Detailed Plat of the Townsite of Poplar, Montana, the location o the Fort Peck Agency, as approved by the General Land Office in 1909, pursuant to the Fort Peck Agency Allotment Act of May 30, 1909. The present example includes the accession stamp of the Fort Peck Agency, 1946.
The Fort Peck Indian Agency is the administrative office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana. Its supervising office is the Billings Area Office. The Fort Peck Agency was the successor to the Milk River Agency in Montana and since 1874 has been responsible for Assiniboin and Sioux (mostly Yanktonai) Indians.
In 1878, the Fort Peck Agency was relocated to Poplar, Montana., because the original agency was located on a flood plain, suffering floods each spring. Attempts by the U.S. government to take the Black Hills and bind the Sioux to agencies along the Missouri in the 1860s resulted in warfare, reopening the issues that had been central to Red Cloud's War (1866-68). As part of the Sioux agreed to come in to agencies, part chose to resist. Army efforts to bring in the other Sioux (characterized as "hostiles") led to battles in the Rosebud country, and culminated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
As the victors dispersed, Sitting Bull led followers north into the Red Water country, where contact with the Sioux of Fort Peck Agency kept the Hunkpapas and assorted Tetons supplied. When military pressure increased, Sitting Bull led most of his followers into Canada in 1877. The military presence increased in an effort to induce Sitting Bull to surrender. Camp Poplar (located at Fort Peck Agency) was established in 1880. Finally, without supplies and barely tolerated by Indians in the area of present day southern Saskatchewan, Sitting Bull came in to surrender at Fort Buford on July 19, 1881. Some of his Hunkpapas stragglers intermarried with others at Fort Peck and resided in the Chelsea community.
By 1881, all the buffalo were gone from the region. By 1883/84, over 300 Assiniboines died of starvation at the Wolf Point sub-agency when medical attention and food were in short supply. Rations were not sufficient for needs, and suffering reservation-wide was exacerbated by particularly severe winters. The early reservation traumas were complicated by frequent changes in agents, few improvements in services, and a difficult existence for the agency's tribes. Negotiations the winter of 1886-87 and ratified in the Act of May 1, 1888, established modern boundaries.
Also in 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Act, which provided the general legislation for dividing the hitherto tribally-owned Indian reservations into parcels of land to be given to individuals. During the turn of the century, as the non-Indian proceeded to inhabit the boundary areas of the Reservation, the prime grazing and farmland areas situated within the Reservation drew their attention. As more and more homesteaders moved into the surrounding area, pressure was placed on Congress to open up the Fort Peck Reservation to homesteading.
Finally, the Congressional Act of May 30, 1908, commonly known as the Fort Peck Allotment Act, was passed. The Act called for the survey and allotment of lands now embraced by the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and the sale and dispersal of all the surplus lands after allotment. Each eligible Indian was to receive 320 acres (1.3 km2) of grazing land in addition to some timber and irrigable land. Parcels of land were also withheld for Agency, school and church use. Also, land was reserved for use by the Great Northern (Burlington Northern) Railroad. All lands not allotted or reserved were declared surplus and were ready to be disposed of under the general provisions of the homestead, desert land, mineral and townsite laws.