Atsina, are a historically Algonquian-speaking Native American tribe located in north central Montana. There are currently 3,682 enrolled members. The federally recognized tribe shares Fort Belknap Indian Reservation with the Assiniboine, their historical enemies.
The Arapaho and the A'aninin were a single, large Algonquian-speaking people who lived along the Red River Valley in northern present-day Minnesota and Canada. In the early 1700s, the large tribe split into two; forming the the Arapaho. The A'aninin stayed in the Saskatchewan region, and the Arapaho went south. Their languages became differentiated after that time.
The Blackfoot called the Atsina, an exonym meaning "gut people". The A'ani consider this derogatory and reject the term. After the division of peoples, the Arapaho, who considered them inferior, called them Hitúnĕna, meaning "beggars". Other interpretations of the term have been "hunger", "waterfall", and "big bellies".
At the time of first contact with Europeans in 1754, the Atsina ranged the Canadian Prairies around the Saskatchewan River Forks. They were traditional competitors and enemies of the Algonquian-speaking Cree and the Siouan Assiniboine. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the Atsina were forced to withdraw from what is now Canada after the Cree increased the ferocity of their attacks with guns acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company. In response, about 1793 the Atsina attacked and burnt the Hudson's Bay Company post at South Branch House on the South Saskatchewan River near present-day St. Louis, Saskatchewan.
The Gros Ventre moved south to the Milk River, where they were closely associated with the Blackfoot. The Atsina adopted the Plains culture, learning to use horses and following the bison for food. They also acquired guns.
Because they refused to receive their treaty payments at Fort Peck along with their enemies, the Sioux, the U.S. government established Fort Belknap in 1878, near present Chinook, Montana. In 1888, the Blackfoot, Assiniboine and Gros Ventre ceded much of their lands to the US government in return for reservations and peace after the Indian Wars.
The US established the much smaller Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, which the Atsina were required to share with the Assiniboine, historically traditional enemies. By 1904 there were only 535 Atsina tribe members remaining. Since then, the tribe has had a revival and substantial increase in population.
The current reservation government has an elected council, which includes four officers, as well as four members from each tribe.