Native Montanan

A little light-hearted commentary for a Friday…

Here in Montana, we hear a lot of I’m a “fourth generation Montanan” or I’m a “fifth generation Montanan” and so on.

Frequently, we hear this line from politicians who must be thinking they will corner more votes from native Montanans.

Note to politicians: There are a lot of Montanans who were not born here and by the way, we vote. Just so you know our votes count the same, too. This isn’t Chicago.

Frankly, I think most Montanans are smart enough not to accept this fourth or fifth generation line. They elected Mike Mansfield a few times. Mansfield was born in New York City. Conrad Burns was elected three times. Burns was born in Missouri.

Like many of us, I imagine they got to Montana as quickly as they could.

Most of us picked Montana. It did not pick us.

Sometimes hearing the “generation” thingy makes those of us who were not fortunate enough to be born here feel that we’re not worthy. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m sure that’s exactly how the person telling us about their vast Montana roots wants us to feel.

Montanans may remember the quote from the defecting Soviet Capt. Vasili Borodin in the movie, “The Hunt for Red October” when he said:

I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?

Unfortunately, Capt. Borodin died in the movie, but even if he had made it to Montana he would be a non-native. But he did pick Montana – of all the states!

For sure, we non-natives just can’t love the state as much as those who were slapped on the butt for the first time at a local Montana hospital.

We non-native Montanans know all too well that being native to this great state makes one just a little better – because native Montanans are just more intelligent, more athletic, better looking, and they are just more-rounded in life as a whole. A native Montanan (at least a third generation one on up) is the type of person with which you would like to hold a beer summit.

But when it comes to hiring people for local jobs, that native Montana thing just seems to fly out the window.

We’ve seen people hired for high-profile jobs from such faraway places as Colorado, Arizona, Maine and California. California –OMG! Some even replaced native Montanans who were doing great jobs. I’m sure the Montanans who applied for these positions were just as qualified.

So, after several weeks of research, the only answer that I can come up with is that the people who hired these non-native Montanans must be non-natives, too.

It’s a conspiracy if I have ever seen one. For sure, it’s an invasion.

But the funny thing is that as soon as they are hired, many of the new non-native Montanans try to use a variation of the “six degrees of separation” theory in trying to show their “roots” to the state by spouting out information, like:

“My father was born here.”

“My parents lived here in the 70s.”

“I went to grade school here.”

“My great great grandparents came to Montana by horseback.”

“I visited Glacier National Park as a five year-old and from that point on I always wanted to live here.”

These “Montana Native” talking points must be in their contracts or job manuals. It’s an icebreaker of sorts.

Nevertheless, we non-native Montanans are making headway: My children are first generation Montanans…so take that.

By the way, they are smarter and better looking than me, too.

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 6:31 am  Comments (9)  
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  1. Excellent post. When people start explaining their lineage to me I just tell I had no say where my mother chose to calve out. 😉 I’ve been in Montana just as long as I was in Ohio so do I at least get a honorary pin or something? I’ve also noticed when I tell someone I lived in the Flathead (and a good hunk of the time was in the notorious “Canyon” area) that it almost doesn’t count. It’s funny, but it’s just another endearing part of living in Montana. It’s better than back in Ohio where no one talks to each other let alone finds out anything about their history.

    • Amy: calve out – hilarious! Thanks for your comments. -Jack

  2. A very good article, particularly by an “outsider” <>.

    As a Native /\/\onTanan! of some generation or another, I had a great time in 2000, way back East. I was taking a motorcycle tour around the Canadian Maritimes (Quebec/Nova Scotia/New Bruswick/Newfoundland) and I hadn’t even gotten out of my wife’s hometown of London, Ontario when I guy on a Harley (I ride a Goldwing) pulled up to a stoplight next to me and yelled he had cousins in Butte. The next day a guy in a car yelled to me he was from Cut Bank. Then was a guy who went to school in Missoula, then Bozeman, then…

    Well, you get the idea. Once someone saw my /\/\onTana! plate on my bike they had to let me know of the connection. And it seemed like it happened at least daily, all through the Maritimes and back into the US. There was never a chance to stop and talk, but they all wanted me to know.

    It really was pretty cool!!!

    But I have to take exception to:

    “A native Montanan (at least a third generation one on up) is the type of person with which you would like to hold a beer summit.”

    There are a lot of second, first and even “naught” generation /\/\onTanans! who fit that bill, not just thirds and up. After all, they did have the good sense to come here…


    So keep on trying to be one of us, and someday we might teach you the secret handshake!

    Curtis {!-{>

    • Curtis – thanks for the comments. I look forward to the secret handshake! -Jack

  3. This is an interesting blog. As a 3rd generation Montanan who is no longer living in Montana (but wishes desperately he could) I find the blog interesting in several respects.

    First, though I have been way a while, I didn’t find much “bias” or generationism against non-natives… Well, aside from the Californication of many parts of Western montana specifically. However, aside from the Cali influence, most of the folks that I know were welcoming to new arrivals. Those of us fortunate enough to grow up in Montana ( and now that I’ve left and wish I could go back), understand what it is that Big Sky Country can do to a person.

    What I think is most important with regards to non-natives is that those of us who grew up in Montana and were multi-generational, is that we didn’t want some non-native to come in and tell us how to “do things”. Many and i do mean MANY of the non-natives that i’ve come across while I was still living in my home state, were trying to change Montana… bring it into some sort of culture that needed to evolve. THAT is the biggest mistake any non-native can make. Do you have something to share? Great! share it. But please don’t condescend and assume that where you come from is “better” than what Montana has. After all, you came to Montana… for some reason. Why try to change it??? Hmmm?

    Alas, if I could come home right now, I would. Believe me… this 3rd gen misses home immensely.

    By the way, am I the only Montanan residing outside Montana that still refers to Montana as “home”?

    • JDH – Good stuff – I hope you make it back “home” sometime soon. You’re the 3rd generation Montanan I’d have a beer with…

      I’ve lived here over 20 years now and love it. -Jack

  4. Awesome post, Jack. And I’ve never the Red October flick, so didn’t know about that quote – but I sure do like it.

    • David – Thanks buddy. Thanks for the link, too. -Jack

  5. […] of Jack The Blogger, he’s got a great post up today about native Montanans versus people – like me – who had the misfortune to be […]

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