The Gallatin Valley has never been the permanent abode of any tribe of Indians, so far as historical records show, but it has been claimed by the Blackfeet, and has been crossed by hunting and fighting parties of the Blackfeet, Crow, Bannock, Nez Perce, Flathead and Snake on their way to the hunting grounds of the Yellowstone, or the trapping grounds of the Snake River plains. The trail was worn deeply into the soil by the moccasins of the Indians and the hoofs of the Indian pony.
A writer who was adopted by the Blackfeet Indians is authority for the following information: When first met by adventurers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Henry, in 1754, and Cocking, in 1772, the three tribes of Blackfeet Indians claimed as their country, their hunting ground, the vast extent of plains and mountains between the Saskatchewan and Yellowstone rivers, and from the summit of the Rocky Mountains between these streams, eastward for an average distance of three hundred miles.
In 1855, at the mouth of the Judith River, the three tribes concluded a treaty with the United States, the so called Stevens Treaty, whereby the government stipulated that the country lying between the Canadian boundary line and the Yellowstone River, and between the summit of the Rockies and a north and south line intersecting the junction of the Missouri and the Milk River, was the country, the property of the Blackfeet tribes. This, of course, included what is now Gallatin County, which they called “Ahkoto Waktai Sakum,” Many-come-together Country, or as we would say, Three Forks of the Missouri Country.
Though this treaty of 1855 was ratified by Congress, President Grant, the Blackfeet claim, without their knowledge or consent, took from them that part of their domain south of the Missouri, and later, President Hayes, in like manner, took from them the plains between the Marias River and its tributary, Birch Creek, and the Missouri.
For the vast country of which they claim they were despoiled, the Blackfeet are asking for $60,000,000 through the United States Court of Claims.
There was an early tradition among the Indians of Montana that Gallatin Valley, called by them the “Valley of Flowers” was neutral ground. The name seems appropriate because of the great variety of wild flowers found on the mountainsides as well as in the valley. According to the tradition told to early pioneers by John Richau, a half breed Indian: In ages past, a band of Sioux and a band of Nez Perces, deadly enemies, met in Bridger Canyon and spent two days fighting.
While they were in deadly combat the third day, darkness over-spread the sun, and a strange noise seemed to come from the heavens. The contending warriors stood spellbound as a sweet voice was heard singing and a white flame appeared on top of the mountain, since called Mount Bridger. The flame settled on “Maiden Rock,” where the figure of a maiden was seen as the darkness disappeared. In a strange language all seemed to understand, she said, in part: “Warriors, children of the Great Spirit, sheath the hatchet and unstring the bow. Shed not the blood of your brothers here lest it mingle with yonder foaming water and defile the Valley of Flowers below. There must be no war in the Valley of Flowers, all must be peace, rest and love. The Spirit Maiden has spoken the words of the Great Spirit.” According to Mr. Richau, the truce of that day has been sacredly observed by the Indians.
Additional Blackfeet Indian Records
Additional Flathead Indian Records
History of Indians of Montana