Big Sky UFOs

If the X-Files were real, Mulder and Scully would frequent the Treasure State. Although most people imagine Roswell, Area 51 and a certain claw machine in Toy Story  whenever little green men come up in conversation, Montana has certainly earned its place in extraterrestrial culture.

Montana’s history with aliens dates back well into the ‘40s. Great Falls is home to one of the most revered UFO videos ever shot, while crop circles and contact experiences have frequented the state through the last decade.

Author Joan Bird said that with all the evidence she’s put together in her new book, Montana might just be one of the most authentic locations for extraterrestrial activity in the world.

“I feel like I’m lifting a lid,” Bird said, “to make it comfortable and safe for these people to come out and talk about their experiences.”

Her book, “Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials” details the history of some of the best unexplained happenings in the Big Sky. Bird presented a lecture to a packed conference room during last week’s Festival of the Book, sharing her findings and ruminations on humanity’s place in the universe. Bird has a doctorate in zoology from the University of Montana, but was drawn to UFOs after a rash of unexplainable crop circles appeared in the Flathead Valley in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.

According to the Daily Interlake, a crop circle in August of ’98 drew national attention to Kalispell, but was later ruled a hoax. After the dismissal of the first circle, several more popped up around the Flathead Valley. Bird says this prompted her to delve deeper into the phenomenon.

“I thought maybe I need to look into this,” Bird said. “Maybe this is something I have discarded too quickly.”

The new crop circles didn’t look man-made said Bird.  Exploded grains were strewn around the circle.

During her presentation Bird said scientific analysis later showed the water  in the grains heated up until they burst — an effect more suiting of a wildfire than an impression in the earth. Flyovers of the circles were difficult as the magnetic field threw off the pilot’s navigational tools.

Bird said whether someone is a skeptic or a believer, the book challenges readers to look closely at the possibility, and even the likelihood, of UFOs.

“There’s a fair amount of witness testimony and physical evidence that they are already here,” Bird said. “This is a real phenomenon and we need to be paying attention to it.”

One of the more interesting events in the book is the  investigation of the “Montana Movie,”  a 16-second UFO sighting shot outside Great Falls’ baseball park in the ‘50s.

The video has become one of the most referenced videos in the UFO community, providing some of the clearest images of UFOs on record Bird said.

“I think we just have to be willing to admit that there are things we don’t understand yet,” Bird said. “It’s been a wild ride.”

Montana State University professor Ardy Sixkiller Clarke has devoted much of her life to gathering the oral histories of Native American tribes across the U.S and their experiences with the “Star People.” 

Her book, “Encounters with the Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians” offers a collection of personal accounts and stories, aggregated over 25 years, of Native American and indigenous tribes encounters with UFOs, extraterrestrials and those who believe their ancestry dates directly back to the Star People.

“Wherever I was, I always asked, people, ‘Do you have a story?’” Clarke said. “A lot of the times they did and they told them to me.”

Clarke grew up hearing stories about the Star People and as she got older she put those stories away. While at MSU, she began to gather stories after an outing with a Native American man.

“[The man] took me on a trip up above his village and said ‘if we’re lucky they’ll come,’” Clarke said. “I asked who and he said ‘the ancestors, the Star People.’”

Clarke didn’t plan to do much with the stories after she retired from MSU, but the government drew her out of retirement to work on a South Dakota reservation. There she met a woman that changed her mind.

“She says, ‘Well, what are you going to do with the stories?’” Clarke said. “I told her probably nothing, but she said, ‘You have a responsibility to tell these stories. This is a part of our oral history.’”

Clarke said she collected 900 stories from all different walks of life. Some storytellers had graduate degrees, others had never attended school. The events date back before Roswell but the majority of the accounts take place from 1990 through the 2000s.

“The majority of Americans believe that UFOs and aliens exist,” Clarke said.  “It started in the ‘40s with the government covering it up, thinking we couldn’t handle it with the problems it brought up religiously; the Bible was a lot more important back then, but the lie has been perpetuated since.”

Clarke says she hears the same stories in Montana that she’s heard across the world: Contact with extraterrestrials, abductions, UFO sightings and other alien activity is happening on reservations in Montana.

“I don’t question it anymore,” Clarke said. “If I had any skepticism in me, the people I walked with and talked with allayed any of those concerns.”