The Montana State Quarter is the 41st Quarter in the immensely popular U.S. Mint's State Quarter Program. The Montana Quarter was released to the public during a ceremony at the Helena Civic Center, in the state capitol of Helena, Montana, on January 29, 2007. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, and U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy were on hand to officiate, and entertainment featured numerous musicial groups including popular Blackfeet Native American singer/songwriter Jack Gladstone, the Native Drum Group, the Capitol High Jazz Band, and the Helena High Ambience Choir.
The Montana State Quarter itself features a prominent bison skull hovering in the sky like a vengeful spirit lingering on behalf of the millions of bison which sustained our Native American way of life for centuries until the White Man and his Guns nearly wiped out this noble creature within a couple of generations. Montana calls itself the "Big Sky Country." One can't help but be baffled as to why Montana has chosen to immortalize itself with this symbol of death, in the form of the dead bison's skull hanging front and center in the middle of the sky, rather than celebrate any number of positive images that exemplify the glorious beauty of the "Big Sky Country" state.
According to the U.S. Mint press release
, the inspiration for this dead bison skull design was based on the artwork of important Montana artist Charles Russell (1864 - 1926.) Although Russell's work has reached the status of the iconic and clearly embodies a Western theme, much of Russell's artistic work dealt with the Western cowboy lifestyle of his time, rather than with themes unique to Montana (although he was a Montana resident most of his life.) Therefore, it seems to be a strange choice to choose this particular man as the embodiment of the spirit of Montana, and especially to do so by using a dead animal skull as the main device!
Montana is such a beautiful state, boasting one of the few truly wide open and unspoiled vast panoramas of the quintessential American West, with pristine mountainous meadows and awe-inspiring river valleys, virtually untouched since the days that the Lewis & Clark Expedition traversed these vistas during their historic Journey of Discovery. It seems a truly odd choice to commemorate and memorialize the magnificent beauty and abundance of life that is Montana, by obscuring the very skyline of the Big Sky Country's coin with the dead skull of the noble bison.