July 14, 2012

Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation


The Rocky Boy’s Reservation lies in north-central Montana near the Bear Paw Mountains. The smallest of all the Montana reservations, it is home for about half of the 4,714 enrolled members of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe.

The reservation, part of the old Fort Assiniboine Military Reserve, is the smallest in Montana and was established by executive order in 1916. Chief Rocky Boy (Chippewa) and Little Bear (Cree) were instrumental in getting the reservation set aside for their people.

Official Tribal Name: Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation

Address:  PO Box 620, RR 1, Box Elder, MT 59521

Chippewa Cree t-shirt

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Annishinabe Ne-i-yah-wahk – Original People. (Chippewa)

Today the Anishinaabe have two tribes: Ojibway/Ojibwe/Chippewa (Algonquian Indian for “puckered,” referring to their moccasin style) and Algonquin (probably a French corruption of either the Maliseet word elehgumoqik, “our allies,” or the Mi’kmaq place name Algoomaking, “fish-spearing place).

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

The Chippewa and the Cree on the Rocky Boy Reservation were once two separate tribes with different cultural backgrounds.

Chippewa-Cree – Hypenation of the two English names for the tribes that live on this reservation

Alternate names: Rocky Boy Cree, Rocky Boy Chippewa

Alternate spellings / Mispellings: Chipewa, Chipawa, Anishinaabe, Anishinababe, Anishinabeg, Ojibway, Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, Algonquin,  More names for Ojibwe

Ojibwe / Chippewa in other languages:

Aoechisaeronon or Eskiaeronnon (Huron)
Assisagigroone (Iroquois)
Axshissayerunu (Wyandot)
Bawichtigouek or Paouichtigouin (French)
Bedzaqetcha (Tsattine)
Bedzietcho (Kawchodinne)
Dewakanha (Mohawk)
Dshipowehaga (Caughnawaga)
Dwakanen (Onondaga)
Hahatonwan (Dakota)
Hahatonway (Hidatsa)
Jumper, Kutaki (Fox)
Leaper, Neayaog (Cree)
Nwaka (Tuscarora)
Ostiagahoroone (Iroquois)
Rabbit People (Plains Cree)
Regatci or Negatce (Winnebago)
Saulteur (Saulteaux)
Sore Face (Hunkpapa Lakota)
Sotoe (British)
Wahkahtowah (Assiniboine)

Region: Plains 

State(s) Today: Montana

Traditional Territory:

Confederacy: Ojibwe or Plains Ojibwa and Plains Cree 


Reservation: Rocky Boys Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

Land Area:  203, 015 acres, with 112,512 acres remaining that are tribally owned. The rest was sold to non-Indians during the Allotment period.

Tribal Headquarters:  Rocky Boys Agency, Montana
Rocky Boy Agency is located 14 miles southeast of Box Elder, between Havre and Great Falls on U.S. Highway 87. The Tribal Building, BIA Office, Tribal Health Center, elementary school, high school, service station, day care center, Housing Office, Parker Youth Center, and Stone Child College are located here.
Time Zone:  Mountain
B.I.A. Office:  Rocky Boy

The Rocky Boy’s Reservation lies in north-central Montana and is the smallest indian reservation in Montana. It is near the Canadian border and near the Missouri River on its southern edge. Rocky Boy lies partially in the Bear Paw Mountains, while the remainder of the reservation is made up of plains and foothills.

The Rocky Boy’s Reservation is part of the old Fort Assiniboine Military Reserve, and was established by executive order in 1916.

The spring and summers on the Rocky Boy Reservation are fairly mild with an average rainfall of about 8 inches, and a temperature that is rarely greater than 100 degrees farenheit. The winters are cold and the temperature occasionally drops to -40. However, there are frequent mild Chinook winds.

There are three communities on the reservation besides the tribal headquarters at Rocky Boy’s Agency: Box Elder, Duck Creek, and Haystack – which are all quite tiny and limited for commercial services.

BOX ELDER – This community is named after the creek which flows through it and is located approximately 14 miles west of the Agency and is the closest settlement. It consists of a general store, a service station, post office, and school K-12. The town is on U.S. Highway 87, 87 miles from Great Falls, and 20 miles from Havre, Montana. The Bonneau Dam is the prominent topographical feature of the community, as well as a good spot for trout bed pike fishing. Although the creek bottom is fairly wide in most places , very little of it is cleared. Agriculture is currently limited to gardening and hay production on a small scale. Future plans call for cleaning more of the creek bottom so that it may be used for a Christmas tree enterprise and/or the raising of forage crops. At present, most of the community members are wage eamers. Approximately 662 Indian people reside here.

DUCK CREEK – This community begins on the western outskirts of the Agency and is situated along several miles of the creek for which it is named. It is the gateway to the fishing here. Most residents gain a livelihood from ranching and within the community which has a common water system, recently connected to the main water system for the reservation. Approximately 223 Indian people reside here.

HAYSTACK – Situated around the prominent Haystack Butte (elevation 4,768 feet) and is one of the largest communities on the reservation. It begins about 2 miles east of the Agency and extends northward for several miles. Most of the community is situated in the grassy foothills of the mountains in the northeastern portion of the reservation. It’s residents are ranchers and/or wage earners at the Agency. Approximately 688 Indian people reside here.

The Rocky Boy Housing Authority manages units in the communities and on rural scattered sites through HUD Low Rent and Mutual Help home ownership housing programs. Other housing is available through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service for their employees. Private housing stock is limited.

About half an hour’s drive north of the reservation is the off-reservation town of Havre, MT, where one can find retail stores, chain supermarkets, gas stations, etc. Havre also has affordable housing, a modern hospital, churches, schools and a library.

The Baldy Butte Ski Resort is a favorite downhill ski retreat in the winter. Hunting and fishing are excellent in the area, as are camping, hiking, backpacking and just plain exploring. Many deer, elk, and antelope inhabit the area, as well as the tribally-owned herd of buffalo.

Tribal Emblem:

The seal represents the circle of life on Rocky Boys reservation. Baldy Butte is the sacred mountain of the Tribe:. The Sun represents life rising from the east, to greet the Sun Spirit each morning and to wish for good health and life.

The Sun’s rays also represent the fifteen Sacred Grass Dance Chiefs who are active in preserving the culture of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. The Sun represents the Sacred Grass Dance Drum of the Tribe.

The Sacred Four Bodies writing under the Sun represents good health and good fortune for the Tribe, that we can prosper into the future in education, as well as our customs and traditions integrated into the schools of Rocky Boy.

The Eagle represents strength, wisdom, bravery, and honor. These are all elements conceived from the sacred bird that represents the thunder and lightening of the sacred sky.

The Buffalo, a source of food and shelter for the Indian for many years, is also a sacred animal in the universe representing the source of life, a Sundance element, being the main power of its presence.

Bear Paw tracks represent the Bear Paw Mountains where the Chippewa Cree now make their present home. They also represent the sacred animal, “The Bear,” who is highly regarded as a powerful spirit of the Tribe.

The Teepee is where all values and customs are derived from, the life, and traditions, that the Chippewa Cree have held since the creation of the Red Man.

The Sacred Pipes were held by the last official chiefs of the Chippewa and Cree, Chief Rocky Boy and Chief Little Bear.

The Braid of Sweet grass is an element of communication to the Creator and the Spirits.

The nine Eagle feathers represent the nine elected Chiefs of the Chippewa Cree Business Committee.

Population at Contact: Made up of numerous independent bands, the entire Ojibwe (Chippewa) bands were so spread out that few early French estimates of them were even close. 35,000 has been suggested, but there were probably two to three times as many in 1600. The British said there were about 25-30,000 Ojibwe in 1764, but the the Americans in 1843 listed 30,000 in just the United States. The 1910 census (low-point for most tribes) gave 21000 in the United States and 25,000 in Canada – total 46,000. By 1970 this had increased to almost 90,000.

Registered Population Today: 4,714 members in the Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation tribe. Collectively, there are 130,000 Ojibwe in United States and 60,000 in Canada. The 190,000 total represents only enrolled Ojibwe and does not include Canadian Métis, many of whom have Ojibwe blood. If these were added, the Ojibwe would be the largest Native American group north of Mexico. 

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


The Chippewa Cree Reservation was established by executive order of the President in 1916. The Tribal governments maintain jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservation including all rights-of-way, waterways, watercourses and streams running through any part of the reservation and to such others lands as may hereafter be added to the reservation under the laws of the United States. The Tribal government operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and approved by the Tribal membership.

 Indian Reorganization Act of 1934
Name of Governing Body:  The administration of Tribal government is conducted by the Chippewa Cree Business Committee.

Number of Council members:   6
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  The Business Committee consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary/Treasurer, and six additional Council members which are elected by the Tribal membership.

Elections: Elections are held every two years 

Language Classification:

Language Dialects: Cree, Chippewa, English 

Number of fluent Speakers:



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Forest County Potawatomi
Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Hannaville Indian Community
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
La Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac de Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians
Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Potawatomi
Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Saginaw Chippewa Indians
Sokaogon Chippewa Community
St. Croix Chippewa Indians
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Annual Pow Wow 3rd weekend of August near Rocky Boys Agency (Open to the Public)
Hunting and Fishing, Camping

Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts: Beadwork 






Economy Today:

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs: Polygamy was rare.

Education and Media:

Tribal College:  Stone Child College at the Rocky Boy’s Agency offers post-high school studies and associate degrees in Art and Science. Another option for those who choose to further their education is Montana State University – Northern, in Havre.

Headstart and grades K-12 are available in the Rocky Boy’s school system, and are also available in both Box Elder and the off-reservation city of Havre.


Ojibwe / Chippewa People of Note

Cree People of Note

Actors: Renae Morriseau 



Weaving a story: Artist Jesse Henderson honors his Chippewa-Cree heritage


Drum Groups:


Other Famous Contemporary People:

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

Chippewa and Cree Tribes and Rocky’s Boy Reservation Timeline

In the News:

Further Reading:

The history of the Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation by Ed Stamper (2011-08-25) 

US Tribes C to D
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