Montana Indian Agencies

Blackfeet Agency

There are but 3 or 4 Blackfeet or Bloods at the Blackfeet reservation. The main body of them is now located in northwest Canada upon reservations and under Canadian agents. The Piegans, with the exception noted, are the only Indians upon this reservation. There are some half-breeds here. From the day of the first knowledge of these people they have roamed from the Missouri river to the Saskatchewan of the north, and from the western line of North Dakota to the Rocky Mountains. The Piegan are the American portion of the Blackfeet Nation. This is the only agency these Indians have had. It was established in: 1855, and the United States Indian agent assumed charge of them then. They are all ration Indians. George Steel, United States Indian agent.

Crow Agency

The crow Indians were composed of 2 bands, the Mountain and the River Crows, so called from their locations. The latter occupied the country along the Missouri river or British line; the former were located about 250 miles south of that point in the mountains. The Crow Indians signed their first treaty in 1826. They were then probably south of the Kansas and Nebraska line, although there is now no positive evidence thereon. The next heard of this tribe of Indians was in 1868, when they made a treaty at Fort Laramie; since then they have been in possession of a section of country between the Yellowstone River and the Montana and Wyoming line, extending east of the mid channel of the Yellowstone river where it crossed the south boundary of Montana for about 250 miles. There have been two treaties of segregation, one in 1880 and one in 1890, whereby the Crow reservation has been reduced about one-half. There are no data obtainable regarding the location of these Indians prior to a hundred years ago, but many of their traditions and their stories mention animals found only in southern climes, and it is fancied that at one time the Crows resided as far south as the central portion of Texas or Louisiana. Many efforts have been made to locate this tribe during the last century, but so far every attempt has been unsuccessful. There are many members of this tribe who were captured in war from the Sioux, Piegan, Cree, Gros Ventre, Shoshone, Arapahos, and Cheyenne, but they are considered by the bands as full-blood Crows, and have every right of an original Crow Indian. It is estimated that there are over 400 members of this tribe who are born members of other tribes. There have been no white men admitted into this tribe, although quite a number reside among the Crows, married to Crow or other Indian women. M. P. Wyman, United States Indian agent.

The River Crows were for a long time divided, a portion of them being at or near Fort Belknap agency and many roamed. They are now, however, all on the Crow reservation.

In June 1885, the Crows at Crow agency, Montana, numbered 3,226.

The Crows were removed from the western portion of their reservation in 1883 to the valleys of the Big Horn and Little Big Horn Rivers. Many hold their lands in severalty.

Money has been expended for an irrigating ditch or canal, but the Crows, although owners of large numbers of horses, have made but little progress in farming. They have always been loyal to the United States.

Flathead Agency

The Pend d’Oreille, proper name Kalispel, have always occupied the lands of this agency and. all the country around Pend d’Oreille lake, and to where its waters empty into the Columbia river.

The Kootenai, a detached band from the British tribe of that name, have lived on the lands of this agency beyond the recollection of any living Indian.

The Flatheads, proper mime Salish, have always occupied the Bitter Root valley. By the Stevens treaty of 1855 this tribe ceded to the whites the greater portion of Montana.

Chariot’s band of Bitter Root Flatheads came from. Bitter Root valley, where they have always lived. The remainder of the tribe, who refused to remove to this agency under the Garfield agreement of 1872, still hold their lauds in. Bitter Root valley, Montana, under United States patent.

The Lower Kalispel have always lived about Lake Pend d’Oreille. They removed to this agency from Pend d’Oreille Lake country, Idaho, in 1887, under terms and conditions offered to them by the United States northwest Indian commission. The conditions under which they came have not yet been ratified by Congress.

The Flatheads removed under the Garfield agreement, and the Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes are merged into what is now known as the “confederated tribes”. The Lower Kalispel, who removed from Idaho to this agency, remnant a separate band.

Chariot’s band of Bitter Root Flatheads are both those who removed since the Garfield agreement expired and those who still remain in the Bitter Root valley with Chief Chariot. -Peter Ronan, United States Indian agent.

Fort Belknap Agency

The Assinaboine, who came from northwestern Dakota in 1867, always lived in the country now known as Dakota. They are in 4 bands: the “Paddling their canoes in a band (fleet) on this “Wood Mountain”, “Dwellers of the Rocks”, and “Yellow Snow”. The Assinaboine, of Siouan stock, were formerly of North Dakota; they drifted west to this agency, and then to the great Blackfeet reservation in 1867. They were never located on a reservation until the recent treaty, but were allowed to hunt and live on the reservation, and were fed by the government at the Fort Belknap agency. They are closely allied and intermarried with the Gros Ventres.

The Gros Ventres, who came from British America in 1843, are in 4 bands: the “Sitting Woman”, “White Eagle”, “Bear Cubs”, and “Under Bulls”. They are of Algonkian stock, originally from, time south, and are an offshoot of the Arapaho tribe now living in Indian territory. They emigrated north into the British territory 90 years ago, and lived with the Blackfeet Nation until 1843; they then again emigrated south to this part of Montana, which was afterward set apart as their reservation. Archer O. Simons, United States Indian agent.


The Assinaboine, or Stone Indians (the Dakotas proper), were called by the Algonkian Nudowesioux. They made treaties with the United States after 1855 and up to July, 1880. They were forced to quit roaming and to locate on the reservations in northern Montana after 1875 by reason of the building of railroads, disappearance of game, and the incoming of settlers. This tribe roamed along with the Blackfeet and Piegan to the north of the Yellowstone, and affiliated with the Cree from British America. The boundary line between the United States and the Dominion of Canada was not clearly defined until after 1874, and up to within a year or two past there has been a free zone below that line. The surrender of Sitting Bull’s Sioux, the destruction of a portion of the Piegan by Colonel FJ, M. Baker in 1870, and the evident intention of the government to use force to compel them to stop roaming had the desired effect. They were gathered up and placed on the reservations of the Port Belknap and Fort Peck agencies, where they now are. The Assinaboine are virtually ration Indians. They are herders and roamers by nature.

Gros Ventres (Crow Vons)

The tribe of Gros Ventres called the Gros Ventres of the Prairies came from British Columbia in 1.843 to the country where the reservation now is. They are Algonkin, and must not be confused with the tribe of Gros Ventres at Fort Berthold agency, North Dakota, who were met by Lewis And Clarke, and called by them Minatarees, or “People of’ the Willows”, and who have always lived in their present country either with the Crows or Dear the Mandans, This band, partially self-sustaining, engages in hunting, trapping, and fishing.

Font Peck Agency

The Yankton Sioux have been here since about 1862, the Assinaboines since about 1850. These Indians are all Sioux. They should be classed about as follows: Brule, Cuthead Sioux, Santee, Uncapapa, and Yanktonais, living at Poplar creek, and Assinaboine Sioux at Wolf point.

The Santee Sioux came from Minnesota, where they had always lived the other branches, except the Assinaboine Sioux, from the country now Nebraska and South Dakota. The Assinaboine are from the country now North Dakota and from the British Possessions, largely from the latter place. None of the tribes or bands are extinct, but all are to a great extent intermarried. C. R. A. Scobey, United States Indian agent.

Tongue River Agency

The Northern Cheyenne have been here about 10 years; they came originally from Wyoming. They have roamed and have been located at many different points in the west, from Fort Reno, in the Indian Territory south, to the Yellowstone River north. This is, comparatively speaking, a new agency. There are 3 bands: the Rosebud Cheyenne, Tongue River Cheyenne (in 1890), and the Pine Ridge Cheyenne.- John Tully, United States Indian agent.

Cheyenne (Algonkian), These Indians received a variety of names from travelers and the neighboring tribes, as Shyennes, Shiennes, Cheyenne, Chayennes, Shards, Shawhays, Sharshas, and by the different bands of Dakotas, Shai-en-a or Shai-é-la. With the Blackfeet they are the most western branch of the great Algonkian family. When first known they were living on the Cheyenne or Cayenne River, a branch of the Red River of the North, but were driven west of the Mississippi by the Sioux, and about the close of the last century still farther west across the Missouri, where they were found by Lewis and Clarke in 1803. On the map attached to their report they locate them near the eastern face of the Black Hills, in the valley of the, great Cheyenne River, and give their number at 1,500 souls. Their first treaty with the United States was made in 1825, at the mouth of the Teton River. They were then at peace with the Dakotas, but warring against the Pawnees and others, and were estimated by Drake at 3,250.

During the time of Long’s expedition to the Rocky mountains, in 1819-1820, a small portion of the Cheyenne seem to have separated from the rest of their nation on the Missouri and to have associated themselves with the Arapahos, who wandered about the tributaries of the Platte and Arkansas, while those who remained affiliated with the Ogalalla.

They were generally friendly to the white settlers up to 1862, when outbreaks occurred, and then for 3 or 4 years a costly and bloody war was carried on against them, a notable feature of which was the Sand creek or fight known as the Chivington massacre, November 29, 1864. In 1867 General Hancock burned the village of the Dog Soldiers, on Pawnee fork, and another war began, in which General Custer defeated them at Washita, killing Black Kettle and 37 others. The northern bands have been generally at peace with the whites, resisting many overtures to join their southern brethren. The Rosebud Cheyenne were placed on a reservation at Tongue River agency, Montana, in 1884-1885.

The Southern Cheyenne and the Arapahos, along with other Indians in the military division of the Missouri, during 1868 were in open warfare against the whites. They were captured and taken to Camp Supply, Indian Territory, in the month of February 1869. A portion of them held out. Finally, in March 1875, the remainder of the Southern Cheyenne surrendered, under Chief Stone Calf, at Fort Sill, and went on their present reservation now in Oklahoma territory.

The Northern Cheyenne, a fierce and warlike band, were constantly on raids against the white people up to 1876. In 1876 they joined Sitting Bull and the Sioux, and aided in the massacre of Custer and his men on the Rosebud in July. In 1877 they surrendered to the United States, and were first sent to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, and finally to Indian territory, and placed on a reservation with the Southern Arapahos at Fort Reno, August 8, 1877. They numbered about 1,000 when they surrendered. Dissatisfied with the location, the government in 1881-1883 removed them north to the Pine Ridge agency, Dakota, and in 1891 to Tongue River agency, Montana.

September 9, 1878, about a third of the Northern Cheyenne escaped from Fort Reno, and under the leadership of Dull Knife, Wild Hog, Little Wolf, and other chiefs started north to rejoin their friends in the country where they formerly resided. The army pursued them, and a running fight ensued, resulting in the killing of many soldier’s and the massacre by the Indians of settlers, men and women. They were captured in Nebraska in October 1878, and ordered to be returned to Indian Territory. In January 1879, being then at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, they arose in revolt, and many of them were killed. The remainder were returned to Indian Territory and are now in Oklahoma. They lost in these raids, between 1878 and 1881, more than 500 of their tribe.

The Outbreak of 1885

During the summer of 1885 the Cheyenne and Arapahos became restless and rebellious. Stone Calf, Flying Hawk, Little Robe, and Spotted Horse, chiefs, led the “dog soldiers”, a band of young Indians, a semi-military organization, bloodthirsty and constantly in crime; squaw men (white men married to squaws and living with the Indians) also aided. Troops were hurried to Fort Reno, near the Cheyenne and Arapaho agency, then in Indian territory, and by a strong show of force a serious outbreak was prevented. The principal reason for the attempted revolt and raid was that the agent and government desired the Indians to work, either as farmers or herders.


Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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