their industry in the state holds incredible potential to create better Montana jobs so we can stop exporting our kids and grandkids.”

When he met with the Billings Chamber of Commerce last month, Mr. Gianforte said that efforts to bring Montanans back to Montana should not be restricted to high-tech jobs. Telecommuters can now work in a variety of jobs, including event planning and medical records, he said.

While those who attended the Billings meeting generally were enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing back new workers, they also raised some concerns.

The most visible were protesters from the Democratic Party, who held up signs and issued news releases calling on Mr. Gianforte to apologize for remarks he has made about Social Security and retirement.

Mr. Gianforte had said earlier that retirement was not mentioned in the Bible and that Noah built the ark when he was, according to the book of Genesis, 600 years old.

Mr. Gianforte has been touted as a possible candidate for governor, although he has not announced his candidacy. He said after the Billings meeting that he hated to see Democrats make a political issue of his remarks.

Others at the meeting expressed more immediate concerns. Among them:

• The lack of high-speed internet access in some parts of Montana. Mr. Gianforte said that most Montana communities have enough bandwidth to handle telecommuting workers.

• A general lack of high-paying jobs in Montana. Some at the meeting noted that workers who come here for a good job, then lose it, may not be able to find another good job.

• A shortage of networking opportunities in Montana.

• A shortage of computer science majors here.

• The absence of cultural opportunities available in metropolitan areas.

• The low rate of unemployment already in cities like Billings, where the unemployment rate has been below 3 percent in recent years.

• Limited airline service.

• The inability of some workers to be productive outside of an office environment. “Telecommuting is not for everybody,” one attendee said.

• The reality that not all parts of Montana are attractive to potential telecommuters. One Hi-Line resident reportedly said, “We don’t have much here, but there’s a lot of it.”

Steve Arveschoug, executive director of Big Sky Economic Development, said, “We can’t grow our economy if we’re not growing talent here.”

Bob Wilmouth, who ran the physician assistant program at Rocky Mountain College before become president of the college, agreed.

“Everybody needs to understand at age 4 what a college degree can do for them,” he said. But he said that 75 percent of PA students want to stay in Montana but only 25 percent actually do.

Mr. Gianforte said the key is to concentrate on Montana natives who may leave the state after college but who eventually want to return. The internet makes it possible for many of them to keep their big-city jobs while still living in Montana.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:36

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Research grants awarded

HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock and Montana Department of Commerce Director Meg O’Leary last week announced the recent award of $698,091 in grants to eight research projects in Missoula, Billings, Bozeman and Belgrade. The funding is being made available through the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology (MBRCT).

“These state-of-the-art projects will significantly and positively impact Montana’s opportunities for economic growth,” said Bullock. “Through investments in innovative research and commercialization, we’re not only supporting cutting-edge projects and jobs today, but we’re also helping to define what Montana’s economy looks like for years to come.”

The MBRCT supports economic development by investing in research projects that have a clear path to commercialization. The MBRCT has funded 216 research projects totaling $41 million since 2001.

The fifth Pillar of Bullock’s Main Street Montana Project outlines steps that Montana can take to encourage innovation in Montana. During the recently ended legislative session, Bullock secured $15 million to support research and development in the Montana University System.

“These grants are an investment in Montana’s technology future and in the industries and companies that develop around this research activity,” said O’Leary. “Since the program’s inception, MBRCT-funded projects have attracted over $345 million in follow-on funding, enhancing the economic impact of the research.” The funded projects and grant awardees for fiscal year 2016 include:

•Antilipidemic and Anti-adipodicity Impact of PTBP in Mildly Hyperlipidemic and Overweight but Otherwise Healthy Volunteers (Jeff Golini, All American Pharmaceutical Inc., Billings); $12,500

• Structural Analysis and In Vivo Characterization of BH3I-1 and BH3I-1 Derivatives (Kurt Toenjes, Montana State University Billings, Billings); $92,039

• Inhibition of Retinoic Acid Metabolism in the Skin for the Treatment of Acne (Fanny Astruc-Diaz, DermaXon LLC, Missoula); $59,537

• Enhancement of Applied Research in Biomedicine (Richard Bridges, University of Montana, Missoula); $25,000

For more information about the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology and the recent awards made by the Board, please contact Dave Desch, Executive Director, at (406) 841-2759 or visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:35

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Transportation was tricky in old town of Bannack

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a six-part series about Bannack.

By RICK and SUSIE GRAETZ - University of Montana - Department of Geography

In early September 1862, freighters from Utah were heading for customers in the Deer Lodge Valley when they heard of this latest gold strike. Realizing they could shorten their trip and sell the goods in Bannack, they made an impromptu detour. This decision no doubt helped many of the miners survive the coming cold months.

When winter arrived, the camp wasn’t exactly what could be labeled a town. Those who came first had no intention of staying. Get the gold and move onto another place was their motto. Few “buildings” had any semblance of permanency. New provisions arrived erratically as wagon trains were often delayed by the weather.

Getting to Bannack from anywhere was an enormous effort. Those brave or desperate enough to chance fate had to contend with long distances over rugged terrain, wild and unpredictable weather such as fierce blizzards and monumental snowstorms, and Native Americans who were unhappy with this invasion by the white men.

By spring 1863, 3,000 people found their way to Bannack. Another 2,000 were living up and down the gulch in four other settlements: Marysville, Bon Accord, New Jerusalem and Dogtown.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 July 2015 10:47

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Read more: Transportation was tricky in old town of Bannack

Bannack discovery launched Montana gold rush

By RICK and SUSIE GRAETZ - University of Montana

Fur trappers following in the Corps of Discovery’s footsteps left no settlements in their wake. But a mere 50 years after Lewis and Clark, prospectors were combing the West for gold. One man was instrumental in adding Montana to the gold-seekers’ travel itinerary, inadvertently setting events in motion that would lead to the settlement of Bannack and, eventually, Montana.

A twist of fate led Granville Stuart to the gold deposits in the country that was to become Montana. In 1857, Granville, his brother James and cousin Reece Anderson were mining in Yreka, Calif., when they decided to return to Iowa to visit family. The trio commenced their eastward trek on July 14, 1857.

When the group arrived at Malad Creek (south of today’s Pocatello, Idaho), Granville became gravely ill and spent nearly two months recovering. Here he overheard rumors of possible placer gold near the Deer Lodge Valley in what was then Dakota Territory (seven years later to become Montana Territory).

On April 4, 1858, they moved to the Deer Lodge Valley and eventually joined up with Thomas Adams. On May 2, 1858, the Stuarts, Anderson and Adams set out for Benetsee. Being unprepared to work the area, they left the country and didn’t return until the warm months of 1860, when they founded a small camp near Gold Creek, calling it American Fork (nothing is left of it today). Granville wrote to his other brother Thomas in Colorado, urging him to join them. Through that bit of correspondence, word got out to the “Pike’s Peakers,” as the Colorado prospectors were called, that this northern territory held gold.

Two years later, while aiming for Idaho, a Colorado party led by John White was prospecting its way through southwest Montana. Coming to Lewis and Clark’s Willard Creek, they headed up its gulch to try their luck. On July 28, 1862, while panning the gravels of what they called Grasshopper Creek – owing to the dense population of “hoppers” on its banks – the prospectors hit upon a bonanza. The place of discovery came to be called White’s Bar and the “Grasshopper Diggings.” Shortly, the sound of “Eureka!” echoed through area mining camps, setting off a genuine gold rush to Montana and bringing a dramatic change throughout the southwest part of Big Sky Country.

The strike was about three miles downstream from where the gold camp eventually sprouted, and early miners named their camp after a local tribe, the Bannock Indians. The spelling was inadvertently changed when the town’s name was submitted to Washington, D.C., for the post office in 1862.

By the fall of 1862, up to 500 people had moved into Grasshopper Creek. It is estimated that by the time winter halted work, $700,000 worth of gold had been collected along the creek.

At first glance, Bannack must have seemed an unlikely place to look for an ore body. The pebbles and boulders along the creek are limestone, a specimen that rarely contains gold. And since there is no gold upstream from Bannack and very little downstream, the source of the bedrock gold must be within the cliffs above the area.

Geologists surmise that during a period of widespread volcanic activity in southwestern Montana, the limestone canyon walls on each side of Grasshopper Creek and a few hundred feet above its level were intruded by large masses of molten magma. The rock formed by the hardened magma was the most common igneous intrusion – granite.

When molten granite magma comes in contact with limestone, it reacts to create a wide variety of minerals. As the magma hardens, it forms an outside layer over the granite intrusion, separating it from the limestone. This mineral-filled contact zone may be anywhere from a few feet to a few hundred feet thick.

Prospectors have long known that contact zones around granite intrusions, especially those in limestone, are likely to contain deposits of gold. The early miners at Bannack must have learned that lesson well. Before the summer of 1862 ended, they had found the gold in the contact zone and staked claims around its margins on both sides of Grasshopper Creek.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 July 2015 14:10

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Reenactment still on for Medicine Tail Coulee

Reenactors plunge into the river on their way to combat in the Real Bird Reenactment. Photo courtesy of the Custer Battlefield Museum

GARRYOWEN – The 21st annual Battle of the Little Bighorn Reenactment, hosted by the Real Bird Family at Medicine Tail Coulee, will go on as scheduled.

On Thursday, June 25, at 4 p.m., in memory of the Native Americans and members of the United States 7th Calvary who fell in combat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a wreath will be laid at the Peace Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Garryowen. Following the commemoration, a three-volley rifle salute will be given, and the American flag will be lowered to half-staff by the U.S. Cavalry School’s staff and students.

Visitors are encouraged to arrive early to see the contingent of mounted riders in full uniform as they arrive at the town of Garryowen for this solemn ceremony honoring the combatants on each side of the historic Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 13:06

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Read more: Reenactment still on for Medicine Tail Coulee

Cavalry School offers broad training

The U.S. Cavalry School, based at Fort Harrison offers horsemanship and tactics training on the staff ride at Custer’s Last Stand and at its “Custer’s Last Ride” Adventure Course.

Members train to fight in the Little Bighorn Battle Reenactment, receive gun familiarization training for horses, make cavalry encampments and get instruction in cavalry history.

Training focuses on the Civil War and Indian War period of the Frontier Cavalry trooper. Participants can experience the U.S. Cavalry School on the banks of the Little Bighorn River at Garryowen, Methow Valley of Washington State, Helena or at your location.

The school has equestrian trainers, subject matter instructors, and support personnel. The professional staff includes retired military officers and NCOs, some with active Army Cavalry service; Frontier Army and Native American scholars; experienced movie re-enactors, and Northwest outfitters.

Families and first-time riders are welcome. Experienced horsemen and re-enactors also are trained.

The “Custer’s Last Ride” Adventure/Little Bighorn Cavalry Adventure is June 20-28. The ride retraces Custer’s trail, camping on the banks of the Little Bighorn, and takes part in the reenactment.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 13:00

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Gauntlets donated

Custer’s leather gauntlets are at the Custer Battlefield Museum.

The Custer Battlefield Museum in Garryowen is the location of Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s red, white and blue beaded, elk hide gauntlets, which were reportedly removed from Custer’s body following the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

“These amazing gauntlets have been privately held by Native Americans and passed down through the years and survived the last 139 years,” said Christopher Kortlander, Founding Director.

According to oral and written history, the gauntlets were beaded for Custer by the Sioux with a design, which helped identify Custer, who was a friend to some Native Americans. Following Custer’s death on Last Stand Hill, the gloves were reportedly taken from his body by a Sioux woman, believed to be the wife of a Sioux chief, and later returned to the Sisseton Sioux who originally beaded the gauntlets.

Tom Greenwood, an early Native American activist and advocate, who helped to create the Indian Services League of Chicago in the early 1950’s, received the gauntlets from his father in 1938 (Greenwood’s grandfather was a Chief of the Sisseton Sioux tribe.) Greenwood strictly adhered to the instructions of the Sisseton Sioux that the gloves never be allowed to be touched or possessed by any agency or representative of the federal government. In the late 1940’s, Greenwood passed the gauntlets to a Native American friend and colleague Richard Becker, who then passed them on to Richard Jorgensen in 1982.

Mr. Jorgensen held the gauntlets in safekeeping for the next three decades, until he donated them to the nonprofit Custer Battlefield Museum.

 He felt the gauntlets’ proper place was among the museum’s outstanding collection, where they will be on display for public viewing. Mr. Jorgensen remarked, “Now that I’ve reached 74 years old, ideally, it’s time to pass them on.”

The gauntlets, reportedly one of a few known items of General Custer’s personal effects taken from the historic Battlefield, feature a large beaded red, white, and blue star on the cuff of each glove, signifying Custer’s previous military rank.  The gauntlets show moderate wear and a dark stain on the left glove that is purported to be Custer’s blood. They are featured on permanent display at the Custer Battlefield Museum or can be seen online at

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 12:56

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Early map depicts battle

Courtesy of Chris Kortlander private collection This map appeared in the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune on July 14, 1876.

The New York SemiWeekly Tribune  ran the story of the Little Bighorn battle on Friday, July 14, 1876. Entitled “Custer’s Last Battle,” the lengthy narrative was accompanied by a map, or “Scene of the Little Big Horn Massacre,” and, at only three weeks after the battle, is widely accepted as the first battlefield map image to be published.

For the purpose of clarifying the interpretation of the map, a portion of the article, subtitled “The Death of Custer,” follows:

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 12:41

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Read more: Early map depicts battle

Little Bighorn Days start in Hardin

HARDIN – Little Bighorn Days gets under way June 24 in Hardin and continues through Sunday, June 28.

Although the Custer’s Last Stand reenactment has been canceled this year, a full slate of events is scheduled, ranging from a historical book fair to a street dance.

The celebration ends with a nondenominational church service at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The schedule for the first two days is in this week’s Insider Calendar. The remainder of the schedule is below.



8 a.m. - 6 p.m.


Big Horn County Historical Museum, East of Hardin (small fee)

9 a.m. - 4 p.m.


$10 per person, Center Cinema  318 N. Center Ave.

Sponsor: Custer Battlefield Historical Museum Assn.

9 a.m. - 5 p.m.


Bob Smith Ford  416 N. Center Ave.

Sponsor: Custer Battlefield Historical Museum Assn.

9 a.m. - 6 p.m.


Downtown Center Ave.

Sponsor: JailHouse Gallery

10 a.m. - 6 p.m.


Big Horn County Library 410 N. Custer Ave.

Sponsor: Big Horn Undercover Gals (free)

11 a.m.


Downtown Center Ave.

Sponsor: Hardin Kiwanis

6 p.m.


Big Horn County Fairgrounds

Indian Relay Races




7 a.m.


5 K Run/Walk- $20 to participate/Mojes  829 West 3rd St.

8 a.m. - 5 p.m.


$55.00 per person, Sponsor: Custer Battlefield Historic Museum Assn.

For more info call Ted Heath 319-329-1315

8 a.m. - 6 p.m.


Big Horn County Historical Museum, East of Hardin (small fee)

9 a.m.


Downtown Center Ave.

Sponsor: JailHouse Gallery

9 a.m. - 5 p.m.


Bob Smith Ford   416 N. Center Ave.

Sponsor: Custer Battlefield Historical Museum Assn.

10 a.m. - 6 p.m.


Big Horn County Library  419 N. Custer Ave.

Sponsor: Big Horn Undercover Gals (free)

11 a.m.


West 3rd Street and Center Ave.

For info Debbie Wacker  665-1867

Noon to 3 p.m.


10th St. West & Cody Ave. ( Wilson Park) Fa.m.ily & food

Sponsor: Hardin Volunteer Fire Department

6 p.m. - 8 p.m.


Downtown Hardin 300 block Center Ave.

Suit case races, egg & balloon toss, etc. (free)


Big Horn county Fairgrounds

Indian Relay Races


9 p.m.


Downtown Center Ave.

Band: Exit 53



8 a.m. - 6 p.m.


Big Horn County Historical Museum, East of Hardin (small fee)

11 a.m.


To be held at the Historical Depot 10 East Railway

11 a.m.



Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 12:31

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