Exploring Montana’s State Motto

Kurt Norris
Last Updated: February 16th, 2024

Montana is a state with a rich history of gold mining. Major gold rushes in the early 1860s helped develop the state from wilderness to a flourishing commercial hub. 

The importance of this history to the State’s identity is reflected in its Motto – “Oro y Plata”, which is Spanish for “Gold and Silver”. 

This motto compliments Montana’s moniker as ‘The Treasure State’, beating out other suggested gold-oriented mottos such as “El Dorado” (“the place of gold”). “Oro y Plata” appears on both the official State Seal and the State Flag.

In this article, we’ll further explore:

  • The history of the Montana state motto
  • Interpreting the state motto

And more. Let’s get into it!

History of the Montana State Motto

what is the montana state motto

“Oro y Plata” was announced as the State Motto on February 9, 1965, over 100 years after Montana was officially declared a Territory of the United States on May 28, 1864.

As a new territory, Montana was set to establish its own unique State Seal. And, like many other state seals, they decided their signature would be best accompanied by their own personalized motto.

Shortly after Montana received territorial status, a committee of officials led by Mr. Francis R. Thompson got together to design their new official seal.

While there was some debate about what the seal would be, there was a general agreement that it should represent Montana’s current economy and future.

During the discussions of the new seal design, the idea of incorporating a state motto was introduced.

Since Montana had just received territorial status thanks to the mass immigration to the area during the Montana Gold Rush, the committee decided that their motto should represent their gold industry.

“El Dorado,” meaning “the place of gold,” was suggested, but ultimately the committee decided to go with their now established “gold and silver.”

The motto would go through one more set of revisions in which the adage was translated into its current Spanish.

“Oro y Plata” was approved by both houses of the legislature, and the bill was signed into law by Territorial Governor Sidney Edgerton on February 9, 1865.

Interpretation of the Montana State Motto

The State of Montana choosing to make their motto “Oro y Plata” clearly highlights how important they deem their history of mining precious metals to be in the formation of their collective identity.

This history of pragmatism to capitalize on a unique commercial opportunity and connection to the environment is central to the culture and values of Montana’s communities. 

The communities that emerged from the gold rushes in the 1860s and the subsequent economic development are diverse and unique, which is further encapsulated by the State’s motto.

Montanans feel a strong connection to the natural environment their state has to offer, with outdoor recreation being a cornerstone of local’s lives in the State and now being one of the major drivers of tourism.

While the face of the industry may have changed, the land remains a crucial element of the lives of Montanans, and the motto “Oro y Plata” sums this up perfectly!

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About The Author

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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