Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation
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Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation is one of seven American Indian reservations in the U.S. state of Montana. Established by an act of Congress in 1916, it was originally intended for landless Chippewa (Ojibwe) Indians in the American West, but has grown to include many Cree (Nēhiyaw) and Métis over the years. The reservation is located in Hill and Chouteau counties in northeastern Montana, about 40 miles (64 km) from the Canada–U.S. border. It has a total land area of 171.4 square miles (444 km2), which includes extensive off-reservation trust lands. The reservation is reported to have 3,323 enrolled members, 55% of the total 6,177 enrolled members.
- 1 Description
- 2 History
- 3 Chippewa dispute existence of a Chippewa Cree tribe
- 4 The Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Council
- 5 Chippewa Cree Adoptee Business Committee
- 6 Economic development
- 7 Northern Winz Casino
- 8 Chippewa religious institutions
- 9 Religious institutions
- 10 Communities
- 11 Climate
- 12 Notable Chippewa, Anishinabe
- 13 The First Chippewa Council after Rocky Boy's death
- 14 Notable Chippewa-Cree
- 15 See also
- 16 Notes and references
- 17 Further reading
- 18 External links
The reservation was established by congressional statute on September 7, 1916 (39 Stat. 739, Sec. 10). The Congressional Act recognized the Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Indians. There is a legal dispute as to the validity of a Chippewa Cree Tribe, a designation that is not founded on U.S. Treaty source law, nor is it accepted by the original Rocky Boy Band. The self-identified adoptees worked with the Department of Interior to enact a Chippewa Cree Constitution in November 1935, to the near complete exclusion of the Chippewa people. In this unorthodox and dubious process, the adoptee faction and Interior enacted the current Chippewa Cree Tribal Constitution, that the Interior Department recognizes as the governing body, referred to as the Business Committee of the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, and that was organized in accordance with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (34 Stat. P. 984) as amended by the Act of June 15, 1935.
Tribal recognition as the Chippewa Cree tribe was never formalized by Congress, nor was it ever authorized by the Rocky Boy Band of Chippewa Indians. The governing document is the Constitution and By-Laws of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, Montana, enacted in 1935, as amended on May 17, 1972; and February 6, 2004, to include but not limited to: (creating Article XI - Rights of Members, codifying the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 and its amendments; and Article XII - Judicial Branch, appointing tribal court judges versus the old system of electing them). The Tribe also ratified a Corporate Charter on July 25, 1936, in accordance with section 17 of the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934 (48 Stat. 984) as amended by the Act of June 15, 1935 (Pub. No. 147, 74TH Cong). There is no legal manner for the Cree tribe to claim or assert recognition in the U.S., so the legal maneuvering of adoptees around the Chippewa body as the official recognized tribe is now a source of dispute. Only the officially recognized tribe can enact law and assert sovereignty. The Chippewa people are working to revoke the tribal constitution at the present time.
The Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation is located in the Bears Paw Mountains. According to the map of Montana, there are two counties within the state that overlap the reservation: Hill County and Chouteau County, located in northeastern Montana, about 40 miles (64 km) south of the Canada–United States border. It is the smallest reservation in terms of land area in the state, with a total land area of 171.4 square miles (443.9 km2), which includes extensive off-reservation trust lands. The population was 3,323 at the 2010 census, an increase of 24 percent compared to 2000. The Bureau of Indian Affairs' Labor Force Report of 2005 reported 5,656 enrolled members. Its largest community is Box Elder, although a small part of Box Elder extends off reservation lands. Three other reservations of the seven in the state also had growth during this period. Over 80% of the tribal enrollment are classifiable as adoptees under the tribal constitution, having non-Chippewa tribal origin.
Rocky Boy's unusual name came about from the English mistranslation of the name of the tribal chief, Ahsiniiwin (Chippewa/Anishanaabe). His name was closer in meaning to "Stone Child". The Chippewa who are descendants of Chief Rocky Boy: the translation of Asiniweyin is "Stone Being", or "Being of Stone".
According to a noted Smithsonian ethnologist [who?], Chief Rocky Boy came to the attention of federal officials at the highest level, in a January 14, 1902 letter to President Theodore Roosevelt, in which he asked the U.S. government for land, housing and education for his band of Chippewa Indians of 130 men, women and children.
Chippewa notation: The Interior Agent who botched the 1917 roll, James McLaughlin, is the same agent who sold Rocky Boy's land in Thief River, Minnesota. The proceeds of that sale were distributed to the people of Red Lake. The Rocky Boy Band was listed at 75 in a 1908 census that was certified by the Department of the Interior. Another 39 were listed separately by allotting agent Thralls B. Wheat, as affiliated but not Chippewa. In 1902, Chief Rocky Boy petitioned President Roosevelt for his band of Chippewa Indians to have a home and a chance at an education.
Chief Rocky Boy worked with Republican Senator Joseph M. Dixon, writer Frank Bird Linderman, and influential individuals in Montana to achieve his goal. He lived mainly in north central Montana, although he also traveled to southwestern and western areas of the state.
In 1908, Montana passed the Land Acts, regulating Native American lands. The Swan Valley Massacre of 1908 aroused outrage among Native Americans, as they were attacked while hunting off reservation, a right protected by treaties with the US government. The US Congress eventually established what was first called Rocky Boy's Reservation (named for the European-American understanding of Ahsiniiwin's name). The Indian Inspector Frank Churchill was sent to Montana to negotiate with the chief. Asiniiwin made Churchill understand that the Chippewa lived all around Montana, including at the Blackfeet and Flathead reservations, as well as near many cities dominated by European Americans, including Anaconda, Billings, Butte, Deer Lodge, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Missoula, Wolf Point and others. Rocky Boy made it a point to assert he was peaceful at all times, and he only spoke for the Chippewa people because he understood his sovereignty; having worked to establish Turtle Mountain, having signed the 1889 Red Lake Agreement, he never spoke for other groups other than his own.
Churchill requested that all of Valley County be withdrawn from white settlement and that a new closed Chippewa Reservation be set aside there. Both requests were granted by the Department of Interior. In the end, many of the Chippewa-Cree who lived in western Montana were not willing to relocate to far northeastern Montana. Chippewa notation: The Sharrock report/addendum to the official Ewers Report notes the 1908 land was proposed for "Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Indians".
In November 1909, over 100 landless Chippewa-Cree, from southwestern and western Montana and northern Idaho (the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation), gathered near Helena to be relocated to a new homeland on the Blackfeet Reservation, which was closer to them. With the new Chippewa-Cree Reservation approved and set aside, the government redirected the Chippewa-Cree to the tribe's new home. The new reservation was located between St. Mary, Babb, and the Canada–US border, and it was first called the Babb Reservation. Chief Little Bear soon followed Rocky Boy with his own band, arriving with about 200 Cree. According to knowledgeable Blackfeet, the name plates are still discernable, and this was an effort to locate the Chippewa there.
Anishinaabe leaders feared they would lose the land and forced the Chippewa away, as they were not Blackfeet people and were not entitled to allotments. The US Army had allowed the Chippewa and other landless Indians to include the Cree to settle at Fort Assinniboine in Hill County. Nearly 600 Chippewa and Cree were already living on the large Fort Assinniboine Military Reservation by 1912-1913. These conditions contributed to the founding of the Rocky Boy Reservation, formed in part by land ceded from Fort Assinniboine. Most of those settled in the area were Cree refugees in the U.S. under terms of asylum, as Rocky Boy had already supervised his band census in 1908 and had it certified by the Interior Department.
Chief Rocky Boy was living on the new Chippewa Reservation near Babb with 50 to 60 people. He negotiated with the US Indian agent for additional lands, which were approved in 1916. Chippewa and other landless Indians to include the Cree from north central Montana, western Montana, and northern Idaho settled to live alongside those already living on the new Rocky Boy Reservation, soon after the reservation was officially established.
Chippewa notation: Frank Linderman's papers indicate Chief Rocky Boy died at Ft. Assiniboine April 18, 1916; he was not in Babb at the time of death. Media reports of the day also indicate Rocky Boy died in Ft. Assiniboine. Chippewa oral historians (namely Robert Gopher, a full-blood Blackfeet tribal member, states a different story) the history on the Chippewa side states: Rocky Boy was assassinated by poison roots administered by rival Cree in the area who were anxious to settle there. Little Bear was a known user of a specific poison (oral traditions of Saskatchewan Cree), a root that he used to dispatch his political rivals. If this is the case, this would mean there was great uncertainty hanging over Cree fate. Rocky Boy's last words relayed to Linderman seem to also indicate Rocky Boy did not intend to situate Cree on the newly established reservation.
Chippewa dispute existence of a Chippewa Cree tribe
A Chippewa Cree tribe has never existed in law or fact. The U.S. has extensive treaty relations with the Chippewa people dating from the late 1700s. Chief Rocky Boy was a signor of the 1889 Red Lake Agreement. The non-Chippewa in Rocky Boy are there on the basis of claiming adoptee status, to gain control of tribal resources after the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act. There is no verifiable documentation existing that an adoption of this great influx of adoptees ever occurred. John Ewers could not locate such a document, that the adoptee status was a formality between the Cree, Metis and the Department of Interior.
The Chippewa do not believe the arrangement between those parties is legal; federal doctrine respects a tribe is the sole authority to make enrollment laws, as a function of self-government. This prompted the Chippewa to enact their own council and force an audit of the tribal roll.
In 2008, The history of the Chippewa and Cree of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation (available online) was published by Stone Child College.
The Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Council
In late 2014, Glenn Gopher, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe, of Great Falls, Duncan Standing Rock, Sr., Rocky Boy, Jr. Slimjohn (Deceased: 02/16/2017), of White Swan, Washington, oversaw the effort and need for the Rocky Boy Band of Chippewa to assert their sovereignty in a historic return to self-government following extensive and protracted embezzlement and theft convictions by members of the Business Committee. The Chippewa people's sovereignty had been thwarted by extensive mismanagement by the Department of the Interior since historic times.
The Chippewa have begun extensive efforts to reach out to the Billings Area office of the BIA to restore self-government. The scandal and convictions of the Adoptee Business Committee resulted from stepped up investigation and prosecution of crimes under the Obama Administration's new Guardians Project administered by the Department of Interior.
The Chippewa people never approved the Business Committee constitution. The constitution does not provide for specific Chippewa representation in the tribal electoral system. Chippewa are outnumbered in their own reservation by a 10:1 ratio. This threatens the political integrity of the band, and it is a direct termination threat the Chippewa people intend to address. The Chippewa people are addressing rampant enrollment abuses on the reservation that bears their ancestor's name. Most recently, Fr. Pete Guthneck, who is a non-Indian honorary tribal member, voted in the tribal election, thereby invalidating the election. His standing was challenged by yet another adoptee, Jonathan Windy Boy, who is also not a direct descendant of the tribe.
The Chippewa will enforce their right to conduct an audit after pervasive abuse of the tribal enrollment system, and the presence of outright fraud on the part of the Business Committee and the Interior agency who have colluded to strip the Chippewa people of sovereignty. The interim council consists of blood descendants of the Blackfeet Tribe, Browning, Montana, and of the original Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Indians, who will audit the largely adoptee roll. The proposed interim council consists of Glenn Gopher, Blackfeet Tribal member; Duncan Standing Rock, Jr., Chippewa Cree Tribe; Blair Gopher, Blackfeet Tribal member; Delores Chippewa, Chippewa-Cree Tribe; Nora Nelson, Chippewa Cree Tribe; Barbara Standing Rock, Chippewa Cree Tribe; Melinda Gopher, Blackfeet Tribal member; and Calvin Twoteeth, Chippewa Cree Tribe (pending).
Chippewa Cree Adoptee Business Committee
The Chippewa Cree Tribe referred to as the Business Committee is the Tribal Council and the governing body of the Tribe. The eight council members and chairman are elected at large; they serve four-year terms on staggered schedules of elections.
The Tribe elected to "consolidate" the Bureau of Indian Affairs (FY 93) and Indian Health Service (FY 94) programs under Title IV of the P.l. 93-638 Act. The historical act allowed tribes the opportunity to determine priorities and to become truly self-governing and to exercise the tribal sovereignty.
The sitting members of the Chippewa Cree Business Committee are the following:
- Ken Blatt St. Marks, Chairman
- Ted E. Whitford Sr., Vice-Chairman
- Dustin Whitford, Business Committee Member
- Ted Demontiney, Committee Member
- Harlan Baker-Gopher, Business Committee Member
- Calvin Jilot, Business Committee Member
- Ted Russette III, Business Committee Member
- Beau Mitchell, Business Business Committee Member
According to the Tribal Chairman's address to the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce in January 2007, the annual tribal revenue of $52 million is infused into the local economy as a result of federal programs, private business, and tribal businesses on the Rocky Boy's Reservation. The majority of reservation residents work for the self-governing Chippewa Cree Tribe. Compacts are maintained with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian Health Service. Funds originating within the BIA [note: there is only one BIA employee at Rocky Boy due to the self-governance compact], together with tribal government, provide work for 231, full- and part-time employees.
Other employers include Chippewa Cree Community Development Corporation (25), Rocky Boy public schools (184), Stone Child Community College (57), Chippewa Cree Construction Company (20), Chippewa Cree Construction Corporation (14), National Tribal Development Association (9), Northern Winz Casino (70), RJS & Associates (4), and Chippewa Cree Housing Authority (25). By the Tribe's compact with the Indian Health Service, it employs 135 staff within the Rocky Boy Health Board.
In 2011, the tribe began a new business with Plain Green Loans, an online lending company. It had a staff of 25 as of December 2011. Plain Green and similar companies owned by other tribes have been criticized for profiting by making high-interest online loans (called predatory lending) to Americans. The Chippewa Cree are part of the Native American Lending Alliance, an organization of tribes that are in the business of online lending.
Northern Winz Casino
The Chippewa Cree tribe operates the Northern Winz Casino. Construction began in May 2006, with the tribal grand opening occurring in February 2007, and a public grand opening March 30, 2007. The casino is located on U.S. Highway 87, 6 miles (10 km) east of Box Elder, Montana.
Chippewa religious institutions
The Chippewa are fierce traditionalist bearers of the peace pipe religion, rooted in the Grand Lodge or Mediwiwin society. The Chippewa reject all forms of Christianity, and the sacramental use of peyote is forbidden and outlawed in their all of their rites. The grand lodge tradition is tightly guarded; all four levels of the society take a lifetime to learn.
Upon dispossession in Rocky Boy, the Chippewa continued to practice their traditions on Hill 57, outside Great Falls, Montana. The practices centered around the niece of Chief Rocky Boy, Mary Chippewa Gopher, whose spiritual name was "Iron Claw Bear Woman". Her father, Charles Chippewa or Walking Stone, was the brother to Chief Rocky Boy. Mary Chippewa married Jim Gopher, or Loud Thunder.
(notation: In the BIA technical report on the Little Shell: "the Chippewa included a small and distinct group, centered around the Gopher family, some of whom are still resident of "hill 57" today. This group claimed descent from a Chippewa chief from the Great Lakes area. They were identified in the studies of the "Hill 57" as descendants of a Chippewa band from the Great Lakes, unrelated to the Little Shell families, Turtle Mountain, or the bands on the Rocky Boy's reservation). In a sense this is true, as the Chippewa were not related to the Little Bear Cree who occupied the reservation since its esblishment.
The four levels of teachings of the sweat lodge are held in the present day by the descendants of Robert Gopher, who was the youngest son of Jim Gopher and Mary Chippewa Gopher. The family are not the only ones to bear the intricate teachings and knowledge of their predecessors.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has long maintained a mission, Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, at the reservation. Toward the end of 1999, Rev. Joseph W. Bailey Sr. was joined by Christian youth groups from around the country; together they built a new sanctuary and outdoor chapel, and started work on a retreat center.
St. Mary's Catholic Church has the Rev. Peter Guthneck officiating. He is assisted by Sister Margaret Mary O'Doherty.
The Baptist mission church was established in late 1999. The church building was erected in June 2002. The Rocky Boy Assembly of God Church is self-governing and self-supporting. Eric and Amanda Reed assumed the senior pastor position in Rocky Boy in the Spring of 2006.
While most of the Chippewa are Christian, the Chippewa-Cree Tribe also has maintained traditional spiritual beliefs and cultural ceremonies/activities. The traditional Thirst Dance, more commonly known as the Sun Dance, is held the first week of July. The annual Pow-Wow Celebration is held the first week of August. Other cultural events are held throughout the year, including an annual Christmas Dance, round dances, ceremonial feasts, revived cultural ceremonies, and cultural camps.
Rocky Boy Reservation has nine settlements, eight of which are classified by the US Census Bureau as census-designated places (CDP). Most of the CDPs are located in the Bear Paw Mountains.
- Agency (official CDP name is "Rocky Boy's Agency") - population 355 at the 2010 census
- Azure - located in the Bear Paw Mountains
- Boneau - located 7 miles east of Box Elder, near the Bear Paw Mountains
- Box Elder - population 87 at the 2010 census; located on the plains
- Parker School
- Rocky Boy West, or New Box Elder - population 890 at the 2010 census; located on the southeast side of Box Elder, on the plains
- Saint Pierre - population 350 at the 2010 census
- Sangrey - situated at the edge and just within the Bear Paw Mountains
In addition, a new settlement is sited about 3 miles west of Boneau, with around 23 housing units.
Hill 57 was a settlement where members of the Rocky Boy band settled after they had lost several dozen family members from starvation on Chief Mountain. It was a notorious settlement used by foes of tribal termination, held out as the example of "what happens when you take Indians land away." A land plot inherited by Robert Gopher was obtained by a George Black Tongue, who was one of the barred original descendants from the 1908 roll.
The existence of Hill 57 followed the dark period when assassinations of the Rocky Boy Band forced the band out of their new reservation—was later solidified as policy in the Chippewa Cree Tribal Constitution which adopted a ten-year absentee policy, wherein members away from the reservation for longer than 10 years lost tribal citizenship. Since the Cree are not a lawful recognized tribe, the Chippewa are examining their openness to civil liability; the tribal immunity shield does not apply to individuals who do not have descent in a historic tribe, but are mere individuals claiming adoptee status on a reservation.
Rocky Boy Reservation has a wide variation of climate conditions. Near Box Elder, the climate is warmer during the summer months, as a result of the lower elevation, and windier during the cold winter months. During the cold winter months, the Chinook Winds often wreak havoc around the Box Elder region. High wind storms often occur during the winter months. However, the Chinook Winds not only bring warmer temperatures during the winter months, they quickly melt the snow. Though, the Chinook Winds occur in the Bear Paw Mountains, their strength is not as great as on the open plains. The winds also warm up the communities located in the Bear Paw Mountains during the winter months. Precipitation, especially in the form of snow, is a bit higher in the mountains than on the plains.
Average low temperatures during the winter months of December, January, and February at Box Elder are 9, 5, and 9. Average high temperatures for the same winter months at Box Elder are 30, 26, and 31. Average high temperatures for the summer months of June, July, and August are 76, 85, and 84. Average low temperatures for the same summer months at Box Elder are 49, 54, and 51.
Notable Chippewa, Anishinabe
Chief Rocky Boy, or Asiniweyin (as his name appears on the 1908 Chippewa Census, <United States Department of Interior>), member of the Red Robe Band of the 1864 Pembina Chippewa Treaty, signor of the 1889 Red Lake Agreement #6, assisted in the creation of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation. With Frank B. Linderman, Charles M. Russell, Paris Gibson, and William Boles (Gt. Falls Tribune), established the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation.
Charles Chippewa, brother to Chief Rocky Boy, is notable as having been at one time the keeper of the Chief Rocky Boy bundle. This bundle is now kept by a close member of the Rocky Boy family.
John Goodrunner, a Chippewa who held the Rain Dance, sometimes referred to as the Sun Dance, upon the Rocky Boy reservation until his death.
Mary Chippewa Gopher, "Iron Claw Bear Woman", was the niece of Chief Rocky Boy and led Chippewa resistance against the paternalistic policies of the U.S. government who heavy-handed tribal enrollment, and other policies that should be the exclusive domain of the tribe. Iron Claws raised a family upon Hill 57 after her people were dispossessed from their new reservation. She rejected Cree inclusion and resolutely practiced the sovereign traditions of her people, and was the intellectual of her brood. She understood that abstaining from the wrongs being committed against her people was her sovereignty, her will became entrenched in ensuing generations.
Because of her will and her unique part in her band's history, the Chippewa people learned to assert their autonomy, authority and learned to resist government policies bent on destruction of their way of life. She led her people from 1946 until her death on November 23, 1965.
Mary Bearwalker McGillis, daughter of Chief Big Rock's son Bearwalker, was a contemporary of Iron Claws, and held the Chippewa people together in what was probably their most difficult hour of their history.
Duncan Standing Rock, Sr. is a renowned Chippewa elder and widely respected. He is the possessor of ceremonial knowledge of the Chippewa people. He is one of the many Chippewa who hold the source of sovereignty of all the Chippewa, the sacred bundle of Chief Rocky Boy himself.
Robert Gopher, Listening Thunder, grand-nephew to Chief Rocky Boy, led the Chippewa resistance after the death of his parents, and fostered the Chippewa people's efforts to restore their sovereignty.
The First Chippewa Council after Rocky Boy's death
Chief Big Rock, Kichi Asini, was the legitimate successor to Chief Rocky Boy, after Rocky boy's purported assassination, and the assassination of his son by a Cree Indian named Woodpecker. Big Rock led his people "under cover of night" from Ft. Assiniboine to Chief Mountain, Montana.
Crazy Boy, brother to Chief Rocky Boy, held a formal council with Chief Big Rock with Montana dignitaries in 1916 after the death of Rocky Boy.
Pat Raspberry, tribesman of Chief Rocky Boy and Chief Big Rock, held a formal council with Montana dignitaries in 1916 after the death of Rocky Boy.
Charles Mosney, tribesman of Chief Rocky Boy and Chief Big Rock, held a formal council with Montana dignitaries in 1916 after the death of Rocky Boy.
Standing Rock, tribesman of Chief Rocky Boy and Chief Big rock, held a formal council with Montana dignitaries in 1916 after the death of Rocky Boy.
- Black Powder (c.1800 - d. 1865) was an Ojibwa ogima (leader). His date of birth is not known but may have occurred between 1800 and 1805. Ogima Black Powder was native to the Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan regions. Little has been recorded about his life. He died in 1865. Chippewa notation: Black Powder is not on the 1908 Census of the Rocky Boy Band of Chippewa Indians.
- Big Bear (1825-c. 1888). According to historians, Big Bear was Saulteaux but raised as a Plains Cree, born in 1825 as the son of Black Powder, an Ojibwa chief, and an Ojibwa mother in the Jackfish Lake region of Saskatchewan, a few miles north of present-day North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and not far from Alberta. He settled primarily in the region where the present-day Saulteaux First Nation of Saskatchewan is located, near the Onion Lake First Nation. He was a leader in the Northwest Resistance of 1885. The whites arrested him as the principal leader of the short rebellion and sentenced him to prison. In early 1888, Big Bear was released. He settled on the Poundmaker First Nation, where he died soon after. Chippewa notation: Big Bear was not a predecessor to Chief Rocky Boy, for whom the Rocky Boy Reservation is named.
Little Bear's people were deported in 1896 Statutes at Large from 1896, (54th Congress, Session 1) Chap. 175 is entitled "An Act making provision for the deportation of refugee Canadian Cree Indians from the State of Montana and their delivery to the Canadian Authorities.” A follow up Senate report 821 "Delivery of Refugee Cree Indians to Canada" April 29, 1896. 54th Congress, 1st session U.S. Serials set volume 3365. Media reports the Little Bear Cree beat the U.S. Cavalry back to Havre, Montana and were already back when the troops returned from Canada.
- Little Bear (c.1850-1921). The son of Big Bear, considered Cree, though it may have been said that his mother was a Chippewa whose people had relocated from Wisconsin to Montana. Little Bear was born around 1850. After his father relocated to Montana from Idaho, the family settled in southwestern and north central Montana, depending on the season. The latter had vast herds of buffalo and was extremely important to native people. The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) had reported seeing the largest buffalo herds in the region from present-day Great Falls to north of the area where the Rocky Boy Reservation is located. Little Bear was one of the principal Cree leaders who fought in the 1885 Northwest Rebellion in Canada. He was accused of taking part in the Frog Lake Massacre, along with ogima Lucky Man. After the short conflict ended, Little Bear fled from Canada back to Montana. This is unsubstantiated, and clearly the Little Bear Cree were not part of the original band. Little Bear was the instigator of the Frog Lake, massacre in Frog Lake, Saskatchewan in 1885. Four years later, Chief Rocky Boy signed the 1889 Red Lake Agreement.
Little Bear's involvement in the Frog Lake Massacre is subject of the book, Blood Red The Sun, by a captive of Little Bear, William B. Cameron, who was one of a handful of captives taken by the Cree band who continued to elude Canadian law authorities. Cameron was a clerk for the Hudson Bay Company, who would later testify for Little Bear's father, Big Bear who attempted to stop his son and his supporters from instigating the massacre. Cameron clearly and definitively identifies Little Bear as the instigator of the massacre in which clergy were killed totaling nine murders. Although contemporary writings blame Wandering Spirit, Cameron clearly identifies Little Bear as the instigator of the massacre, and the small band of renegades flight from Canadian RCMP. Cameron was held hostage by the Little Bear Band for two months. This is the composite group that fled to Montana, and were subject to deportation by the U.S. Congress.
There were two distinct rolls, the 1908 census of the Rocky Boy Band of Chippewa, was conducted near Helena, MT by Thralls B. Wheat, an allotting agent of the Department of the Interior. This was the only legal census of the Rocky Boy Band, it was supervised by Chief Rocky Boy. Little Bear, nor his band appear on this roll. In 1914, Chief Rocky Boy was corresponding with Interior Secretary Franklin Lane,and expressed the Chippewa band's neutrality in the World War I conflict. In a letter to President Woodrow Wilson, the Chief conveyed the band's sentiments, this is dated September 25, 1914. Two years before the establishment of the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. There was no Chippewa Cree tribe in existence at the time; official correspondence reflects Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Indians. Chief Big Rock enacted his own Chippewa council following Rocky Boy's death, consisting of Pat Raspberry, Standing Rock, Charles Mosney, and Crazy Boy. This council held a formal council and pipe ceremony in Great Falls, with Frank B. Linderman, Theodore Gibson, William Boles and Charles M. Russell.
By the start of the 20th century, Little Bear returned to Montana, his native country, and began to follow Rocky Boy. In 1905, Little Bear contacted Canadian leaders to request allowing the Cree from Montana to relocate to Canada. Officials agreed and the Cree settled primarily with the Onion Lake First Nation and the Samson First Nation (this reserve includes the Ermineskin, Louis Bull, and Montana First Nations). In 1908, Little Bear again contacted Canadian leaders requesting permission for more landless Chippewa and Cree to relocate from Montana to Canada. After the Rocky Boy Reservation was officially established in 1916, Little Bear followed Rocky Boy and his band there, bringing about 200 of his own people. He took over as leader of the new Reservation after Rocky Boy's death in 1916. Little Bear died in 1921. Ultimately Little Bear Cree and those descendants of the Riel Rebellion leaders made up 406 of the McLaughlin Roll, only 45 of those who were on the 1908 Wheat roll managed to secure membership on the Rocky Boy's reservation that was to be for "Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Indians." <64th Congress>: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Act approved February eleventh, nineteen hundred and fifteen (Thirty-eighth Statutes at Large, page eight hundred and seven), entitled "An Act authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to survey the lands of the abandoned Fort Assinniboine Military Reservation and open the same to settlement," be, and the same is hereby, amended by the addition thereto of the following sections:
“SEC. 10. That fractional townships twenty-eight north, ranges fifteen and sixteen east, and fractional townships twenty-nine north, ranges fourteen and fifteen east, Montana principal meridian, within the boundaries of said reservation, embracing a total area of approximately fifty-six thousand and thirty-five acres, are hereby set apart as a reservation for Rocky Boy’s Band of Chippewas and such other homeless Indians in the State of Montana as the Secretary of the Interior may see fit to locate thereon, and the said Secretary is authorized, in his discretion, to allot the lands within the reservation hereby created under the provisions of the general allotment Act of February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven (Twenty"fourth Statutes at Large, page three hundred and eighty-eight), as amended.
Cree nativity to Montana is disputed by Chippewa who contend that during the negotiations of the treaties that encompass the area of Montana, the noted Smithsonian ethnologist, John C. Ewers found not a single member of Little Bear's band, who were now on the 1917 McLaughlin Roll of the US. Department of the Interior; were born in the treaty land cede area. Therefore, the U.S. Indian Claims Commission dismissed Cree treaty claims <Docket 191 221, U.S. Claims Commission>. Still further, the Canadian Council Privy attempted to work with U.S. authorities to exert authority to return the Little Bear Band to Canada, prior to the 1896 Act of Deportation.
- Rocky Boy (c.1852-d. 1916) Asiniweyin, more correctly called Stone Being. The true origin of Asiniweyin, he was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. He was a member of the Red Robe Band, Red Robe, or Moose Dung, was a signor of the 1864 Pembina Treaty. Other sources say he was born in Wisconsin and migrated to the Montana region in the 1880s. Rocky Boy claimed to be native to southwest Montana and may have lived in southern Idaho. He became a popular leader in the early 1900s among both the Chippewa and the European Americans. He managed to gain Executive Orders by United States presidents to set aside land for two Chippewa-Cree reservations in northeastern Montana. Rocky Boy died in 1916, before Congress officially established the Rocky Boy's Reservation. Some sources have speculated he was assassinated, including noted Smithsonian historian and expert on Plains tribal culture, John C. Ewers. Frank Bird Linderman's correspondence with Chippewa Chief Big Rock also indicated Big Rock explained not only Rocky Boy's assassination, but Big Rock's own son's were also assassinated by rival Cree in the Ft. Assiniboine area in the days after Chief Rocky Boy's death.<Linderman Papers, Plains Indian Museum, Browning, MT>
- Pennato: The brother of Rocky Boy, Pennato had suggested that the Fort Assinniboine Military Reservation become a new closed Chippewa-Cree Reservation. In December 1911, Pennato and 150 Chippewa fled the Babb Chippewa Reservation. (Source needed).
With respect to enrollment in Rocky Boy, because the reservation was established by an Act of Congress for "Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Indians and such other homeless Indians," the language of the law was intended in 1908 by Chief Rocky Boy and Thralls B. Wheat, to leave the door to enrollment open to his brethren who were away on a hunt at the time of the Wheat Census. <Chippewa oral history of the Robert Gopher family>. The Chief Big Rock family were away as was often done, Chippewa bands separate during hunting excursions, hunting in western Montana. Because they were not directly enumerated in the Wheat census, Chief Rocky Boy inserted the language of the Act to include Big Rock's extended family. The language of the Act was not intended to include anyone other than the whole Rocky Boy band, and was limited to Big Rock's family. Ironically, Big Rock is listed on the 1917 McLaughlin census. Chief Big Rock's place of birth is listed as Red Lake, Minnesota. This is the true and legitimate successor to Chief Rocky Boy. Some oral history has indicated Big Rock was Chief Rocky Boy's brother, moreover, Chippewa have held Big Rock to be the main "ogemaw" and Rocky Boy was more of a spokesman to him, or a sub-chief. Only the present day Bearwalker family line are the living descendants of Chief Big Rock. After Little Bear took over the affairs of the soon to be established reservation, and the flight to Chief Mountain—Big Rock's family perished on Chief Mountain, from the combined effects of tuberculosis and starvation.
Chief Rocky Boy had been under increased pressure to add the Cree and Metis to his rolls by government officials. Even after the reservation was to be created, in the spring of 1916, Frank Bird Linderman met with Chief Big Rock in northside, Great Falls, and other Chippewa tribesmen including Standing Rock, Pat Raspberry, Crazy Boy (Chief Rocky Boy's brother), and Charles Mosney. On his death bed, and his last letter to Frank B. Linderman, Rocky Boy stated "I don't know if I will ever see you again, Little Bear (referring to their inclusion, along with Metis led by Kennawash)... is trying to get them all in. It is up to my band of Chippewa Indians to let them in." Rocky Boy's understanding of the working of tribal sovereignty is correct. <Worchester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832>.
There is a legal theoretical split, those that attempt to document and claim a Chippewa Cree identity, and the original descendants of Rocky boy's Chippewa band who reject these claims. Ethnologist John C. Ewers writes in Ethnological report on the Chippewa Cree tribe of the Rocky Boy Reservation and the Little Shell band of Indians / [by] John C. Ewers. History of the Cree Indian territorial expansion from the Hudson Bay area to the interior Saskatchewan and Missouri plains [by] Floyd W. Sharrock [and] Susan R. Sharrock.
Ewers, John Canfield. Ethnological report on the Chippewa Cree tribe of the Rocky Boy Reservation and the Little Shell band of Indians / [by] John C. Ewers. History of the Cree Indian territorial expansion from the Hudson Bay area to the interior Saskatchewan and Missouri plains [by] Floyd W. Sharrock [and] Susan R. Sharrock Published New York : Garland Pub. Inc., 1974.
The Chippewa view the Department of the Interior's mishandling of the 1908 roll, the raising of an illegal 1917 McLaughlin Roll, and the mismanaged Pembina judgments as overreaching paternalism roundly rejected by the majority of U.S. tribes into one tribe's affairs. Ewers wrote "it will be for courts to decide if a Chippewa Cree tribe existed prior to 1935," foretelling the contemporary conflict. To the trained ethnologist's eye, the writing was on the wall 40 years ago. Ewers also correctly predicted this matter would ultimately be decided on contentious terms, most likely the courts.
The constitution provides for enrollment for a member of the "Chippewa Cree Tribe." Namely, the Constitution allows any Indian not otherwise enrolled in MT, to enroll," unofficially, it allows any Indian who has simultaneous enrollment in Canada to enroll <BIA Area Director Keith Beartusk> It unofficially provides for Cree blood quantum, even though the Cree tribe does not have a U.S. treaty.
Notes and references
- "Rocky Boy's Reservation Demographic and Economic Information" (PDF). lmi.mt.gov. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
- Associated Press (28 March 2011). "Census shows growth at 4 Montana reservations". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- Stamper, Ed (2008). The history of the Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. Box Elder, Montana: Stone Child College. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- Letter to Darryl LaCounte, Billings Area Director
- "Main Page". Chippewa Cree Tribe. Archived from the original on 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- "Chippewa Cree tribe cashes in on high-interest online loans". The Missoulian. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
- "Northern Winz Casino". Chippewa Cree Tribe. Retrieved 2007-09-20.[dead link]
- Our Saviour's Lutheran Church - Our Church
- Rocky Boy Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land, Montana United States Census Bureau
- Stamper, Ed (2008). The history of the Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. Box Elder, Montana: Stone Child College. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation official website
- Constitution & By-Laws of the Chippewa Cree Tribe
- Rocky Boy High School
- Rocky Boy Reservation Records (University of Montana Archives)
- Record of the Congressional Act establishing this reservation in 1916.