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The small town of Big Arm

Big Arm is located in the shadow of the Mission Mountains, along the west side of Flathead Lake. Because it was, and is located within the Flathead Indian Reservation boundary, the area that would become Big Arm did not develop non-Indian settlements until after the allotment of the reservation in 1910. In 1904, Senator Joseph Dixon pushed the Flathead Reservation Allotment Act through Congress, even though it was strongly opposed by the Flathead tribe. The act allowed unclaimed reservation lands to be claimed by non-Indians. After the reservation was surveyed and lands were claimed by tribal members, in 1910 white settlers entered a lottery to be able to claim open Flathead lands.

Almost immediately, homesteads in the fertile lands surrounding the lake were claimed. Longtime resident Roberta Culp wrote:

When the homesteaders claimed their 40 to 160 acre farm unites in Big Arm in 1910 and 1911, there were about six or seven families of Indians already settled. The surveyed townsite was 645 acres and the population was 640 people. The U.S. Government had set aside one-half-mile square for a townsite, giving it the name of Big Arm because it lay on the "big arm" of Flathead lake. Over the area with checker board precision could be seen the survey stakes; most were wood, some were iron with shiny brass caps. The lots on the water front and those most suitable for business location sold like hotcakes as soon as the homesteaders began to move in. Residence lots went begging; some never sold.



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Credits

Exerpted fromBig Arm School, National Register of Historic Places Nomination, 2007.