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Montana > Indians of Montana

About four percent of the present population of Montana is American Indian. The major groups include the Assiniboin, Blackfeet, Chippewa-Cree, Crow, Flathead, Grosventres, Kalispel, Kootenai, Little Shell Band of Chippewa, Northern Cheyenne, Piegan, Salish, and Spokane.

To learn how to get started with American Indian research, find research facilities, and American Indian websites click here.


Contents

 

Tribes and Bands of Montana

The following list of American Indians who have lived in Montana has been compiled from Hodge's Handbook of American Indians...[1], from Swanton's The Indian Tribes of North America[2], and from other sources.

Major Tribes of Montana

The following tribes either currently have reservations within the borders of Montana or have significant portions of their tribes living within the state.

Minor Tribes of Montana

The following tribes have historically had some contact with the area that is now part of Montana or have portions of their tribal membership associated with the larger tribes in Momtana.

Reservations

From the mid-1800s, the official policy of the United States government toward the American Indian was to confine each tribe to a specific parcel of land called a reservation. Agencies were established on or near each reservation. A government representative, usually called an agent (or superintendent) was assigned to each agency. Their duties included maintaining the peace, making payments to the Native Americans based on the stipulations of the treaties with each tribe, and providing a means of communication between the native population and the federal government.

Sometimes, a single agency had jurisdiction over more than one reservation. And sometimes, if the tribal population and land area required it, an agency may have included sub-agencies.

The boundaries of reservations, over time, have changed. Usually, that means the reservations have been reduced in size. Sometimes, especially during the later policy of "termination," the official status of reservations was ended altogether.

The following list of reservations has been compiled from the National Atlas of the United States of America[3], the Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America[4], and other sources. Those reservations named in bold are current federally-recognized reservations, with their associated agency and tribe(s). Others have historically been associated with the state or are not currently recognized by the federal government.

For a map of the current reservations on Montana, click here...

Agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Agencies and subagencies were created as administrative offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its predecessors. Their purpose was (and is) to manage Indian affairs with the tribes, enforce policies, and assist in maintaining the peace. The names and location of these agencies may have changed, but their purpose remained basically the same. Many of the records of genealogical value were created by these offices.

The following list of agencies that have operated or now exist in Montana has been compiled from Hill's Office of Indian Affairs...[5], Hill's Guide to Records in the National Archives Relating to American Indians[6], and others.

Indian Schools

The Office of Indian Affairs (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) established a network of schools throughout the United States, beginning with Carlisle Indian School, established in 1879. Some of these schools were day schools, usually focusing on Indian children of a single tribe or reservation. Some were boarding schools which served Indian children from a number of tribes and reservations.

In addition, other groups such as various church denominations established schools specifically focusing on American Indian children. (read more...)

The following list of Indian Schools in Montana has been compiled from Hill's Office of Indian Affairs...[7], Hill's Guide to Records in the National Archives Relating to American Indians[8], and others.

Missions

The Catholic Church established several missions among the Indians of Montana. Among them were:

  • Holy Family Mission, a Jesuit mission, 1890-1941, on the Blackfeet Reservation. A guide to the records of this mission, now housed at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, is available online.
  • St. Francis Xavier Mission Jesuit mission on the Crow Reservation, 1887-1960
  • St. Ignatius on what is now the Flathead Reservation. A guide to the records of this mission, now housed at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, is available online.
  • St. Mary's Mission Jesuit mission, in the Bitter Root Valley, 1841-1908
  • St. Paul's Mission 1887 Catholic on Fort Belknap Reservation, est. 1884
  • St. Peter's Mission Jesuit 1859-1898

Supervising Offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Superintendencies

A Superintendent of Indian Affairs was an administrator, communicating and overseeing the agents who worked directly with individual tribes. It was the responsibility of the superintendent to see that the agents were following official government policy. (read more...)

The Central Superintendency of Indian Affairs was created in 1851 and abolished in 1878. It was responsible for many of the tribes of the Upper Missouri River area.

The Montana Superintendency of Indian Affairs was created in 1864 and abolished in 1873. Some correspondence was filed under its name until 1880.

Area Offices

The Area Offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs are administrative in nature and do not contain many records of details about individual Indians. Hence, they are not the most valuable records for tracing American Indian ancestry.

The Area Offices with supervisory responsibility over agencies in Montana are the Billings Area Office and the Portland Area Office.

Major Research Facilities for American Indian Research

National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for the preservation of the records of historical importance created by federal offices in the United States of America, including those of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its predecessor, the Office of Indian Affairs. (Read more...)

Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Many of the Regional Archives have collected records of the federal offices in their region, including those of the field jurisdictions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Some of the field jurisdictions are the superintendencies, agencies, schools, factories and area offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Pacific Alaska Regional Archives (NARA) in Seattle had jurisdiction for the preservation of federal records of offices in Montana for several years. The records for some of those offices remain in this Archives.

The Rocky Mountain Regional Archives (NARA) in Denver has current jurisdiction for the preservation of the records of federal offices in Montana, including those of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

(Read more...)

Family History Library

The Family History Library has microfilm copies of Indian records at the Rocky Mountain Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration in Denver. These include excellent collections for the Blackfeet, Crow, Flathead, Northern Cheyenne, and several other tribes. The available records include heirship, school, census, annuity and other documents.

Most of these records are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under MONTANA - MINORITIES or MONTANA - NATIVE RACES. Records are also listed in the Subject Search of the Family History Library Catalog under the names of the tribes.

Some other collections in the Family History Library which contain references to the Indians of Montana are:

  • Major James McLaughlin Papers - Family History Library film 0541380.
  • Jesuits Mission Records - Family History Library film 1671639.
  • Montana Superintendency, 1867-1873 - M833 (3 films), Family History Library (1st film) # 1618090.
  • Central Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1813-1878 - M856 (108 films), Family History Library (1st film) # 1602893.
  • Dakota and Wyoming Superintendency, 1861-1870 & 1877-1878 - M1016 (13 Films), Family History Library (1st film) # 1549632.

Records

Census Records, 1886-1939. FHL film: 583033-583038

Census Records 1909-1948. FHL film: 181388-181367

Heirship Records 1907-1950. FHL film: 181364-181365

Land and Allotment Records, 1895-1948. FHL film: 181368-181369

Record of Funds 1904-1950. FHL film: 181370-181374

Online Resources

http://www.native-languages.org/montana.htm

http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/montana/index.htm

http://www.kstrom.net/isk/maps/mt/montmap.html

See Also:

Montana-Church for list of missions.

Montana-History for a calendar of historical events.

Montana-Military for list of forts.

References

  1. Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington D.C.:Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #30 1907. Available online.
  2. Swanton John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #145 Available online.
  3. National Atlas of the United States of America -- Federal Lands and Indian Reservations Available online.
  4. Isaacs. Katherine M., editor. Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America. U.S. Data Sourcebook, Volume 11 Appendices, Bureau of Indian Affairs List of American Indian Reservations, Appendix E, Indian Reservations. Omnigraphics, Inc., 1991.
  5. Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches, Clearwater Publishing Co., Inc. 1974. (Family History Library book 970.1 H551o.)
  6. Hill, Edward E. (comp.). Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Washington DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1981. (FHL book 970.1 H551g.)
  7. Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches, Clearwater Publishing Co., Inc. 1974. (Family History Library &columns=*,0,0 book 970.1 H551o.)
  8. Hill, Edward E. (comp.). Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Washington DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1981. (FHL book 970.1 H551g.)

Bibliography

  • "Accompanying Pamphlet for Microcopy 1011", National Archives Microfilm Publications, Appendix.
  • American Indians: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications. Washington D.C. : National Archives Trust Fund Board, National Archives and Records Administration, 1998.
  • Hill, Edward E. (comp.). Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Washington D.C. : National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1981.
  • Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches. New York, New York: Clearwater Publishing Company, Inc., 1974.
  • Historical Sketches for Jurisdictional and Subject Headings Used for the Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880. National Archives Microcopy T1105.
  • Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington D.C. : Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #30, 1907. Available online.
  • Isaacs. Katherine M., editor. Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America. U.S. Data Sourcebook, Volume 11 Appendices, Bureau of Indian Affairs List of American Indian Reservations, Appendix E, Indian Reservations. Omnigraphics, Inc., 1991.
  • National Atlas of the United States of America -- Federal Lands and Indian Reservations Available online.
  • Preliminary Inventory No. 163: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Washington D.C. : National Archives and Records Services. Available online
  • Swanton John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #145 Available online.

 

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