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Fort Belknap Reservation
Historical Marker on Hwy 2 & Rte 66, east of Harlem.

Fort Belknap Reservation was established in 1888 when the Gros Ventres, Blackfeet, and River Crows ceded to the government 17,500,000 acres of their joint reservation that had covered all of northern Montana east of the Rocky Mountains. Home for the Gros Ventres and Assiniboines, who had shared hunting rights on the reservation, it was named for Wm. W. Belknap, secretary of war under President U. S. Grant.

The Gros Ventres (French for "big belly" and pronounced "Grow Von") got the name courtesy of the early French fur trappers. Also known as Atsina, the tribe’s own name for themselves is Aa’ninin or "White Clay People." Always a small tribe, they lived in the Red River Valley, North Dakota, from about 1100 to 1400 A.D., then moved west, splitting into two tribes around 1730. One group moved southwest and became the Arapaho, the other northwest, ending up in Montana by the early 1800s. They were close allies to the Blackfeet.

Tradition credits the Assiniboine tribe as separating from the Yanktonai Sioux in the early 1600s. Two of the first ladies of the tribe, wives of leaders, quarreled over an epicurean delicacy, viz. a buffalo heart. The gentlemen chipped in and the tribe split. One faction headed west and became known as the Assiniboine. They call themselves Nakota, meaning "The Peaceful Ones" When the reservation was created, part of the tribe enrolled here and the remainder at Fort Peck, about 180 miles to the east.

Excerpted from "The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia".

Gildford

Like many of the railroad towns along the Hi Line, Gildford was named for a city in another part of the world, in this case, the town of Gildford in England. A mile from today’s town site, trappers wintered at Sage Creek Crossing where there was good feed and water for their horses. When the waters of Sage Creek rose with the spring thaw, they would load their furs on crude rafts and float them to Fort Benton. During the hard days of poor crops and low grain prices, G. Fred Mundy built a flour mill here. He found grain for the impoverished homesteaders and gave them cereal to eat and feed for their animals. The mill is a landmark today and Gildford’s primary industry is as a marketing town for Northern Plains farmers who produce excellent quality hard spring wheat.

Copyright © 2003 Michael Dougherty. Use of this material for radio and television programs, printed media, webcasting, and any other source of mass dissemination is prohibited without permission of the publisher.

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