Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

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Fort Belknap Indian Reservation
Gros Ventre Camp, 1906
Gros Ventre Camp, 1906
Anthem: none
Established June 1, 1888 (city)
Tribal Council 1904
Capital Fort Belknap Agency
 • Body Fort Belknap Tribal Council
 • President Mark L. Azure
 • Vice-President George Horse Capture, Jr.
 • Total 2,626.415 km2 (1,014.064 sq mi)
Population (2010)Enrolled tribal members
 • Total 2,851
 • Density 1.1/km2 (2.8/sq mi)
Time zone MT/MDT
Montana Indian Reservations

The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is a semi-autonomous Native American-governed territory covering 1,014.064 square miles (2,626.41 km2), and is located in north central Montana. This includes the main portion of their homeland, as well as off-reservation trust land. It is shared by two Native American tribes, the A'aninin (Gros Ventre) and the Nakota (Assiniboine). Its largest city is Fort Belknap Agency, at the reservation's north end. This is just south of the city of Harlem across the Milk River.


Established in 1888, the reservation is what remains of the vast ancestral territory of the Blackfoot Confedercy that consisted of the Gros Ventre, Northern and Southern Piegan and Blood tribes. In October, 1855 near the confluences of the Judith River and Missouri River the Blackfoot Confedercy sign into an agreement to remain at peace with other tribes and citizens of the United States. The Nakoda Nation along with the Sioux, Mandan, Ahrikara, Hidatsa, Cheyenne and Arapahoe signed the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 in what is now North Dakota with the United States Government establishing their respective territories within the continental United States. The Fort Belknap Reservation is part of what remains of Blackfoot Confederacy aboriginal territory that included all of northcentral and eastern Montana and portions of eastern North Dakota. Fort Belknap Reservation was named after William W. Belknap who was the Secretary of War under President Grant's administration. Belknap was impeached for corruption.

A 32-bed hospital within the reservation has been replaced with a 6-bed infirmary, that began to be occupied on May 18, 1998. As part of treaties and agreements between the U.S. government and the Native American tribes, health services are to be provided to Native American people. This was in exchange for the many lands given up by the Native American people in return for things such as the railroad, homesteading, roads, reservoirs, and other installations. The establishment of IHS (Indian Health Services) did not occur until 1955, the concepts of self-dependency and determination and tribal sovereignty having been a longstanding tradition.

The exact origins of the name A'aninin, (meaning the White Clay People) is unclear. Many believe that they painted themselves with white clay found along the Saskatchewan River for ceremony, like their tribal brothers, the northern Arapaho. Early French fur trappers and traders named this tribe "Gros Ventre" because other tribes in the area referred to them as “The Water Falls People.” The sign for water fall is the passing of the hands over the stomach and the French thought the Indians were saying big belly so they called them "Gros Ventre" – meaning “big belly” in the French language.

The Nakoda (meaning the Generous Ones) split with the Yanktonai Sioux in the seventeenth century and migrated westward onto the northern plains with their allies, the Plains Cree. The Chippewa called the Nakoda "Assiniboine", which is a Chippewa word meaning “One who cooks with stones”. The Nakoda are located on both the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations in Montana and on several reserves in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The A'aninin and Nakoda were nomadic hunters and warriors. They followed the buffalo which provided them with all the necessities of life. Their food, clothing and teepees all came from the buffalo. The buffalo was the Indian staff of life and the Nakoda and A'aninin and other plains tribes lived a good life with the buffalo. The last wild herd of buffalo in the continental United States in the nineteenth century roamed between the Bear Paw Mountains and the Little Rocky Mountains in the lush Milk River valley.

Today, the two tribes are united as one government called the Fort Belknap Indian Community. Together, the tribes have formed and maintained a community that has deep respect for its land, its culture, and its heritage. Fort Belknap derives its name from the original military post that was established on the Milk River, one mile (2 km) southwest of the present town of Chinook, Montana. The Fort, named for William W. Belknap, who was the Secretary of War at that time, was a military fort combined with a trading post. It became a Government agency for the A'aninin and Nakoda Tribes living in the area.


Fort Belknap received part of the herd of pure-bred Plains bison (Bison bison bison) from Yellowstone National Park which was transferred to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in March 2012.[1] The Bison were reintroduced in 2013 [2]


In literature[edit]

The novel, Winter in the Blood, is set here.

Notable A'aninin[edit]


  1. ^ "Yellowstone bison return to tribal land". Great Falls Tribune. 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  2. ^ Indian Country Today August 23,2013

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°12′N 108°36′W / 48.2°N 108.6°W / 48.2; -108.6