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United States Gotoarrow.png American Indian Research Gotoarrow.png Indians of Montana Gotoarrow.png Fort Belknap Indian Reservation (Montana)

The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is a federally-recognized reservation, located in north-central Montana, between Havre and Glasgow. It is primarily in Blaine County, with a smaller portion in Phillips County.

Established -- September 17, 1851 and 17 Oct. 1855
Agency (BIA) -- Fort Belknap Indian Agency at Harlem, Montana
Principal tribes -- Assiniboine and the Gros Ventre (Atsina), Blackfeet Indians, Flathead Indians, Kalispel Indians, Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians of MontanaNez Perce Indians, Pend d'Oreille Indians, and Spokane Indians
Population --  2010 census is 2,704 - Does not include non Indians[1] 1969: Tribal enrollment 3,557.[2]



Fort Belknap Reservation was established by Treaty of Oct. 17, 1855; unratified treaties of July 18, 1866, and July 13, and 15 and Sept. 1, 1868; Executive orders, July 5, 1873, and Aug. 19,1874; an act of Apr. 15, 1874; Executive orders, Apr. 13, 1875, and July 13,1880; agreement made Jan. 21, 1887, approved by Congress May 1, 1888; and an agreement made Oct. 9, 1895, approved by act of June 10, 1896.

The area of the reservation in 1908 was 497,600 acres. In 1900, the Reservation covered 537,600 acres. Later in the 1930s, more land was added on to the Fort Belknap Reservation with the support of Joseph Dussome and other Little Shell Chippewa leaders. Read more about that below. Today, Fort Belknap Reservation covers 648,920 acres or 1,014 sq. mi.[3].

Land records: Tribally-owned 162,932.63 adres.  Allotted land: 427,579.93.

Fort Belknap Reservation is within the original Blackfeet Reservation which was created on September 17, 1851 and approved on October 17, 1855. The correct name of the original Blackfeet Reservation, is either Judith basin indian reservation or Judith River Indian Reservation or possibly Flathead Reservation. The October 17, 1855 Blackfeet Treaty, was signed near the mouth of the Judith River which is within the Judith basin indian reservation. Little Shell Blackfeet Chippewa leaders continued to govern the original Blackfeet Reservation which was created on September 17, 1851, well into the early 20th century.

Read the October 17, 1855 Blackfeet Treaty text. It is the home of the Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Flathead (included as being Flathead are the Kalispel, Pend d'Oreille, and Spokane), the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and the Nez Perce who are really the Amikwa Chippewas.

1896: Chippewas Relocated To Fort Belknap Reservation

During June and July of 1896, the United States required several thousand Chippewa's from the Little Shell Chippewas Blackfeet Reservation (aka Turtle Mountain Reservation), to relocate to Fort Belknap Reservation and many other Reservations. In May of 1895, Chiefs Little Shell III and Red Thunder were arrested and that ended their efforts to preserve the Little Shell Chippewas Reservation. Also during 1895, the United States reached an agreement with leaders of Fort Belknap Reservation to purchase the southern part of the Reservation. It covered the southern part of Fort Belknap Reservation. An unknown number of Chippewas were deported to Fort Belknap Reservation during June and July of 1896.

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe

In 1921, a meeting was held at the Joseph Paul family ranch near Lewistown, Montana. It was probably about filing a land claims lawsuit about the original Blackfeet Reservation which was created on September 17, 1851. However, the Little Shell Blackfeet Chippewas continued to govern the original Blackfeet Reservation which was created on September 17, 1851.

On June 10, 1939, another meeting was held at Joseph Paul's home in Great Falls, Montana. Even during 1939, they were assigning district representatives for the original Blackfeet Reservation which was created on September 17, 1851.

After World War II, many of the Little Shell Blackfeet Chippewa leaders became despondent and began to act on their own. In 1950, Joseph Dussome gave up and hired a lawyer and then filed a land claims lawsuit about the 3rd Blackfeet Reservation created on April 15, 1874. On April 5, 1974, the United States again refused to honor the treaty which created the Little Shell Blackfeet Chippewas 3rd Blackfeet Reservation in which the Fort Belknap Reservation is located.

To learn more about the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana and how they governed their original Blackfeet Reservation, click this link. On page 119 is the information about the June 10, 1939 meeting at Joseph Paul's home in Great Falls, Montana. On page 92, under "The Creation of Organizations in Montana, 1920-1936," is information about the first Little Shell Tribe organization in Montana. Howard Paul (Joseph Paul's son) preserved the information. The meeting was held at Joseph Paul's family's ranch near Lewistown, Montana, in 1921.

1909: Land Added To Fort Belknap Reservation

In 1908, Indian Agent Frank Churchill was sent to Montana to find chief Rocky Boy to negotiate about the Land Acts. Churchill found chief Rocky Boy at a Chippewa vllage near Garrison, Montana and St. Peters Mission which was very near Ulm, Montana which is 8 miles southwest of Great Falls. Both negotiated about the upcoming land acts and how to avoid violence. Fort Belknap Reservation was the most dangerous location. Next was Fort Peck Reservation. White settlers new Fort Peck Reservation contained an abundance of excellent agriculture land and wanted it. They complained bitterly about eradicating Fort Peck Reservation.

In response to the unrest, Churchill requested that all of Valley County, Montana (it was really all of Fort Peck Reservation) be withdrawn from white settlement and a new 2,592 sq. mi. Chippewa Reservation be created for the Chippewas of Fort Peck Reservation. William R. Logan, who was the Superintendent of Fort Belknap Reservation, was put in charge of finding land for the new Chippewa Reservation. He found the land south and west of Fort Belknap Reservation. It was added on to Fort Belknap Reservation which increased the size of Fort Belknap Reservation to around 3,500 sq. mi. It is also connected to Rocky Boys Reservation.

1934: IRA & Probable Land Loss

On June 18, 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. It was reported that the Office of Indian Affairs was considering plans to add land to Rocky Boys Reservation. The office of Indian Affairs was also considering adding land to Fort Belknap Reservation in 1934 and purchasing a tract of land near Great Falls for the Chippewa's who lived in at least 5 Chippewa villages around Great Falls.

What they probably did in 1934, was reduce the size of Fort Belknap Reservation, Rocky Boys Reservation, and the Chippewa Reservation adjacent to Great Falls on the west. They did leave considerable land. Around 80,000 acres for Rocky Boys Reservation and either 34,000 acres or 74,000 acres for Fort Belknap Reservation. You must remember that the United States added land to Fort Belknap Reservation in 1909. You must also remember that before Rocky Boys Reservation was created in 1916, Fort Assiniboine Indian Reservation was already located where Rocky Boys Reservation is. Fort Assiniboine Indian Reservation originally covered around 1,000 sq. mi. Before 1893, it was reduced to probably around 200,000 acres.

So both Fort Belknap Reservation and Rocky Boys Reservation, were probably reduced in size in 1934. Fort Belknap Reservation lost the most land; perhaps as much as 2,500 sq. mi. Rocky Boys Reservation was reduced from around 200,000 acres to around 156,000 acres.


Fort Belknap Agency:

2010 population is 1,293. Indians make up 96.6% of the population of Fort Belknap Agency. There are three distinct communities which make up Fort Belknap Agency.

Middle Fort Belknap Agency:

About a half a mile south of the main community of Fort Belknap Agency, is a cluster of housing units. It's population is a part of Fort Belknap Agency.

South Fort Belknap Agency:

About a half a mile south of Central Fort Belknap Agency, is another cluster of housing units. It's population is also a part of Fort Belknap Agency. It covers 45.76 sq. mi. Fort Belknap Agency covers a large area.


2010 population is 843. Indians make up 93.2% of the population of Hays. Like Fort Belknap Agency, Hays is made up of at least five distinct communities.

South Hays:

About 0.9 miles to the southeast of the main area of Hays, is a cluster of housing units. It's population is a part of Hays. It is also located near the western slopes of the Little Rocky Mountains.

North Hays:

About 0.8 miles to the northeast of the main area of Hays, is another cluster of housing units. It's population is a part of Hays. It is also situated very near the Little Rocky Mountains.

Old Hays:

About 3.9 miles north of the main area of Hays, is another cluster of housing units. It's population is a part of Hays. It is not as close to the Little Rocky Mountains as the other communities. I named the small settlement after a street in the settlement.

Star Hill:

It is located in a narrow mountain valley over a half a mile southeast of South Hays. It's population is included with that of Hays. It is the only community located around Hays, that is in the mountains.

Hays covers 27.05 sq. mi. It covers a large area.The Little Shell Blackfeet Chippewas had a minor district at Hays. In 1939, the Hays district representative was probably Joseph Azure.

Lodge Pole: 2010 population is 265. Indians make up 97% of the population. Like both Fort Belknap Agency and Hays, Lodge Pole is made up of three distinct communities.

South Lodge Pole:

About 0.4 miles southeast of the main area of Lodge Pole, is a cluster of housing units. It's population is a part of Lodge Pole. It is located near the northeastern slopes of the Little Rocky Mountains.

North Lodge Pole:

About 0.8 miles north of the main area of Lodge Pole, is a new cluster of housing units or a new settlement. It is also located near the northeastern slopes of the Little Rocky Mountains. It's population is a part of Lodge Pole.

There are at least 11 distinct communities on the Fort Belknap Reservation. However, Reservation leaders follow County and State laws. Reservation leaders should have full authority over the 11 communities. They should issue each distinct community it's own community name and define each communities borders or village limits. They should also give each community the power of jurisdiction, or allow the citizens of each community to elect their community leaders.

In addition to the communities located on Fort Belknap Reservation, two others almost adjacent to the northern border of the Reservation are predominantly Indian. They are Dodson and Harlem. Dodson has a population of 124 according to the 2010 census. Indians make up over half of the population. Harlem has a population of 808 according to the 2010 census. Indians make up over 60% of the city's population. When including the Indian population of Dodson and Harlem, along with the Indian population south of Fort Belknap Reservation and Landusky and Zortman, the Reservations population is closer to 3,300.

Population Growth History

Between 1900, when the Reservation population was around 1,290, to around the time of the vote on the IRA, the population of Fort Belknap Reservation increased by only 75.

Since 1935, the population of Fort Belknap Reservation has increased from around 1,350 in 1935, to 2,738 in 2010. It has taken around 6 decades for the population to double. However, the predominantly Indian communities adjacent to Fort Belknap Reservation, bring the total Reservation population to over 3,300. It has actually nearly tripled in population since 1935.


Many of the records of individual Indians living on the Fort Belknap Reservation were kept by the Fort Belknap Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Others are kept by the Tribal Office.


  1. Census 2000 Tribal Entity Counts for American Indian Reservations and Off-Reservation Trust Lands. U.S. Census Bureau, Geography Division. Available online. {Note: This census figure only accounts for tribal members living on the reservation or trust lands. Other enrolled tribal members may live off-reservation.)
  2. Indian Reservations A State and Federal Handbook. Compiled by The Confederation of American Indians, New York, N.Y. McFarland and Co. Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, c. 1986. FHL book 970.1 In2
  3. "Montana Indian Reservations," Handbook of Indians North of Mexico, by Frederick Webb Hodge Available online.

3. The Confderation of American Indians.  Indian Reservations A State and Federal Handbook c. 1986

ISBM 0-89950-200-8  


  • Confederation of American Indians. Indian Reservations: A State and Federal Handbook. Jefferson, North Caroline: McFarland & Co., c1986. WorldCat 14098308; FHL book 970.1 In2.
  • Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #30, 1906. This publication lists the 22 states which had reservations in 1908. Available online.
  • Kappler, Charles J. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1902. 7 volumes. WorldCat 74490963; FHL book 970.1 K142iAvailable online.
  • Klein, Barry T., ed. Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian. Nyack, New York: Todd Publications, 2009. 10th ed. WorldCat 317923332; FHL book 970.1 R259e.
  • Prucha, Francis Paul. Atlas of American Indian Affairs. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1991 WorldCat 257331735; FHL book 970.1 P95aa
  • Prucha, Francis Paul, ed. Documents of United States Indian Policy. 3rd Edition. Lincoln, Nebraska: Univeresity of Nebraska Press, 2000. WorldCat 50416280; FHL book 970.1 P95d.
  • Prucha, Francis Paul. Guide to the Military Posts of the United States, 1789-1895. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, c1964. WorldCat 522839; FHL book 973 M2pf.
  • Schmeckebier, Laurance F. The Office of Indian Affairs: Its History, Activities, and Organization. Service Monographs of the United States Government; no. 48. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1927. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1972.  WorldCat 257893; FHL book 973 B4b v. 48.
  • Sturtevant, William C. Handbook of North American Indians. 20 vols., some not yet published. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978– .
Volume 1 -- Not yet published
Volume 2 -- Indians in Contemporary Society (pub. 2008) -- WorldCat 234303751
Volume 3 -- Environment, Origins, and Population (pub. 2006) -- WorldCat 255572371
Volume 4 -- History of Indian-White Relations (pub. 1988) -- WorldCat 19331914; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.4.
Volume 5 -- Arctic (pub. 1984) -- WorldCat 299653808; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.5.
Volume 6 -- Subarctic (pub. 1981) -- WorldCat 247493742; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.6.
Volume 7 -- Northwest Coast (pub. 1990) -- WorldCat 247493311
Volume 8 -- California (pub. 1978) -- WorldCat 13240086; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.8.
Volume 9 -- Southwest (pub. 1979) -- WorldCat 26140053; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.9.
Volume 10 -- Southwest (pub. 1983) -- WorldCat 301504096; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.10.
Volume 11 -- Great Basin (pub. 1986) -- WorldCat 256516416; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.11.
Volume 12 -- Plateau (pub. 1998) -- WorldCat 39401371; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.12.
Volume 13 -- Plains, 2 vols. (pub. 2001) -- WorldCat 48209643
Volume 14 -- Southeast (pub. 2004) -- WorldCat 254277176
Volume 15 -- Northwest (pub. 1978) -- WorldCat 356517503; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.15.
Volume 16 -- Not yet published
Volume 17 -- Languages (pub. 1996) -- WorldCat 43957746
Volume 18 -- Not yet published
Volume 19 -- Not yet published
Volume 20 -- Not yet published


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  • This page was last modified on 25 February 2015, at 20:03.
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