Fort Belknap Reservation
- Historical Markers/Interpretive Sign
- General info
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.
Location: Hwy. 2 & Rte. 66, east of Harlem
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