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Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                    


The tribes residing in Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho are divided as follows: in Dakota, about 28,000; Montana, 30,000; Wyoming, 2000; and Idaho, 5000. The present temporary location of the Red Cloud Agency has, however, drawn just within the limits of Wyoming a body of Indians varying from 8000 to 0000, who are here, and usually reckoned as belonging to Dakota.

The Indians within the limits of Dakota Territory are the Sioux, the Ponca, and the Arickaree, Gros Ventre, and Mandans.

Arickaree, Gros Ventre, and Mandan.
These tribes number 2200, and have a reservation set apart for their occupancy by Executive order of April 12th, 1870, comprising 8,640,000 acres, situated in the north-western part of Dakota and the eastern part of Montana, extending to the Yellowstone and Powder rivers. They have no treaty with the Government, are now and have always been friendly to the whites, are exceptionally known to the officers of the army and to frontiersmen as " good Indians," and are engaged to sonic extent in agriculture. Owing to the shortness of the agricultural season, the rigor of the climate, and the periodical ravages of grasshoppers, their efforts in this direction, though made with a degree of patience and perseverance not usual in the Indian character, have met with frequent and distressing reverses; and it has from time to time been found necessary to furnish them with more or less subsistence to prevent starvation. They are traditional enemies of the Sioux; and the petty warfare maintained between them and the Sioux of the Grand River and Cheyenne River Agencies -while, like most warfare confined to Indians alone, it causes wonderfully little loss of life--serves to disturb the condition of these agencies, and to retard the progress of all the parties concerned. These Indians should be moved to the Indian Territory, south of Kansas, where the mildness of the climate and the fertility of the soil would repay their labors, and where, it is thought, from their willingness to labor and their docility under the control of the Government, they would in a few years become wholly self-supporting. The question of their removal has been submitted to them, and they seem inclined to favor the project, but have expressed a desire to send a delegation of their chiefs to the Indian Territory, with a view of satisfying themselves as to the desirableness of the location. Their wishes in this respect should be granted early next season, that their removal and settlement may be effected during the coming year. Notwithstanding their willingness to labor, they have' shown but little interest in education. Congress makes an appropriation of $75,000 annually for goods and provisions, for their instruction in agricultural and mechanical pursuits, for salaries of employees, and for the education of their children, etc.

The Indian tribes residing within the limits of Montana are the Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegan, the Gros Ventre of the Prairie, the Assinaboine, the Yanktonai, Santee and Teton (so- called) Sioux, a portion of the Northern Arapahoe and Cheyenne, the River Crows, the Mountain Crows, the Flat-heads, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenay, and a few Shoshone, Bannocks, and Sheep-eaters, numbering in the aggregate about 32,412. They are all, or nearly all, native to the regions now occupied by them respectively.

The following table will exhibit the population of each of these tribes, as nearly as the same can be ascertained:

Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegans 7500
Assinaboine 4-90
Gros Ventre 1100
Santee, Yanktonai, Uncpapa, and Cut-head Sioux, at Milk River Agency 2625
River Crow 1940
Mountain Crow 2700
Flat-head 460
Pend d'Oreille 1000
Kootenay 320
Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheep-eaters 677
Roving Sioux, commonly called Teton Sioux, including those gathered during 1872 at and near Fort Peck (largely estimated) 5000
Estimated total  

The number of Northern Cheyenne and Arapahoe roaming in Montana, who, it is believed, have cooperated with the Sioux under Sitting Bull, in their depredations, is not known: it is probably less than 1000.

The Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegan (located at the Blackfeet Agency, on the Teton River, about seventy-five miles from Fort Benton), the Gros Ventre, Assinaboine, the River Crows, about 1000 of the Northern Arapahoe and Cheyenne, and the Santee and Yankton Sioux (located at the Milk River Agency, on the Milk River, about one hundred miles from its mouth), occupy jointly a reservation in the extreme northern part of the Territory, set apart by treaties (not ratified) made in 1868 with most of the tribes named, and containing about 17,408,000 acres. The Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegan, particularly the last-named band, have been, until within about two years, engaged in depredating upon the white settlers. The Indians at the Milk River Agency, with the exception of the Sioux, are now, and have been for several years, quiet and peaceable. The Sioux at this agency, or most of them, were engaged in the outbreak in Minnesota in 1862. On the suppression of hostilities they fled to the northern part of Dakota, where they continued roaming until, in the fall of 1871, they went to their present location, with the. avowed intention of remaining there. Although they had been at war for years with the Indians properly belonging to the Milk River Agency, yet, by judicious management on the part of the agent of the Government stationed there, and the influence of some of the most powerful chiefs, the former feuds and difficulties were amicably arranged; and all parties have remained friendly to each other during the year past. The Indians at neither the Blackfeet nor the Milk River Agency show any disposition to engage in farming; nor have they thus far manifested any desire for the education of their children. They rely entirely upon the chase and upon the bounty of the Government for their support. They, however, quite scrupulously respect their obligation to preserve the peace; and no considerable difficulty has of late been experienced, or is anticipated, in keeping them in order. The Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegan have an annual appropriation of $50,000 made for their benefit; the Assinaboin, $30,000; the Gros Ventre of the Prairie, $35,000; the River Crows, $30,000. These funds are used in furnishing the respective tribes with goods and subsistence, and generally for such other objects as may be deemed necessary to keep the Indians quiet.

Mountain Crow
These Indians have a reservation of 6,272,000 acres, lying in the southern part of the Territory, between the Yellowstone River and the north line of Wyoming Territory. _They have always been friendly to the whites, but are inveterate enemies of the Sioux, with whom they have for years been at war. By the treaty of 1868-by the terms of which their present reservation was set apart for their occupancy-they are liberally supplied with goods, clothing, and subsistence. But few of them are engaged in farming, the main body relying upon their success in hunting, and upon the supplies furnished by the Government for their support. They have one school in operation, with an attendance, however, of only nine scholars. By the treaty of May 7th, 1868, provision is made by which they are to receive for a limited number of years the following annuities, etc., viz.: in clothing and goods, $22,723 (twenty - six installments due); in beneficial objects, $25,000 (six installments due); in subsistence, $131,400 (one installment due). Blacksmiths, teachers, physician, carpenter, miller, engineer, and farmer are also furnished for their benefit, at an expense to the Government of $11,600.

The Flat-heads, Pend d'Oreille, and Kootenay have a reservation of 1,433,600 acres in the Jocko Valley, situated in the north-western part of the Territory, and secured to them by treaty of 1855. This treaty also provided for a reservation in the Bitterroot Valley, should the President of the United States deem it advisable to set apart another for their use. The Flatheads have remained in the last-named valley; but under the provisions of the Act of June 5th, 1872, steps are being taken for their removal to the Jocko Reservation. Many of these Indians are engaged in agriculture; but, as they receive little assistance from the Government, their progress in this direction is slow. They have one school in operation, with an attendance of twenty-seven scholars.

The Shoshones, Bannocks, and Sheep-eaters are at present located about twenty miles above the mouth of the Leinhi Fork H of the Salmon River, near the western boundary of the Territory. They have shown considerable interest in agriculture, and many of them are quite successful as farmers. They have no reservation set apart for them, either by treaty or by Executive order. They are so few in number that it would probably be better to remove them, with their consent, to the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho, where their brethren are located, than to provide them with a separate reservation. They have no schools in operation. An annual appropriation of $25,000 is made for these Indians, which sum is expended for their benefit in the purchase of clothing, subsistence, agricultural implements, etc.


The Indians in this Territory, with the exception of the Sioux and Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne, mentioned under the heads of Dakota and Montana, respectively, are the eastern band of Shoshones, numbering about 1000. The Shoshones are native to the country. Their reservation in the Wind River Valley, containing 2,688,000 acres, was set apart for them by treaty of 1868.

But little advancement in civilization has been made by these Indians, owing to their indisposition to labor for a living, and to the incessant incursions into their country of the Sioux and the Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne, with which tribes they have for many years been at war. The losses sustained from these-incursions, and the dread which they inspire, tend to make the Shoshone unsettled and unwilling to remain continuously on. the reservation. They therefore spend most of the year in roaming and hunting, when they should be at work tilling the soil and improving their lands. There is one school at the agency, having an attendance of ten scholars, in charge of an Episcopal missionary as teacher.

The Indian tribes in Idaho are the Nez Perce, the Boise and Bruneau Shoshone, and Bannock, the Coeur d'Alene, and Spokane, with several other small bands, numbering in the aggregate about 5800 souls.

Shoshone and Bannock
These Indians, numbering 1037 the former 516 and the latter 521-occupy a reservation in the southeastern part of the Territory, near Fort Hall, formerly a military post. This reservation was set apart by treaty of 1868 and Executive order of July 30th, 1869, and contains 1,568,000 acres. The Shoshones on this reservation have no treaty with the Government. Both bands are generally quiet and peaceable, and cause but little trouble; are not disposed to engage in agriculture, and, with some assistance from the Government, depend upon hunting and fishing for subsistence. There is no school in operation on the reservation.

Coeur d'Alene
The Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, Kootenay, and Pend d'Oreille, numbering about 2000, have no treaty with the United States, but have a reservation of 256,000 acres set apart for their occupancy by Executive order of June 14th, 1867, lying thirty or forty miles north of the Nez Perce Reservation. They are peaceable; have no annuities, receive no assistance from the Government, and are wholly self-sustaining. These Indians have never been collected upon a reservation, nor brought under the immediate supervision of an agent. So long as their country shall remain unoccupied, and not in demand for settlement by the whites, it will scarcely be desirable to make a change in their location: but the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which will probably pass through or near their range, may make it expedient to concentrate them. At present they are largely under the influence of Catholic missionaries of the Coeur d'Alene Mission.

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A Century of Dishonor, By Helen Hunt Jackson, New York, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1885

A Century of Dishonor


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