Rocky Boy Chippewa-Cree Reservation
home of
Rocky Boy High School

Federal reservation
Chouteau and Hill counties, Montana

Chippewa-Cree Tribe
Rocky Boy Route-Box 544
Box Elder MT 59521
(406) 395-4282
Fax: 395-4497

Total area 120,000 acres

High school graduate or higher 64.3%
Bachelor's degree or higher 6.1%
Per capita income $4278
Total labor force 589
Unemployment rate 32.8%

Total reservation population 1931

Located in north-central Montana, the Rocky Boy's Reservation consists of 120,000 acres which range from rolling high-plains grasslands to the sub-alpine environment of the Bear Paw Mountains. The reservation lies 50 miles south of the Canadian border near the boundary separating the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The nearest town is Havre, 26 miles to the north. The nearest urban center is Greatfalls, which has a population of 57,000 and is located 100 miles to the southwest of the reservation.

The reservation was established in April of 1916, when Congress set aside 56,035 acres for the Chippewa and Cree Bands of Chief Rocky Boy. In 1947 the reservation was expanded by 45,523 acres, bringing it to nearly its current size. None of the land has been allotted, though some individual assignments have been made.

The climate at Box Elder, a town on the western fringe of the reservation, is similar to that of Havre. In January the average maximum temperature is approximately 24 degrees. In July the average maximum temperature is around 85 degrees. In general, temperatures in the Bear Paw

The ethnic origin of the residents of the Rocky Boy's Reservation has remained complex, with the reservation becoming home to a diverse group of Cree, Chippewa, Metis, and Assiniboine peoples. The Cree represent one of the largest Native American groups in North America. While primarily residing in Canada today, a group of Cree settled in northern Montana after the Riel Rebellion in 1885. Led by Little Bear, these Cree eventually, after some three decades, became associated with a band of landless Chippewa under the leadership of Stone Child or Rocky Boy.

In 1915, after a coalition of Montana citizens demanded a reservation for Montana's "homeless" Indians, the Cree and Chippewa were granted a reservation on the westernmost portion of the former Fort Assiniboine Military Reservation. Of course, the very designation of "homeless" when applied to Native Americans represents a complex history of ignorance and disruption of indigenous life-styles on the part of the U.S. government.

The Chippewa-Cree have faced serious economic hardships over the years, and while poverty and unemployment remain a challenge, the tribe can claim some successes in this arena. Cattle grazing, wheat and barley production, development of timber and mineral resources, and tourism all represent solid sources of tribal income and employment today.

Because of the Rocky Boy Reservation's ethnic diversity there remains a rich variety of cultural practices on the reservation. Cree, an Algonquian language, is still spoken, and some tribal members participate in the Sun Dance and sweat lodge ceremonies. Additionally, many members are active in the Native American Church.

The tribe is organized under the 1934 IRA. Tribal members adopted
a constitution in 1935, ratifying their charter the following year. The
governing body comprises a nine-member Business Committee,
elected by popular vote from the reservation's five districts.

Wheat, barley, and cattle are raised on the tribally owned Dry Fork Farm and Ranch. The tribe also owns and operates the Stone Man Farms. Recently, the tribe initiated the Stone Man Agriculture Incentive and Education Project (SMAIEP). The goal of this long-term project is to teach tribal members effective land management practices. Ten tribal members are chosen to participate in the project and are given both economic aid and educational opportunities to pursue a career in agriculture.

Tribal members are employed by the BIA Road Construction Department, which is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the reservation road system. Employment varies depending on the project.

The Rocky Boy Tribe has sought a $200,000 HUD Community Development Block Grant to build Chippewa Cree Meats, a reservation butchering facility. While slaughtering would occur at a licensed packing plant in Havre-all butchering of the locally raised beef would occur at the reservation facility. The store would also sell pork, poultry, seasoned meats, and related products. Although initially targeting only reservation members, the tribe hopes to expand this business, with USDA supervision, into a full-service retail enterprise. This economic development project has been designed to decrease tribal food costs through the facility's convenience and by providing patronage dividends each year from profits. Moreover, the tribe expects Chippewa Cree Meats to serve as an "anchor" for other shops and commercial ventures.

An estimated 175,000,000 board feet of timber is located on 16,000 acres of forested lands on the Rocky Boy's Reservation. Annually the tribe allows 5,000,000 board feet of timber to be cut. The Rocky Boy Forest Project Department uses the reservation's abundant lodgepole pine for posts and poles, sawlog, houselogs, and firewood. Douglas fir and ponderosa pine are also used for sawlogs, and firewood. Currently, the Rocky Boy Forest Project produces finished posts and poles. It is planning to expand its enterprise into a milling operation and a log-home industry

The tribe receives FY92 funding from the BIA for its Woodlands' Management Program. The program's purpose is to seek out means of effectively using the reservation's woodland/hardwood resources. For example, the Woodlands' Management Program initiated the tribe's marketing and production of handcrafted rustic furnishings.

Under the auspices of Rocky Boy Manufacturing, Inc., (R.B.M.), the tribe is involved primarily in steel manufacturing. R.B.M. has successfully renegotiated Chapter II bankruptcy status and is seeking available contracts and joint ventures. The tribe owns a 30,000-square-foot building where the steel manufacturing is completed. This building may be expanded another 35,000 square feet to accommodate larger contracts. R.B.M. is capable of processing 350 tons of steel a month and is currently negotiating a subcontract with Canron West of Portland, Oregon, which would employ 25 to 30 people.

Other than steel manufacturing, R.B.I. is also involved in reverse engineering. Using high- tech CAD systems, R.B.I. works to replace outdated parts in heavy equipment.

While the tribe is not presently involved in mining on reservation lands, the U.S. Bureau of Mines conducted a phase III study to determine the content and mining feasibility of minerals on the reservation. Minerals present with mining potential include: gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, and zinc. The bureau also discovered rare earth minerals upon the reservation such as thorium, niobium, lanthanum, scandium, neodymium, and yttrium.

The results of past oil exploration on the reservation suggest the likelihood of oil reserves. The tribe is presently seeking further seismic studies and oil exploration.

The tribe leases ten producing natural gas wells to the Montana Power Company, with another three capable of production. The tribe also holds a number of antenna leases with local broadcasters who maintain antennas on Bowery Peak and Centennial Mountain.

Currently, the tribe is considering its future strategy for promoting tourism on the reservation. Like many indigenous groups, members of the Rocky Boy's Reservation are attempting to balance their need for revenue with their concern over the impact of outsiders on their cultural practices. One option they are considering is the development of a scenic by-way (perhaps utilizing monies from the Internodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act).

U.S. 87 between Havre and Greatfalls intersects the reservation at Box Elder. Reservation roads total 216 miles with 62 of them providing well paved easy access to major points throughout the reservation. Daily buses service both Box Elder and Havre, while airport facilities in Havre and Greatfalls furnish commercial airline services. Rail service, including Amtrak, is available in Havre on the main east/west line of the Burlington Northern Railroad; a south spur adjoins the reservation.

While community facilities on the reservation are limited, the U.S. Public Health Service provides health care at a clinic in Rocky Boy's and at its hospital in Harlem, Montana, 60 miles away. Montana Power Company supplies electricity to the reservation. The tribe is currently building the Chippewa Cree Multi-Purpose Center, funded by a HUD Grant; its facilities will include a swimming pool, sauna, and a whirlpool. Stone Child College, a tribal community college, is located in Rocky Boy and is dedicated to the maintenance and enhancement of tribal culture and tradition.

All of the above information is from "Tiller's Guide to Indian Country"
by Veronica E. Velarde Tiller.
BowArrow Publishing Company Albuquerque NM USA.
SSBN 1-885931-01-8 Copyright 1996.
Used by permission.