1840: DeSmet visits the Small Robes Band of Blackft.
1841: DeSmet founds St. Mary Mission in Bitterroot Valley. Point and Manuel visit the Blackft. December 25 the first five Blackft are baptized by Father DeSmet.
1844: Harvey et al massacred Blackft at Piegan post and ruined trade. 50 lodges of Small robe band destroyed by invasion of Crow. 160 women and children captured. Small Robes down to 20 lodges. Smallpox strikes again.
1845: Culbertson makes a new peace with the Blackft. Monroe camps with the Kutenai at St. Mary. DeSmet approaches Waterton/Glacier area from the north.
1846: DeSmet and Point (Jesuit missionaries) visit Piegan. Jesuit map made. Chief Victor (Flathead) helps the Small Robes (now 12 lodges) defeat a superior force of Crow in retaliation for 1944. In September 2,000 lodges of Blackft, Blood, North Blackft, Gros Ventre, Flathead, Nez Perce attend a mass by Father DeSmet. All wish to learn the “Black Robe” medicine.
1847: Fort Benton is built. Paul Kane hears the Big Horn battle story.
1849: BIA transferred from the War Department to the newly formed Department of the Interior. Blackft wipe out a 52-man Assiniboine horse raiding party.
1850: Treaty. Negotiations begun by Isaac Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory, to provide for a transcontinental railroad route. One outcome considered is moving the Blackfeet off their reservation. Alfred Cumming, head of the Central Indian Affairs Superintendency in St. Louis, came to incorporate the Blackft and Gros Ventre into the “Peace of the Plains” becaues they were not in Fort Laramie in 1851 when the others signed. Part of this treaty was the allotment of $15,000 for the instruction of Indians in proper agricultural skills. Annuity goods delivered through the Chouteau Company (successor to the American Fur Company).
1851: Cholera epidemic on the upper Missouri. Laramie Treaty Council defines the hunting grounds of the various plains Indians.
1853: Isaac Stevens meets with the Blackft to prepare a treaty. He remarks that the “quantity of buffaloes is unbelieveable.”
1854: Lieutenant Doty and Monroe explore eastern Glacier Park area. Crow forego Laramie Treaty annuities for fear of the Blackft.
1855: Isaac Stevens makes Judith Treaty (AKA “Lame Bull Treaty”). $15,000 gift. First treaty between Blackft and U.S. Government. No more Small Robes band left.
1856: Edwin Hatch appointed first agent for the Blackfeet Agency. He was present for five out of the next nine months.
1856: Lame Bull, chief signer of the Judith Treaty, is killed when his horse is run over by a large bull during a hunt.
1857: “The Slipping Year.” Area is covered with ice. Agent Vaughn establishes the Sun River Farm. Alfred Vaughn came as a replacement. He was married to an Indian and had worked for the Office of Indian Affairs for fifteen years. Complained constantly to the government about the quality of annuity goods. Smallpox strikes again.
1858: Thomas Blakiston explores Waterton and northern Glacier. Estimate 7,000 Blackft.
1859: Jesuits accept Alfred J. Vaughn’s invitation to build a mission among the Blackft.
1860: Boundaries of the reservation surveyed. Bull Society (for the big powerful men) dies out. First steamship makes it to For Benton.
1861: Henry Reed is the next agent. Described as “weak and inept.” That same year the Blackft annuities supposedly burned with the steamboat Chippewa. Chouteau offered to replace them from his own stock. Reed put Malcolm Clarke in charge of the problem. Suggestions of graft.
1862: The Mullan Road is in progress. The annuities came with no proper bills of lading and 20 boxes were missing.
1863: Reed goes home to Iowa. 18-month gap with no agent. James Vail is the supervising farmer, evidently not a good one. There is an eclipse in summer. Smallpox again.
1864: Montana Territory created. Gad E. Upson is next agent. He is inexperienced and into private mining. Whiskey trade booming. Goods arrived late, damaged and incomplete. Vail is still hired.
1865: Meagher attempts unauthorized treaty with Blackft which precipitates hostilities at Fort Benton. Fighting between Blackfeet and white settlers. Another reservation push-back of boundaries: never ratified, signed by a minor chief passing by. Residents of Fort Benton, where the agency is, attack Bloods who retaliate against woodcutters. (They sold the wood to steamships.) Upson negotiated a treaty, but died on the way to Washington, D.C. Deputy Agent Hirum Upham became a clerk to Indian Trader T.C. Power & Co. Whiskey trade flourishes.
1866: Little Dog and son assassinated. George B. Wright becomes agent. He rents warehouse space from William J. Clarke, a business partner of the late Gad Upson. Wright does a lot of traveling. He is accused of selling annuity goods.
1861 to 1866: War between Blackft and Gros Ventre, who are now starving.
1887: Acting governor Thomas Francis Meagher issues a proclamation for volunteers to join the war against the Blackft. Idea terminated when Meagher takes a dive in the night from a steamboat at Fort Benton and is never seen again. (For a novelized biography of the fiery Irish Meagher, try “The Exile” by Richard S. Wheeler.) The new governor, Green Clay Smith, is ex-officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Montana. He asks for the Indian goods money in cash to his own account, but can’t keep track of it. Uses Indian money to pay his own debts and gambles some of it. Agency is moved to Teton river and then Milk River. Special Agent Nathaniel Pope finds the situation corrupt and recommends reform.
1868: Sioux Treaty of 1868 gives the Teton Sioux the Black Hills. Special Agent William J. Cullen recommends reform.
1869: First rebellion of Riel in Canada. Prospectors are arriving. Three Persons Agency is established at Choteau and headquarters are moved there. Site picked by chiefs. (Now marked with huge stones. An excellent video of kids visiting the site is available through Piegan Institute, PO Box 909, Browning, MT. 59417)
1869-70: Years of hunger and smallpox, violence and whiskey trade. Much interference from the “merchant princes” I.G. Baker and T.C. Power.
1870: The "Baker" Massacre
The whole situation cries out for comparison with today’s Afghanistan and Iraq. If you're doing original research, some records are in Helena.
- Blackfeet Agency records, 1856-1857
- This collection consists of Blackfeet Indian agency annual reports (1856-1857, 1879) by E. A. C. Hatch, Alfred Vaughn, and John Young; and a letter (March 24, 1874) from agent R. F. May to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, opposing a change in reservation boundaries. [1857 report is handwritten; 1856 and 1879 reports are typed transcripts]
- Item info:
- 1 copy at Montana Historical Society Research Center.