The Assinaboine are the Nakoda branch of the Sioux. They were once all one tribe, but split due to disagreements and eventually became enemies and separate tribes. There were four Assinaboine treaties with the United States.
The word Assiniboine means “They Who Cook With Rocks.” They are also referred to as Stoney Indians, mainly in Canada.
The Nakoda broke away from the Yanktonai early in the 1600’s in a bitter civil war. They became avowed enemies of the Sioux. After the break, they moved north into what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. They lived in numerous small bands, eventually spreading out so widely that they ceased to become a single unified tribe. (Today there are 564 recognized Assiniboine bands.)
One group, the southern bands, began to settle on the north bank of the Missouri, just before the river makes a great bend and heads south. The southern Nakoda sought to become the dominant trading group on the Upper Missouri. As more Nakoda drifted into the area from the north, they became well established along the upper Missouri.
They were considered war-like, for they continuously fought the Sioux for 300 years and sometimes raided the Hidatsa. It was probably one of these bands who came to trade with Lewis and Clark.<.p>
ASSINABOINE (Nakoda) Treaties
Assiniboine Treaty of 1826
Treaty Of Fort Laramie With Sioux, Etc., 1851
This treaty guaranteed them a large tract of land in north central Montana along the Missouri River. In 1855 the Nakoda joined the Black Feet and Nez Percè in signing a treaty with Isaac Stevens, Governor of the Washington Territory more clearly defining their land. They would live on some 8 million acres bordered on the west by the Black Feet reservation, on the south by the Missouri and on the east by the Sioux nation. An Indian Agency was located at Fort Peck, near the present day town of Poplar, Montana.
For various reasons this area became a magnet for displaced Indian peoples. The Gros Ventre had followed the Nakoda into the area. Though the peoples had warred for fifty years, they finally made peace.
The Gros Ventre settled south of Fort Peck, on what would become the Fort Belknap Reservation. Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux, fled the back lash of the 1862 “Sioux Rebellion” in Minnesota. Again once bitter enemies would live together in peace, out of necessity.
Then in the early 1880’s a number of Hunkpapa Sioux, part of Sitting Bull’s Lakota band settled near Fort Peck; rather than return to their designated home at Standing Rock.
The next decade was hard on the people. It is estimated that at one time nearly 15,000 Indians lived on the Reservation, too many to feed, at least from the stand point of the Indian Agency which had been provided insufficient funding to meet the Government’s promises to the Indians. There were no buffalo to hunt.
Without irrigation the land wasn’t particularly productive, and the growing seasons were short anyway. Then came the winter of 1886, the coldest winter ever recorded on the plains. Cattle died by the tens of thousands, as did people who were inadequately housed or clothed. As many as half the native population would die of cold or hunger. Many others would die over the next five years.
In the mean time, the Indian Agency had decided the population had become too large to feed and manage from one location. They established another post at Fort Belknap.
Treaty with the Assinboines, July 1866 (Unratified)
Treaty of May, 1888
In 1886, predating allotment by a few years, the Nakoda and friends agreed to the formation of two separate reservations, one at Fort Peck and the other at Fort Belknap. This agreement would cost them half their land. In 1895 gold would be discovered on “ceded” land. Though the discovery of gold was not so disastrous to the Indians, as it had been elsewhere, the First Americans got none of it and today live with the environmental consequences.
A treaty was ratified in May 1888, from which the Gros Ventre and the Assiniboine received $1.5 million and the ‘opportunity’ to live on the same reservation encompassing 840,000 acres of prairie and foothills. The land around the Milk River was so desirable it was called The Paradise Lost of the Indians. It would not be long before the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine were forced to share their new reservation with the white settlers as well.