Gros Ventre Tribe

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Not to be confused with the Hidatsa (formerly Gros Ventre of the Missouri (River)). See Gros Ventre (disambiguation).

Alternate Names: A-A-Ni-Nin, Gros Ventre, Gros Ventres

Gros Ventre
Gros Ventre Indian- Assiniboin Boy byEdward S Curtis Collection People.jpg
2010 2,738 (Reservation Population) 
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Regions with significant populations
Ancestral Homelands: Milk River branch of the Missouri River in northern Montana; they also migrated into Saskatchewan; they also lived throughout the entire land area of the original (created on October 17, 1855) Blackfeet Reservation

Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana as well as the Blackfeet Reservation, Fort Peck Reservation, Hill 57 Chippewa community, and Rocky Boy's Reservation.


Federally recognized

Linguistic Group


Cultural Group


Other Related Ethnic Groups

Arapaho, Cree, Assiniboin

Tribal Headquarters[edit | edit source]

Fort Belknap Indian Community
656 Agency Main Street
Harlem, MT 59526
Phone: 406-353-2205

History[edit | edit source]

These Chippewa People have lived in the Montana region for as long as 1,500 years. Tribal Prophecy led their leaders to migrate west, for they knew their future involved an event they had no choice but to take very seriously. In the early 17th century, the whites (the French) made contact with the Chippewas who lived east of Lake Superior. They named the eastern Lake Superior Chippewas the Saulteaux. In French, Saulteaux means People of the Falls.

Gros Ventre People are also known as People of the Waterfalls or Waterfalls People. They are the Saulteaux of Montana. They originally lived along the Great Falls of the Missouri River. They are also known as White Clay People or White Earth People. The Gros Ventre are probably the Pembina Chippewas who signed the March 3, 1873, Treaty which created a new Chippewa Reservation within the White Earth Indian Reservation (Minnesota). Click this link to read the March 3, 1873 Treaty.

Gros Ventre People are actually the northern Arapaho. Both are the same Chippewa People. The southern Arapaho and southern Cheyenne, are the Chippaway People who lived in theTexas Panhandle region. According to Lewis and Clark, the Chippaway inhabited a delightful land with an agreeable climate. Clark wrote about the Eastern Indians while wintering at Fort Mandan, in 1804-1805.

Click this link to read Clarks information. Scroll down to number 53. That is the proof the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Gros Ventre are Chippewa or Chippaway. Click this link to read about the 1874 Red River War. It was fought exactly where the Chippaway People lived.

The Gros Ventre separated from the Arapaho in the mid 1650s. Part of the tribe went to Canada and settled new Eagle Hills.

The tribe had early trade relations with the Cree. The earliest recorded contact with non-Native Americans occurred in 1754.

In the 1780s and 1790 the tribe migrated to the Upper Missouri River. In so doing they encroached on the Crow Indians and came into conflict with the Cree and Assiniboin. They sought alliance with the Blackfeet Indians. The inter-tribal conflict led to 400 Gros Ventre Indians being killed by the Cree and Assiniboin in 1835 at Sweetgrass Hill.

A Treaty was signed in 1855 with the U.S. Government, at the mouth of Judith River, in the Territory of Nebraska, with the Gros Ventres, Blackfoot, Piegan, Blood, Flathead, and Nez Perce, which established a common hunting ground.

In the 1860s, inter-tribal conflicts caused war, and the tribe joined forces with the Crow to defeat the Blackfeet, who were once their allies. The tribe suffered a major loss to the Piegan Indians.

Fort Belknap was built about 1871 to provide a place for the Gros Ventres to receive their annuities and other supplies. While it was discontinued for two years from 1876 to 1878, it was re-established in the latter year.

St. Paul's (Catholic) Mission was established in 1887.

In 1888, the Fort Belknap Reservation was established and the Gros Ventre Tribe was placed on it, along with some of the Assiniboin.

The Gros Ventres adopted their By-Laws in June 1936 as part of the Three Affiliated Tribes, under the Indian Reorganization Act.

Brief Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1650: The Gros Ventre separated from the Arapaho and moved northwest, to Eagle Hills in Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 1700: The tribe traded with the Cree
  • 1780: Smallpox epidemic
  • 1780: The tribe migrated south to Upper Missouri River; by doing so they encroached on the Crow. Sought alliance with the Blackfeet.
  • 1790: Tribal problems with the Cree and Assiniboin
  • 1824-66: The tribe was under the jurisdiction of the Upper Missouri Agency
  • 1835: 400 Gros Ventre killed by Cree and Assiniboin at Sweetgrass Hill
  • 1851 September 17, Fort Laramie in Indian Territory,with Sioux, Gros Ventre, Assiniboin, Blackfeet, Crow, Dakota, Cheyenne, Arapho,and Mandan
  • 1855 October 17, with the Blackfeet
  • 1866 July 27, Agreement at Fort Berthold-unratified
  • 1855-69: The tribe was under the jurisdiction of the Blackfeet Agency
  • 1864-80: The tribe was under the jurisdiction of the Montana Superintendency
  • 1866: Treaty
  • 1867-80: The tribe was under the jurisdiction of the Fort Berthold Agency
  • 1867: The tribe suffered major losses by Piegan
  • 1888: Placed on the Fort Belknap Reservation in northern Montana; the Assiniboin also came to the Fort Belknap Reservation.
  • 1896: The Gros Ventre and Assiniboin coerced to sell land by government (gold had been discovered in area known as Little Rockies.)
  • 1909: Battle may have been fought south of Fort Belknap Reservation. At the time, American leaders were negotiating with Montana Chippewa leaders and the Indian agent at Fort Belknap, William R. Logan, was deeply involved. The Fort Peck Reservation Land Act was causing serious trouble with the Chippewas of Fort Peck Reservation.
  • 1909: Indian Agent Franck Churchill requested and received an area of land covering 60 townships or 2,160 sq. mi. for Montana Chippewas, especially fromFort Peck Reservation. Serious trouble was happening in Montana at the time. The 1908 Swan Valley Massacre and the possible battle fought south of Fort Belknap Reservation in 1909. The 2,160 sq. mi. was probably added on to the Fort Belknap Reservation, especially the areas south to the Missouri River and west where the entire Bear Paw Mountain Range is located. The new Chippewa Reservation was not just created then forgotten. It is still there.

Additional References to the History of the Tribe and/or Band[edit | edit source]

Reservations[edit | edit source]

The primary reservation for the Gros Ventre Indians is the Fort Belknap Reservation, which they share with the Assiniboin.

Records[edit | edit source]

The majority of records of individuals were those created by the agencies. Some records may be available to tribal members through the tribal headquarters.They were (and are) the local office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and were charged with maintaining records of the activities of those under their responsibility. Among these records are:

Agencies[edit | edit source]

The following agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs had jurisdiction over the Gros Ventre for the time periods indicated. BIA agencies were responsible to keep such records as census rolls, allotment (land) records, annuity rolls, school records, correspondence, and other records of individual Indians under their jurisdiction. For details, see the page for the respective agency.

Superintendenies[edit | edit source]

Montana Superintendency

St. Louis Superintendency

Central Superintendency

Washington Superintendency

Dakota Superintendency

Idaho Superintendency

Census Records[edit | edit source]

The Bureau of Indian Affairs compiled annual Indian Census Rolls on many of the reservations from 1885 to 1940. They list the names of individuals, their age, and other details about each person enumerated. For more information about these records, click here.

The following table lists the census rolls for the Gros Ventre Indians:

Agency Location of Original Records

Post-1885 Census

M595 RG 75 -- 692 Rolls

Roll Numbers


Film Numbers

Fort Belknap, 1885-1939 Seattle 126-131 Films 576481-576486

Correspondence Records[edit | edit source]

There are several sets of correspondence between the supervising offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the local offices -- agencies, subagencies, etc. The correspondence is often historical in nature, including reports of the conditions among local groups of Indians, hostilities, plans for building facilities, activities of traders or missionaries, etc. Occasionally, there will be names of individuals but little detail about them. For more information about American Indian correspondence, click here.

The following table lists some correspondence relating to the Gros Ventre Indians:

Agency Location of Original Records


M234 RG 75 -- 962 Rolls

Roll Numbers




Upper Missouri, 1824-66 Washington D.C. 883-888 -
Montana Superintendency 1864-80 Washington D.C. 488-518 -
Fort Berthold, 1867-80 Denver, Kansas City, Seattle 292-299 -

Treaties[edit | edit source]

During the latter part of the 18th Century and most of the 19th Century, treaties were negotiated between the federal government and individual Indian tribes. The treaties provide helpful information about the history of the tribe, but usually only include the names of those persons who signed the treaty. For more information about treaties, click here.

Treaties to which the Gros Ventre Indians were a part were:

  • 1851September 17, Fort Laramie in Indian Territory,with Sioux, Gros Ventre, Assiniboin, Blackfeet, Crow, Dakota, Cheyenne, Arapho Manda
  • 1855October 17, with the Blackfeet
  • 1866 July 27, Agreement at Fort Berthold-unratified

Tribal Office Records[edit | edit source]

The Tribal Office is responsible for enrollment records, vital records, tribal police records, tribal court records, employment records and many others. They are an entirely different set of records from those kept by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Most of them remain in the Tribal Office. For details, contact that office at the address for the Tribal Headquarters listed above.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Prior to the Indian Reorganization Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, through their agencies, may have recorded some vital events. Some were recorded on health forms, such as the "Sanitary Record of Sick, Injured, Births, Deaths, etc." Others were recorded as supplements to the "Indian Census Rolls." Some were included in the unindexed reports and other correspondence of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Some vital records for the Gros Ventre Indians include:

  • Fort Belknap, M595, birth and deaths, early - 1935, FHL | Film: 576485 and births and deaths, 1936-1939, FHL | Film: 576486
  • Fort Berthold, M595, births and deaths, 1926-1932, FHL | Film: 576490and births and deaths,1936-1939, FHL | film: 576491

Important Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

General[edit | edit source]