• Betsy Berger was a member of one of the first Metis families to come to Fergus County, Montana in 1879 and lived there the rest of her life. Courtesy of the Lewistown Public Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Betsy Berger
    • Creator
    • Unknown.
    • Description
    • Mrs Betsy Berger was born Oct 2 1859. She was one of the first Metis families to come to Fergus County in 1879 and lived here all the rest of her life. She was born in Pembina country of North Dakota, the daughter of Paul and Margaret Gourneau Kiplin... more
      Mrs Betsy Berger was born Oct 2 1859. She was one of the first Metis families to come to Fergus County in 1879 and lived here all the rest of her life. She was born in Pembina country of North Dakota, the daughter of Paul and Margaret Gourneau Kiplin. She met John Berger in the Milk River area and they married on Feb 17, 1876. Her father-in-law was Pierre Berger. She had nine children her eldest daughter being Mrs. Elizabeth Swan. Her husband died on May 1, 1908. She died July 12, 1952. less
    • Rights
    • Https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Lewistown Public Library, Lewistown, Montana

  • "Crow Indians and crowd at point where last spike was driven between Garrison and Gold Creek, M.T." Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Crow Indians and crowd at point where last spike was driven between Garrison and Gold Creek, Montana September 8, 1883
    • Date
    • 1883
    • Creator
    • Haynes, F. Jay (Frank Jay), 1853-1921.
    • Description
    • Vintage negative number : 1548; 11389; 11388.; Indians standing near Northern Pacific Railway's Last Spike Pavilion. Group of white men standing nearby.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

  • This photo was taken in front of the old mission at Stevensville, Montana when General Carrington negotiated the final treaty removing the Flathead Indians to the Jocko Valley. Courtesy of the University of Montana - Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Old mission at Stevensville, Montana
    • Date
    • 1891
    • Description
    • This photo was taken in front of the old mission at Stevensville, Montana, at the time when General Carrington negotiated the final treaty removing the Flathead Indians to the Jocko Valley.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/CNE/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library

  • "Cree Indians, Havre, Montana, 1892." Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Cree Indians, Havre, Montana, 1892
    • Date
    • 1892
    • Creator
    • Unidentified photographer.
    • Description
    • Vintage negative number: Lucke's #76; Group of Indians, in costume, possibly performing for a crowd of onlookers standing, seated on ground and mounted on horses on First Street, Havre, Montana. Lee's Chinese restaurant visible in background.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

American Indians

In the 1850s, treaties were drawn up to define the boundaries of land Indians were reserving for themselves, closely mirroring traditional hunting grounds and tribal territories. Due to language barriers and different styles of governing, confusion reigned. The treaties supposedly gave non-Indians permission to build roads and railroads through the reservations in exchange for annuities. Despite protections promised by the treaties, settlers were encouraged to trespass on Indian lands to log, farm, ranch, and mine. The government sometimes neglected to pay the agreed-upon annuities, and when they did, they paid with low-quality or broken equipment and spoiled food.

The US government wanted to profit from Montana’s natural assets and gave executive orders to reduce the size of reservations and used military force to ensure compliance. The Indians did not believe in land ownership, and this caused problems as assimilation efforts pushed the Indians to settle in one place to farm or ranch. In order to free up more land for white development, Congress passed the Dawes Act in 1887, which divided tribal lands into allotments of 160 acres for each head of household and 80 acres for each single man. Any land left after these allotments were established was considered surplus and sold to white settlers. In Montana, 400,000 acres were surplused.

Many people still felt the tribes were not assimilating fast enough and felt Indian children needed to be raised like white children to speed the process along. Indian children were forcibly taken from their parents and sent to military-like boarding schools to be educated and taught to work.