The Rocky Boy Reservation in north-central Montana — home to the Chippewa Cree Tribe — will observe its 100th birthday on September 7.
According to tribal historian Alvin Windy Boy, the tribe left their original homeland in eastern Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains, prior to 1776, when the Ojibway people had heard that a new country was being formed on the North American continent. “After listening to an interpreter, an elder turned to his people and said, ‘My ancients … tell of the coming of the fair-skinned man… You will take your people and go to the (Rocky) mountains.’”
The people started the trek west through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and all the way to Wisconsin. They were given a 13-star flag by the U.S.to show they were a friendly tribe.
After they left Wisconsin, a boy was born and named Stone Child; he would later become a respected elder, and be called Rocky Boy. The tribe split at this point with some going to Canada but the others continued west.
Over 100 years, they kept moving west, and their long trek from the Poconos ended in what is now Montana.
Windy Boy explained how the tribes continued to travel west and would spend time with the Crow and Blackfeet tribes, but eventually made their way to their present lands and with the help of such notables as Frank Bird Linderman, William Bowles and others who assisted Chief Rocky Boy and Chief Little Bear.
Rocky Boy died on April 18, 1916, about five months before the tribe settled on the present reservation in Montana, about 140 years since the tribe had left New York. When the band moved onto the reservation, situated between the Milk and Missouri Rivers, it was named ‘Rocky Boy’ to honor the tribal leader.
“Prior to the turn of the century, 111 of our people over the age of 18 were given 160 acres of allotted land,” Windy Boy said. “When they went out to take a look at those acres north of Browning there were no trees, no game, and then on their way back they were told the government agent had cut each allotment in half to 80 acres.”
Today, Rocky Boy is a beautiful reservation with an attractive college, modern tribal buildings, and is home to roughly 2500 members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. The Bear Paw Mountains provide a backdrop to the rolling foothills and prairie of the reservation.
In early August they celebrated their 52nd annual pow wow with 800 registered competition dancers, 29 drum groups and upwards of a thousand attendees from many reservations and states including many of the tribe’s Cree relatives from Canada.
A youth pow wow was also held a day before the adult pow wow. One notable event is a Native-style triathlon that begins with running, a 4.5 mile mounted horse ride, breaking a balloon with an arrow and a final swim across a reservoir.