Long before copper was discovered in Silver Bow County, native people would come through the area in search of another valuable resource — bull trout.
That story is told in a new exhibit that opens Friday at the Butte Archives, 17 W. Quartz St.
Before the Silver Bow Creek was polluted by mine waste, it once was habitat for spawning bull trout. The Salish Indians shot the fish with arrows, which is how the creek got its Indian name: “Sin-tahp-kay-Sntapqey” (Place Where Something is Shot in the Head).
The exhibit features artwork created by Jon Bercier’s art class at Butte High, and artifacts created by Chris Fisk’s Montana History students.
Fisk held a workshop that introduced the students to early tools and hunting techniques of Native Americans. Student Jessica Herzog, 17, a junior, and other students butchered a buffalo using obsidian rock blades. She wasn’t queasy.
“Some kids don’t like it, but I’m totally fine with it,” she said.
Students E.J. Bowman, 16, and Cameron Huston, 16, in preparation for the exhibit, visited the hot springs located near the Montana State Hospital campus at Warm Springs. Huston, who is Native American, said the springs are a spiritual place.
“I felt so calm there, it was weird,” he said.
Rayelynn Connole, director of the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program, helped secure the grant funding for the exhibit. She said telling the history of the richness of Silver Bow Creek is important.
“Especially since we are working on the creek’s restoration we need to know the history of it,” Connole said.