Montana Ethnic Group Research
The Salt Lake City FHL, The University of Montana, and the National Archives-Pacific , Alaska Region (Seattle) each have some Native American Agency documents and records on file. Many of them have been microfilmed. These records are vital clues when doing research on Native American history in Montana.
Billings Area Office, Billings, Montana (1912-52): Records from the Billings Area Office, Billings, Montana (1912-52) pertain to tribal lands when they were overseen by the federal government, which was the trustee of those lands at the time. A lot of information relating to those records can be found in the following sources:
Decimal Files, Grazing Leases, Education Records, Health Records , Tribal Enactments, Irrigation Records, Land Transaction Records , Forestry Records, Soil Conservation Records, Agricultural Extension Records, Road Construction Records
Blackfeet Agency, Browning, Montana (1875-1959): Blackfeet Agency records can be found in the following places: General Correspondence, Grazing Permits, Gas and Oil Production Reports, Census Records, Death and Birth Records, Ledgers, Abstracts of Accounts of Individual Indians, Tribal Council Records, Education Records, Road Records, Forestry Records, Irrigation Records, Credit Records, Welfare Records, Rehabilitation Program Records.
The Agency included three different Siksika bands.
Crow Agency, Crow Agency, Montana (1874-1959): The River Crows and Mountain Crows were administered by this agency, which was actually first created in 1869. Originally, the Fort Peck Agency had control of the River Crows. However, they were later transferred to the Crow Agency.
General Correspondence, Decimal Files, Student Case Files, School Censuses, Tract Books, Maps of the Crow Reservations, Grazing Leases, Building Plans, Annuity Payrolls, Ledgers for Accounts of Individual Indians, Records of Goods Issued to Indians, Census Rolls, Indian Court Dockets, Records Concerning Irrigation, Forestry Records, Civilian Conservation Corps Records, Road Program Records
Flathead Agency, St. Ignatius, Montana (1875- 1960): Originally created in 1854, this agency was mainly responsible for the Kutenai, Flathead, and Upper Pend d’Oreille tribes. However, in 1887, the Lower Kalispells also began living on the Flathead Reservation. They were followed by the Spokane tribe, in 1894. Eventually, all of those tribes were simply known as Flathead Indians.
Documents that may contain useful information on the Flathead Indians include: General Correspondence, , Decimal Files, , School Reports and Censuses, Grazing Permits, Leases, Land Allotment and Transaction Records, Other Land Records, Irrigation Records, Civilian Conservation Corps Records, Engineering Records, Forestry and Road Program Records, Account Ledgers for Individual Indians, Census Reports, Welfare and Relief Program Records, Indian Court and Police Records, Credit Program Files, Tribal Accounts, Annuity Payrolls
Fort Belknap Agency, Harlem, Montana (1877-1969): The Fort Belknap Agency was created in 1873. It presided over the Upper Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes, who were living near the Milk River at the time. Records containing Fort Belknap Agency information may include: General Correspondence, Decimal Files, Education Correspondence, School Applications and Reports, Grazing Permits, Leases, Account Ledgers of Individual Indians, Health and Welfare Reports, Census Rolls, Family History Cards, Traders’ Licenses, Court and Police Records, Financial Records, Civilian Conservation Corps Records.
Fort Peck Agency, Popular, Montana (1871-1959): Originally, the Fort Peck Agency was the Milk River Agency, but the name was later changed. The agency’s jurisdiction extended to the Sioux, especially the Yanktonai, and to the the Lower Assiniboine tribe. Records for that agency may include: General Correspondence, Decimal Files, School Reports, Records of 4-H Activities, Grazing Permits, Mining Leases, Account Ledgers of Individual Indians, Credit Rehabilitation Ledgers, Industrial Status Reports, Census Records, Medical Reports, Registers of Indians, Death and Birth Records, Welfare Relief Case Files, Tribal Council Records, Land Allotment and Sale Records, Forestry and Range Management Records, Irrigation Records, Road Construction Records
Native American “Indian schools” were set up to improve the education of Native American children. The Fort Shaw School in Cascade Country, Montana and the Chemawa Indian School in Chemawa, Oregon were two very important Indian schools.
The Fort Shaw School, which was founded in 1892 and closed in 1910, kept several records. They included: Received Letters, Pupil registers, Employee Rosters, Cashbooks.
The James McLaughlin Papers is a large collection of Native American documents. It was compiled by Indian agent, Major James McLaughlin. He was an Indian agent for Wyoming Territory, the Dakotas, and Montana. He kept meticulous records during that time. Those records included a lot of data relating to specific families within the tribes. Several of those families became separated during the time when the government was shuffling Native Americans to various reservations. Many of those scattered family members can be located using the James McLaughlin Papers. The collection contains around 30,000 pages and also has 15,675 cross-reference cards that can make the research process much easier.
The Pacific Northwest Tribes Missions Collection of the Oregon Province Archives of the Society of Jesus (1853-1960) is one of the most important collections of Native American information relating to tribes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. It contains Jesuit records, such as: Births, Marriages, Deaths, Censuses, Land Records, Church Records, Histories, Newspaper Clippings.
Those records include information about each of the following tribes: Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Crow, Flathead, Kalispell, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Spokane, Umatilla
The FHL has those records on microfilm, but the original records are held in Spokane, Washington, at the Crosby Library of Gonzaga University. The Oregon Province Archives are also located there.