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Some information about the Gros Ventre of Montana...
The Gros Ventre Tribe of Montana is a tribe of the Northern Plains Indigenous group, located in Northcentral Montana. They live on the Fort Belknap Reservation, which is shared with the Assiniboine tribe. The Gros Ventre live primarily in the south end of the reservation, near the Little Rocky Mountains.
The Gros Ventre, as far as anyone can tell, were once closely affiliated with the Algonquin speaking Arapaho and Cheyenne. It is said that all three tribes together were among the last to migrate into Montana. After they migrated to Montana, the Arapaho moved southwards to the Wyoming and Colorado area. The Cheyenne who migrated with the Gros Ventre and Arapaho also migrated on. Some went to the Oklahoma area, and some stayed in the Tongue River valley. Each tribe was seperate by the time of the signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie.
The earliest known contact of Gros Ventres with whites was around 1754. This contact placed them between the north and south forks of the Saskatchewan River. Exposure to small pox reduced their numbers during this time. Around 1793, in response to attacks by well-armed Cree and Assiniboine, Gros Ventres burned two Hudson Bay Company trading posts. These trading posts were providing guns to the Cree and Assiniboine tribes in what is now present day Canada. In 1826, the Gros Ventre made contact with the German explorer and naturalist, Prince Maximilian. Along with the naturalist painter, Karl Bodmer, they painted portraits and recorded their meeting with the Gros Ventre, near the Missouri River in Montana.
The Gros Ventre, after their migratory break from the Arapaho, were next closely associated with the Blackfeet. It is from this point that most of what is known about the Gros Ventre is found. After joining up with the Blackfeet, the Gros Ventre roamed north central Montana and southern Canada.
In 1855, Isaac Stevens, Governor of the Washington Territory, concluded a treaty (Stat., L., XI, 657) to provide peace between the United States and the Blackfeet, Flathead and Nez Perce Tribes. The Gros Ventre signed the treaty as part of the Blackfeet Nation, whose territory became common hunting grounds for all signatories, including the Assiniboine.
In 1868, the United States government established a trading post called Fort Browning ner the mouth of Peoples Creek on the Milk River. This trading post was originally built for the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine, but because it was built on a favorite hunting ground of the Sioux, it was abandoned in 1871. After the abandonment of Fort Browning, the government built another post. It was called Fort Belknap, and it was established on the south side of the Milk River, about one mile southwest of the present townsite of Chinook, Montana. Fort Belknap was a substation post, the last half of the structure being a trading post. A block house stood to the left of the stockade gate. At the right was a warehouse and an issue building, where the tribe received their rations and annuity goods.
In 1876, the fort was discontinued and the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine receiving annuities at the post were instructed to go to the agency at Fort Peck and Wolf Point. The Assiniboine did not object to going to Wolf Point and readily went about moving; but the Gros Ventre refused to go. If they did, they would come into contact with the Sioux, with whom they could not ride together in peace. They forfeited their annuities rather than move to Fort Peck. In 1878, the Fort Belknap Agency was re-established, and the Gros Ventre, and remaining Assiniboine were again allowed to receive supplies at Fort Belknap. It was at this site that the Fort Belknap reservation was established, in 1888. By an act of Congress on May 1, 1888, (Stat., L., XXV, 113), the Blackfeet, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes ceded 17,500,000 acres of their joint reservation and agreed to live upon three smaller reservations. These are now known as the Blackfeet, Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations. Fort Belknap was named for William W. Belknap, who was Secretary of War.
In 1884, Gold was discovered in the Little Rocky Mountains. Pressure from miners and mining companies forced the tribes to cede sections of the mountains in 1885. Jesuits came to Fort Belknap in 1862 to convert the Gros Ventre people to Catholicism. In 1887, St. Paul's Mission was established at the foot of the Little Rocky Mountains, near Hays. Much of the traditional ceromonies were lost through the course of time following the establishment of the mission. However,the two sacred pipes, The Feathered Pipe and The Flat Pipe remain central to the traditional spiritual beliefs of the Gros Ventre people.
Fort Belknap Indian Community Council was organized under the Wheeler-Howard Act of 1934 (Indian Reorganization Act). The Fort Belknap Council Constitution and Bylaws were approved on December 13, 1935. A corporate charter was ratified August 25, 1937.
The tribal constitution underwent a change in 1995, amending the constitution of the Fort Belknap Indian Community.
EXCERPTS ARE FROM "THE GROS VENTRE OF MONTANA, PART I SOCIAL LIFE" BY THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA PRESS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Gros Ventre, or A'aninin, live primarily in the southern part of the Fort Belknap reservation. Most Gros Ventres live in or around the community of Hays. Hays is located at the foothills of the beautiful Little Rocky Mountains. These "island mountains", were viewed by Lewis and Clark as they passed through the Missouri River, several miles south. The Gros Ventre refer affectionately to the Little Rockies as the "Fur Caps". Though many Gros Ventre tribal members live all over the US and Montana, the Fur Caps welcome them home from whatever direction they may travel from.
The name, "Gros Ventre" comes from the French word, meaning "big belly". It is thought to have came from the motion that the A'aninin made when asked who they were by the French explorers and trappers. One story says that the A'aninin would make a sweeping downward gesture with their hand, outward from the chest to the waist area. To the A'aninin, they were making a reference to waterfalls, possibly on the Saskatchewan River, part of their traditional homeland. This was misinterpreted by the French, hence the "Gros Ventre" label. Many A'aninin leaders and elders refer to themselves by the name, "A'aninin", or the English translation, "White Clay", or "People of the White Clay". "Gros Ventre" is a name given to them by strangers, and it is not how they describe themselves. For the sake of academic research, I will refer to them as the "Gros Ventre", to make it easier to find information.
The Gros Ventre did one outstanding thing that put them in a class apart from most other Plains tribes. They washed their clothing in a clay substance found in streams that came out of the Little Rockies. When rubbed on wet buckskin, the clay caused the material to become very white in color. The streams coming out of the Mission Canyon and Little Rockies contained a clay that was found only in that area. It may have been as a result of the unique rock formations contained in the area, such as the "Mission Canyon Limestone" which is named after the limestone formation found in the Little Rockies.
The Gros Ventre tribe was divided into twelve bands. The bands were called the Coffees, Plenty Bad, Greys, Fast Travelers, Water Horses Once a Day, Upper Quarters, Frozen, Buffalo Overloaded, Tendons, Bloods, Night Hawks, and the Tendouas Assiniboine. These bands camped in this order when the whole tribe was together. The tribe circled their tents together when they were all gathered with an opening towards the east. When the bands were seperated, they usually camped along a waterway, with each family staying close together.
Central to the beliefs of the Gros Ventre are the two sacred pipes of the Gros Ventre; The Flat Pipe and The Feathered Pipe. The pipes were revered and special care was taken to the care of each pipe. Each pipe had a caretaker and respect was given to the power and reverence of each pipe.
The Gros Ventre, as mentioned before, were a part of the Arapaho Nation until the late 1700's or so. The reasons are unclear for the split. But they share a similar language and consider each other in kinship. The Gros Ventre language is of the Algonquin family. It is a difficult language to learn. Estimates of the number of fluent speakers who speak Gros Ventre as a first languge is less than ten. There are many who can speak parts of the language and speak some phrases, but fluency is not widespread. Efforts are being made in the schools, both K-12 and the college level, to introduce the language to new speakers. The creation of the White Clay immersion school at Fort Belknap College has brought the language back to everyday use in the classroom setting. Also, many younger Gros Ventres, such as Terry Brockie and BJ Hammett have become fluent as a result of their work with Gros Ventre elders.
Statistical Information on Fort Belknap
FORT BELKNAP INDIAN COMMUNITY
Fort Belknap Agency
RR 1 Box 66
Harlem, MT 59526
Name of Reservation and Date Established: The Fort Belknap Reservation was established in 1888 by the Sweetgrass Hills Treaty.
Location of Reservation: The Fort Belknap Reservation is located in north central Montana about 40 miles south of Canada and 20 miles north of the Missouri River.
Names of Tribe(s) on Reservation: The Reservation is home to the Assiniboine or Nakota and the Gros Ventre or the White Clay People. Size of Reservation: The Reservation covers 675,000 acres of which about 90% is Indian-owned.
Number of Currently Enrolled Members: There are 6,338 enrolled members (2006). About 50% of the enrolled members live on or near the Reservation.
Description of Government: The Fort Belknap Indian Community Council is composed of 10 members. Eight members (four Assiniboine and four Gros Ventre) are elected every two years. The President and Vice-President (one Assiniboine and one Gros Ventre) run as a team and are elected every four years.
Organized Under Indian Reorganization Act: Yes. The Fort Belknap corporate charter was ratified in 1937.
Self-Governance Compact Tribe: No.
Major Communities on Reservation: Fort Belknap (tribal headquarters), Hays, and Lodge Pole.
Tribal College: Aaniiih Nakoda College www.ancollege.edu
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Where to find more information on the Gros Ventre of Montana.Aaniiih Nakoda College, Tribal Archives, P.O. Box 159, Harlem, Montana, 59526 phone (406)353-2607
Fort Belknap Community Council, Fort Belknap Agency, Harlem, Montana, 59526 phone (406)353-2205
Bilingual Program,Hays-Lodgepole School, Hays/Lodgepole Schools, P.O. Box 110 Hays, Montana, 59527
White Clay Society, contact the Fort Belknap Community Council for more info
Seven Visions of Bull Lodge by George Horse Capture. University of Nebraska Press, 1980.
The Gros Ventre of Montana The Catholic University of America Press, 1957.
Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, V.1 Part IV, Ethnology of the Gros Ventre, by A.L. Kroeber. AMS Press, 1978.
The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis. Johnson Reprint Corporation. 1980.
Shared Symbols: Contested Meanings by Loretta Fowler. Cornell University Press. 1987.
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- Bio and pictures of Gros Ventre warriors
- Keihan's Web A Native American Resource Page
- Indigenous Diabetes Education Alliance Rapid City, South Dakota
- Neewah's Dance Troupe Hays, Montana
- Rocky Mountain Bull Riders Hays, Montana. Contact Shawn Mount at: email@example.com
- Hays-Lodgepole Wins State C Title 2002 State C Champs
- Harlem Wins State B Title 2002 State B Champs
- My Homepage
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Pledge of AllegianceThis flag:
I really honor and respect this flag. God has this land in His hand. Let us all live well and keep healthy
NO BEAN HA
BE BE ABA HA BATE DA
NE DA NAH NO BEAT DA WOO
BE DAN BE DAT DOW
BE DAN BE DAT DOW
OH NE PE E NAN NICK GION
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