Portrait of a rebel Montana

Portrait of a Rebellious Montana


Writer and great reporter, the French Sylvie Brieu recounts the beauties and challenges of Montana, a sparsely populated American state where nature is grandiose, in her new book, < em>Soul of America. She describes her encounters with First Nations, with cowboys, writers and “rangers”. national parks in this travelogue in the heart of the great wilderness of the American West. A must to understand the situation at 21e century.

The American West is great. It is also a real myth factory, a place where the past and the present unite, and where economic issues and the conservation of the natural environment are at the heart of the concerns of the population. 

Sylvie Brieu traveled to Montana first to recharge her batteries, at the suggestion of her friend, the legendary National Geographic photographer, William Albert Allard. Then she returned several times to immerse herself in the history, the culture of this state, to meet its people, and to understand what is happening there at the moment. 

She has met intellectuals, artists, journalists, writers, cowboys, First Nations people, wildlife rangers, pro and anti-wolf activists, protectors of grizzly bears and bison, champions of rodeo and extraordinary personalities. A formidable odyssey that took him six years of work.

Sylvie Brieu, a magnificent writer, presents a sensible and sensitive vision of the American West and its people. “I have always had a very strong attraction for the American continent as a whole, whether it is North America, Central America and South America. I always felt good, in balance between Europe and America , she said in a telephone interview from Paris, where she lives. 

“ I studied journalism at Berkeley and I was passionate about the first peoples. I have been working for years, as a journalist and as an author, with the aim of promoting cultural diversity. »


At the suggestion of her colleague, who knows the American West very well, she traveled to the foothills of the Rockies, in Montana, to experience the authentic West. It was an instant favourite. 

“I discovered the richness of this territory. What overwhelmed me when I arrived was the unconditional love of people, whatever their cultural origin, their social origin, their political affiliation, for an environment that is truly exceptional. And how this love structures a very deep sense of community and togetherness. It upset me to the point where I went back every year and to the point where I now live there almost part of the year. I need to go and recharge my batteries in these spaces and to be in touch with these people who welcome me, whether they are descendants of great figures of the Amerindian resistance or descendants of settlers. »

Alliances are forming

She has seen alliances forming, in some places in Montana, between Northern Cheyenne, national park rangers, environmentalists and people in the communities. 

“ Today, the enemy is the industrial predator, the one who wants to devastate this land which has become a bedrock of common identity. People come together to preserve these idyllic landscapes and nature. 

Land is a factor of social cohesion, she observed. 

“It's so exceptional and hopeful that we have to share this positive message, because it feels good and it still gives hope in humanity when we see that there are people who care about each other. In Montana, we feel this umbilical connection that people have to the land. We feel the emotions that make ecology important. »

  • A graduate of the Sorbonne and Berkeley, Sylvie Brieu is a great reporter and writer.
  • She directed the international department of National Geographic France from 1999 to 2013.
  • She has since participated in the launch of European educational programs on cultural diversity.
  • She is the author of When our voices rise, From the Andes to the Amazon, an odyssey in Indian land and Burma, the paths of freedom.
  • She lives in Paris. 


« The track runs east along the Blackfoot River. A bunch of youngsters whirl around in large buoys that look like plump donuts. Two men, without headgear, are fishing in the sun. “You can tell they're beginners,” Lois jokes. Fish are found at the mouth. We catch them in the morning. In the afternoon they dive to the bottom of the water, because it is too hot to stay on the surface. Amid 60 acres of hills and creeks, a one-story log home offers sweeping views of the Rattlesnake Mountains. Its many bay windows confer the privilege of being at the forefront of a spectacle orchestrated by wolves, bears, elk, coyotes. »