Montana Senate Votes to Adopt Cowboy Code

The Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to adopt the "Code of the West" as Montana's code.

Senate Bill 216 sponsored by Senate President Jim Peterson deals with the 10-point cowboy code from the book Cowboy Ethics by James P. Owen.

The code includes items such as "Live each day with courage," "Be tough, but fair," "Ride for the brand," and "Know where to draw the line."

Peterson, a Republican from Buffalo, said the bill is about setting an example and looking to the future. Supporters of the bill also called the code a measure of guidance to uphold values.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer warned the measure could face a veto. He said he won't sign frivolous bills, and believes that Montana families can identify their own code to live by without the Legislature's help.

Democratic Sen. Shannon Augare, a Native American from Browning, opposed the bill, saying the cowboy's code was not always favorable to the state's original residents.

The code endorses a checkered past, such as brutality against Native Americans for speaking their own language, which is why the majority of the Indian Caucus opposes the bill, Augare said.

"Not all values and principles that were held by the state during that time period were acceptable," he said.

The book "Cowboy Ethics" was originally published in 2005 and is targeted at Wall Street mismanagement.

Wyoming adopted Owen's code of the West as its state code last year.

The bill passed by a vote of 34 to 15. It faces one more largely procedural vote in the Senate before going to the House.