Blackfeet Nation

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Blackfeet IndiansThree chiefs Piegan.jpg
1909 4,635 [1]
1858 abt. 7,000 [2]
1790 abt. 9,000 [3]

Regions with significant populations
Ancestral Homelands: Along the Saskatchewan River in Canada and the upper Missouri River in the United States

Blackfeet Reservation in Montana.
Portions of the tribe also reside on three reserves in the Province of Alberta in Canada.


Federally recognized

Linguistic Group


Other Related Ethnic Groups

Siksika or North Blackfeet; Kainah or Bloods; Piegan

Alternate Names and Spellings: Blackfeet[4], Blackfoot and Blackfoot Nation[5]; Pecunnie, Pikuni[6], Siksika

Tribal Headquarters[edit | edit source]

Blackfeet Nation
640 All Chiefs Road
Browning, MT 59417
Phone: 406-338-7521

History[edit | edit source]

Chief Mountain Blackfeet Indians.jpg

Originally the Blackfeet lived in the Saskatchewan River Valley of Saskatchewan, Canada, and the upper plains of the United States. By 1850 the tribe had moved to the Rocky Mountains and Missouri River areas.

Smallpox epidemics depopulated the tribe through the 1800s, especially during the years of 1837, 1845, 1857, 1869 and 1870 when the disease was most virulent. In the 1837 epidemic, approximately 6,000 members of the tribe were killed by the disease[7].

Inter tribal conflicts occurred somewhat frequently when the Blackfeet raided neighboring tribes to acquire horses.

In the 1855 Treaty, also known as Lame Bull's Treaty, much of the Blackfeet territory became a common hunting grounds for Piegan, GrosVentres, Blackfeet, Nez Perces, Flathead, and Blood.

A treaty between the United States government and the Blackfeet Band of Sioux (often mistaken as the Blackfeet Tribe) was signed in 1865. This treaty did not include the Blackfeet of Montana.

Advancement by settlers to the west created conflict and military actions were taken. One such action occurred in 1870 when a military unit under the direction of Colonel E. M. Baker attacked the winter camp of the Blackfeet on the Marias River, killing 170 men, women, and children and taking 140 prisoners.

With efforts begun as early as 1880, the Jesuits formally dedicated the Holy Family Mission on the Blackfeet Reservation in 1890. They also established a mission school on the reservation in 1895. The Mission was closed in 1941. An inventory of the records of this mission is available through Archives West[8].

In 1888 the Blackfeet were gathered to the Blackfeet Reservation with headquarters at the present town of Browning, Montana. In the years 1907 to 1911, land on this reservation was allotted to individual members of the tribe.

Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Blackfeet became a federally-recognized tribe, with their own Constitution and By-Laws, approved and ratified in the fall of 1935.

Brief Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1700s and 1800s: Living in Canada
  • 1837, 1845, 1857, 1869-70: Smallpox epidemics
  • Prior to 1850: moved west and south to the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri River areas
    They raided the camps of the Crow, Assiniboin, Cree, Kutenai, Kalispel (or Pend d'Oreille) and Flathead tribes in search of horses
  • 1855: Treaty (Lame Bull's Treaty)
  • 1865: Treaty at Fort Sully involving the Blackfeet Band of Sioux, often mistaken for the Blackfeet Tribe
  • 1870: Colonel E. M. Baker attacked the Blackfeet winter camp on the Marias River in Montana, killing 173 men, women and children and taking more that 140 prisoners.
  • 1877: ceded land in Canada
  • 1880's: settled on reservations in the United States and Canada
  • 1886: ceded land
  • 1888: gathered to Blackfeet Reservation
  • 1895: ceded land
  • 1907-1911: land on the Blackfeet Reservation was allotted to individual members of the tribe
  • 1935: Adopted Constitution and By-Laws
  • 1964: Two Medicine Dam flood, claimed 30 lives on the Blackfeet Reservation, many of them children.

Additional References to the History of the Tribe[edit | edit source]

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 Blackfeet 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.

The agencies which had jurisdiction over portions of the Blackfeet in the United States were:

Blackfeet Agency, 1855-present
Blood Agency, 1890-1896, 1907-1913
Piegan Agency, 1890-1913
Rocky Boy's Agency, 1907-1913

The Blackfeet Tribe was also under the jurisdictions of the following Superintendencies

Montana Superintendency

Washington Superintendency

Central Superintendency

Dakota Superintendency

Idaho Superintendency

Census (a specific type of record kept by the BIA Agencies)[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 Blackfeet:

Agency Location of Original Records

Post- 1885 Census
M595 RG 75 -- 692 Rolls
Roll Number

Film Number

Blackfeet Agency, 1890-1939 National Archives in Washington D.C. Rolls 3-11 FHL 573849-573857

Correspondence[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 of the correspondence records relating to the Blackfeet Indians:

BIA Field Office Location of Original Records

Pre-1880 Correspondence
M234, RG 75 -- 962 Rolls
Roll Number

Film Number

Upper Missouri Agency, 1824-1874 National Archives in Washington D.C. Rolls 883-888 FHL 1661613-1661618
Upper Platte, 1846-1870 National Archives in Washington D.C. Rolls 889-896 FHL 1661619-1661626
Blackfeet Agency, 1855-1869 National Archives in Washington D.C. Roll 30 FHL 1660760
Montana Superintendency, 1864-1880
National Archives in Washington D.C. and Kansas City Regional Archives of NARA Rolls 488-518 FHL 1661218-1661248

Some correspondence for the following field offices may be included in the records of those offices preserved in the research facilities indicated.

BIA Field Office Location of Original Records General Agency Records

Film Number

Cheyenne River/Standing Rock, 1862-1957 Washington D.C. and Kansas City Regional Archives of NARA
- -
Blackfeet Agency, 1873-1927 Washington D. C. and Denver Regional Archives of NARA
- -
Blackfeet Agency, 1875-1952 Washington D.C. and Seattle Regional Archives of NARA
- -

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 Blackfeet Indians were a part were:

  • September 17, 1851, referred to in treaty, at Fort Laramie
  • 1855 October 17,
  • 1865 October 19, at Fort Sully -- this treaty was with the Blackfeet band of Sioux Indians, not the Blackfeet Tribe. They are two different entities or groups.
  • April 29, 1868, at Fort Laramie

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 Blackfeet Indians include:

Important Websites[edit | edit source]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Blackfeet Tribe[edit | edit source]

  • Carlson, Paul H. The Plains Indians. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, c1998. FHL 970.1 C197
  • DeMarce, Roxanne. Blackfeet Heritage, 1907-1908; Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Browning, Montana. Browing, Montana: Blackfeet Heritage Program, [1980]. FHL book 970.3 Si29b.
  • Gilham, Robert C. (comp.) Blackfeet Nation Family History: A Compilation of Records of Members of the Blackfeet Nation and Some Non-Indian Relatives. Riverton, Utah: R.C. Gilham, [199-?]. 4 volumes. (All on FHL 2056034)
Vol. 1 -- Joseph to Double Blaze, George
Vol. 2 -- Double Blaze, Hamilton to Little Dog, Maggie
Vol. 3 -- Little Dog, Mary to Running
Vol. 4 -- Running After Buffalo to Ziegler

General[edit | edit source]

See For Further Reading.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Frederick Webb Hodge. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1906.
  2. Frederick Webb Hodge. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1906.
  3. Frederick Webb Hodge. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1906.
  4. The official tribal name is Blackfeet, as recognized by the U.S. Government and as used by the tribe itself on their official website.
  5. The name Blackfoot was used by the federal government in the Treaty of 1855.
  6. State Office of Indian Affairs website for the Blackfeet Indians
  7. Our History, from the Tribal website of the Blackfeet Nation.
  8. Archives West provides access to archival and manuscript collections in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington