Before the white settlers arrived, two main groups of Indian tribes lived in the region that is now Montana.
The Arapaho, Assiniboine, Atsina, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, and Crow tribes lived on the plains.
The mountains in the west were the home of the Bannack, Flathead, Kalispell, Kootenai, and Shoshone tribes.
Other nearby tribes (such as the Sioux, Mandan, and Nez Perce) hunted in the Montana region. When the first white traders came west, there may have been as many as 15,000 people belonging to the Blackfeet Nation living in this area.
Each of these tribal cultures worshipped all sources of life and believed the earth was sacred. Their contact with white traders and the introduction of guns and horses into these societies changed them forever and made them dependent upon trade for their existence.
Their use of horses for hunting made them much more efficient in killing and processing the bison upon which they depended for their every need. However, the planned slaughter of the buffalo instrumented by the US Government, and accomplished in a short 10-15 year period, nearly led to their demise.
FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED MONTANA TRIBES
(Federal List Last Updated 5/16)
- Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation
- Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana
- Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy's Reservation
- Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation
- Crow Tribe of Montana
- Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana
- Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation
STATE RECOGNIZED MONTANA TRIBES
(Not recognized by the Federal Governemnt)
- Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, Letter of Intent to Petition 4/28/1978;Proposed Finding 7/21/2000
UNRECOGNIZED / PETITIONING MONTANA TRIBES
- Ahon-to-ays Ojibwa Band (aka Rocky Boy Ojibway Band). Incomplete letter of Intent to Petition 2/1/1996
- Swan Creek & Black River Chippewa
PRE-HISTORIC CULTURES IN MONTANA
- 80,000,000- 60,000,000 B.C. - Dinosaurs die off in Montana
- 2,000,000-20,000 B.C. - Series of glacial ice sheets cover portions of Montana
- 15,000-13,000 B.C. - Asiatic people migrate over land bridge to Montana
- 8,000-6,500 B.C. - Prehistoric people develop communal hunting techniques in Montana
- 6,500 B.C.-1,500 A.D. - Prehistoric people populate all areas of Montana.
The first inhabitants of the area now known as Montana were nomadic people who followed the mammoth and the buffalo and gathered plants. Although some tribal people believe their ancestors have lived in the northern Rocky Mountain region since the world began, archaeologists believe the first inhabitants crossed the Bering Strait from Asia around 12,000 years ago. There is evidence of a thriving culture living west of the Rocky Mountains as early as 9,000 years ago.
- MontanaTribes.org - A web site about Montana’s Indian tribes that offers hours of video interviews with Native people, learning activities and other resources.