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Fort Peck Agency Assiniboines, Upper Yanktonais, Hunkpapas, Sissetons, and Wahpetons: A cultural history to 1888

Dennis John Smith, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


An analysis of the history of the Assiniboines and four Sioux tribal groups—Upper Yanktonais, Hunkpapas, Sissetons, and Wahpetons—during the early years of the Fort Peck Agency, Montana Territory, 1868–1888. This study argues that the Assiniboines and Sioux sustained their cultural beliefs and practices during the profoundly traumatic years when the bison disappeared and both tribes became dependent upon the U.S. government. Adjustments to agency life were compounded by the extraordinarily underfunded and mismanaged administration of the agency, resulting in near-constant states of hunger and deprivation for both tribal peoples. ^ The study begins with a brief summary of Assiniboine and Sioux origins and cultural history and a survey of their relationships with the United States government and neighboring indigenous nations. Next, the 1868–1888 period at Fort Peck Agency is emphasized. It marked the end of bison hunting, the tragedy of at least two starvation winters in which hundreds of Indians perished, and complications caused by two agency relocations. It was also a time when tribal farming was introduced, agency schools were founded, and the Fort Peck tribal police was established. The study concludes by relating the personal recollections of five tribal elders, interviewed in the oral tradition, as examples of cultural persistence. ^ Research for this study draws extensively from Indian Affairs Office documents. Moderate use is made of federal Indian legal documents and Department of War sources. These writings of non-Indians are interpreted in an ethnohistorical manner in order to present Assiniboine and Sioux points-of-view as fully as possible. The study includes a detailed quantitative analysis of agency censuses over a three-year period (1885–1888) and interviews with tribal elders. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Smith, Dennis John, "Fort Peck Agency Assiniboines, Upper Yanktonais, Hunkpapas, Sissetons, and Wahpetons: A cultural history to 1888" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3022667.