The history of the West, a fascinating landscape, and warm, family hospitality: You'll find it all at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post. Tucked in the rolling hills of eastern Montana in the heart of Crow Indian Country, the trading post is directly across from the entrance to the legendary Little Big Horn Battlefield.
Established in 1985 by James “Putt” Thompson and his wife, Jill, this is not your average gift shop. The massive log and frame structure is the first thing to transport you to the past, as the building was designed after the 1877 Old Fort Custer Hospital. Once you're inside, the journey continues. Rustic walls display exquisite traditional Crow Indian creations, including a beaded elk hide wedding blanket, numerous paintings, Indian hand crafted turquoise and silver jewelry, and a large collection of fabulously beaded Crow and Cheyenne cradles.
Next, walk from the gift shop directly into the Thompson's cozy cafe and rub elbows with visitors from around the world. Yes, you may be surprised to find that the American West is as fascinating to many foreigners as it is to Americans. As you place your order, you'll quickly see why patrons come back every year to jaw with the Thompsons and their friendly staff while enjoying a meal of Buffalo Burgers or Indian Tacos. The café also holds a colorful mixture of beadwork and art, and the service is as cheerful as the food is tasty.
Rather eat outside? Then mosey onto the broad porch that runs the length of the building and invites tourists and locals alike to come, sit, eat and enjoy views of the Little Big Horn Valley and the distant Big Horn Mountains. As you sip your coffee, just close your eyes for a moment, allowing the soothing Native American chants from the store's sound system to take you back to the days when buffalo, wild horses, and Native Americans peacefully shared this rich land.
Putt and Jill built their establishment in large part from a desire to give vacationers a better understanding of the local Indian culture. It has been successful for many years, providing employment to numerous Crow and Cheyenne Indians. The Thompsons have strong relationships within the Indian community, and this led them to encourage the cottage industries of the area. The result has been increased production of beadwork and crafts, while creating a flourishing home economy for the locals. Jill and Putt attribute their success to the shop's location adjacent to the famous Little Big Horn Battlefield, but even more so to the local Crow and Cheyenne people. Says Jill: "We wouldn’t be here without their support. They work with us, and we work with them, and the relationship has encouraged all of us to grow."
The Custer Battlefield Trading Post is a short distance from both Billings, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming. It's at the intersection of Highway 212 and I-90. Use it as your home base for the many activities throughout the summer which include:
- Crow Native Days held in June each year, Crow Agency, Montana
- Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment &- Little Big Horn Days, Hardin, Montana always held the weekend closest to the battle anniversary June 25. www.custerslaststand.org
- -Real Bird Family Battle of the Little Big Horn Reenactment Garryowen, Montana- which is held the weekend closest to the Little Big Horn Battle held http://crowfair.crowtribe.com
- Crow Fair Indian Rodeo & Powwow
The Custer Battlefield Trading Post is truly a unique tourist stop. Your memories from there will last longer than a T-shirt, and, who knows? You may not be able to resist returning next year for just one more Indian Taco, Indian Fry Bread or Buffalo Burger!