Montana Indian Tribes

The following tribes at one time are recorded in history as having resided within the present state of Montana. If the tribe name is in bold, then Montana is the primary location known for this tribe, otherwise we provide the tribes specifics as it pertains to Montana and then provide a link to the main tribal page.

  • Arapaho Indians. The Arapaho proper occupied, or camped in, parts of southeastern Montana at various periods of their history.
  • Arikara Indians. Some Arikara hunted in eastern Montana. In 1869 and 1880, together with the Hidatsa and Mandan, they relinquished rights to land in the southeastern part of the State.
  • Assiniboin Indians. Assiniboin Indians occupied the territory north of the Milk and Missouri Rivers as far east as the White Earth.
  • Atsina Indians
  • Bannock Indians. The Bannock ranged into the western part of the State.
  • Cheyenne Indians. The Cheyenne frequently entered the eastern part of Montana and the Northern Cheyenne were ultimately assigned a reservation within the State.
  • Chippewa Indians. The Chippewa had little contact with the region now included in Montana until very recent times when a considerable number came to live there, 486 according to the census of 1910.
  • Cree Indians. The original homes of the Cree were north of the present United States, though their war parties frequently came into the territory now occupied by this country to fight the Dakota, Blackfoot, and other tribes. In comparatively late times a number, given by the census of 1910 as 309, settled in Montana, and others were reported from Washington (91), Michigan, Oregon, North Dakota, Idaho, Kansas, and Minnesota.
  • Crow Indians
  • Dakota Indians. The Dakota entered Montana at times to hunt and fight the Crow but were not permanent residents of the State.
  • Hidatsa Indians. Together with the Arikara and Mandan, in 1869 and 1880 the Hidatsa took part in treaties ceding territory in southeastern Montana to the United States Government.
  • Kalispel Indians. This tribe probably visited the westernmost parts of Montana at times and most of them finally settled upon the Flat-head Reservation in that State. Some of them, together with the Salish and Kutenai, ceded Montana lands in 1855.
  • Kiowa Indians. According to tradition, the Kiowa at one time lived in the southeastern part of this State. (See Oklahoma.)
  • Kutenai Indians
  • Mandan Indians. The Mandan were parties to treaties made in 1869 and 1880 ceding their claims to land in southeastern Montana.
  • Nez Percé Indians. Individuals belonging to this tribe sometimes entered the southwestern part of Montana.
  • Piegan Indians. The Piegan were the southernmost subtribe of the Siksika Indians.
  • Salish Indians
  • Sematuse Indians (phonetically Semte’use). Signifying “foolish” according to some, derived from an old place name according to others. Teit (1930) identified the Sematuse as a former tribe of the Salishan stock, closely related to the Salish tribe. According to his in-formants, one band of these people was on Big Blackfoot River, another at a place later known as “Big Camas,” or “Camas Prairie,” and some thought that a smaller band had headquarters near Deer Lodge, and there may have been one at Phillipsburg. Others were said to have been on the Little Blackfoot and Salmon-Trout Rivers but may not have constituted a band. Turney-High (1937), however, thinks that this tribe was mythical or else that it was the name of a non-Salishan people who preceded the Salish in western Montana.
  • Northern Shoshoni Indians. Before European weapons reached the eastern tribes, bands of Shoshoni ranged over a considerable part of eastern Montana as far north as Milk River.
  • Siksika Indians
  • Spokan Indians. Some Spokan probably entered western Montana at times and, in 1910, 134 were reported as residents of the State.
  • Tunahe Indians (Tuna-‘xe). Given by Teit (1930) as the name of an extinct Salishan tribe living in west central Montana, but identified by Turney-High (1937) as a former eastern or plains band of the Kutenai Indians, that band, in fact, from which the name Kutenai is derived.

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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