Gros Ventres , (Fr., Big Bellies), a name applied to two Indian tribes of different origin; 1, the Gros Ventres of the Missouri, or Minne-taries (see Minnetaries); 2, the Gros Ventres of the prairies. The latter tribe, dwelling between the Milk and Missouri rivers, are a part of the Arrapahoes. They say that they came from the north and joined the Arrapahoes only temporarily; but the language is said to be the same, showing a common origin. Their separation from the Arrapahoes took place early in this century according to some, or at the beginning of the last century according to others. Wandering eastward, they met and fought the Sioux and then struck north. They next joined the Crows, but were plundered by that tribe, who killed many, carrying off their women and arms. Then they wandered for several years, plundering trading posts at the north, but were driven off by the Koote-nais, and finally, about 1824, settled near Milk river, where the Blackfeet in a manner adopted them, giving them horses. The traders supplied guns and ammunition. They soon became wealthy, as well as very independent and hostile to the whites. About 1830 they were estimated at 430 lodges, containing nearly 3,000 souls.
Attempts were made by Father De Smet and other Jesuits to Christianize them as early as 1846, but with little success. Treaties were made with them at Fort Laramie in September, 1851, at the Judith in 1853 and in October, 1855, and at Fort Benton in November, 1865, some of which were never ratified. The Gros Ventres have remained peaceful since the treaties. In 1854 they became hostile to the Blackfeet, who had murdered and robbed a Gros Ventre. In 1862, with the Crows, they made war on the Piegans, a Blackfoot tribe; but peace was made between them by Agent Upton at Fort Benton in February, 1864. They soon after lost severely by measles, and in 1867, having again gone to war with the Piegans, were defeated near Cypress mountains with a loss of 300 men, nearly all their horses and many of their women and children being taken. The next year they ceded their lands for an annuity of $35,000 in goods, by a treaty which was not immediately ratified, although they were placed on a reservation on Milk river with a part of the Crows. In 1870 their numbers were reduced to 1,300 by smallpox, and they were plundered by the Sioux, who killed many of their people. They were then joined by their kindred the Arrapahoes, and by the northern Cheyennes, who wished to reside permanently with them.
The greatest chief of later days was Farmasee or Sitting Squaw, a tall, athletic man, the bravest of his tribe and a great friend to the whites. They are divided into bands, each under a hereditary chief or a band leader chosen for his valor. They have comfortable lodges built by their women, large enough to accommodate 100 persons. One part is assigned to their horses, dogs, cattle, and chickens, while another is for sleeping apartments. The Gros Ventres now occupy a portion of the Blackfoot reservation of 17,000,000 acres in Montana, and receive from government annually $35,000 in such goods as the president may from time to time determine are necessary, pursuant to the treaty of July 13, 1868.