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HISTORY & PREHISTORY

Fort Peck Indian Reservation

Red Bottom Festival

About 6,800 Assiniboine and Sioux live on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and another approximately 3,900 tribal members live off the reservation. The Fort Peck Reservation is in northeastern Montana, forty miles west of the North Dakota border, and fifty miles south of the Canadian border, with the Missouri River defining its southern border. The reservation encompasses over two million acres of land.

A prosperous industrial park in Poplar is one of the largest employers in Montana. A variety of enterprises, including metal fabrication and production sewing, are housed in the park. Other industries, including an electronics manufacturer, flourish on the reservation. Farming, ranching, and oil extraction also contribute to the reservation economy. The Fort Peck Community College is located in Poplar. The college offers associate's degrees in the arts and sciences along with one-year certificates. There is a tribal law library on campus and a cultural center is planned.

Points of interest on the reservation are:

  • Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Culture Center and Museum

The Fort Peck Reservation is the third largest reservation in the state. The Fort Peck Assiniboine have much of the same history as the Fort Belknap tribe, except the band twice separated from the northern band, who remained north in Canada to hunt buffalo on the Great Plains. The powerful Sioux Nation is made up of seven bands or "council fires." All of the bands share a common heritage. The seven bands evolved into three distinct language groups: the Dakotas, the Nakotas, and the Lakotas.

Red Bottom Festival

The Sioux on the Fort Peck Reservation are members of the middle band, the Nakotas. They were outstanding warriors, fighting not only hostile tribes, but also white intruders and the troops that protected them. To the Sioux, fighting was in many ways like a game based on valor and bravery; they might simply touch an enemy, representing a kill, and let him live. The Sioux, like many other tribes, migrated from Canada and Minnesota.

The tribe gave up much of their homeland to the government in a controversial treaty and moved west. The Sioux then occupied much of the Dakotas, eastern Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. In exchange for the right to build the railroad across their land, the Sioux were promised the Powder River Country and part of the Black Hills. Before the ink was dry on the treaty, gold was discovered in the Black Hills. The "rush" was on, miners poured in, and the government tried to buy back the land. The Sioux felt betrayed.

A few years later, in 1876, the government tried to order all of the Indians onto reservations. The Sioux refused. The Battle of Little Bighorn and the demise of Custer's Seventh Calvary was the result. Although the battle was a great victory for the Indians, it signified an end to their way of life. Under constant pressure from the Army, most of the bands eventually went to their designated reservations.

For more information about the Fort Peck reservation contact:

Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes
P.O. Box 1027
Poplar, MT 59255
406-768-5155

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