Makoshika, the Underdog

  • January 12, 2016
  • Posted by Marguerite Leoni

Montana, the mountain state.  There are not too many mountains in eastern Montana but nevertheless eastern Montana has its gems.  There is an area there known by the name Makoshika.  An interesting fact about that name: it is derived from the Lakota term “mako sica” meaning “land bad.”  Sure enough the area looks remarkably similar to the Badlands in South Dakota.  The meaning of the name may be a little deterring but don’t let it fool you!  In actuality, Makoshika holds a wealth of riches.

Upon arriving at Makoshika State Park the park employees gave us a tour of the Visitor Center and a special privilege tour of their artifact room.  Artifacts?  Yes.  Many.  The room contained objects of ancient peoples and modern-time peoples and bones, trays upon trays of bones.  Not bones from last years’ passed-away wildlife, bones of dinosaurs.  I kid you not, buried in eastern Montana, in the far corner of the state are almost complete skeletons of those prehistoric beasts we call dinosaurs.

Well, if the dinosaur bones are found in these sediments here in Makoshika then undoubtedly the clay and sand that make up these rugged cliffs are at least as old as the dinosaur bones.  And there we were, anticipating to dig trail.  Picks and shovels sat loaded in the rig ready to start breaking into these archaic soils.

The next day, as we were walking through the work site our feet gently traversed through the world of the dinosaurs, across the moment of their extinction, and then on to life without them.  Every time my pick dug into that soft easy soil I could not help but feel like I was chipping away at the Great Pyramid of Giza or defiling a resurfaced Viking ship.  But we had to do it.  One day these soils are going to be eroded away completely and until then why not let people come, experience, and enjoy.  We were able to help make that possible while at the same time experiencing the joy of sharing space with this ancient time.


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