Upper Missouri River Watershed Indigenous History

Did you know the Missouri River has served as a vital resource for people for over 12,000 years?

The Blackfoot, Salish Kootenai, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Sioux, Nez Perce, and Apsaalooké (Crow) native people relied off the Upper Missouri River for food, water, and transportation.

Photo: Gros Ventre (known as Ahe, Ahahnelin, A’ane, Haaninin, and Atsina) by Edward S. Curtis, 1908

Did you know?

The name “Missouri” is derived from the word “Oumessourit,” which translates to mean “people of the dug-out canoes.”

River of the People

The Missouri River has been a source of life and livelihood for indigenous communities for thousands of years. In fact, the first record of humans on the Upper Missouri River Watershed dates back to 1010 B.C. from evidence found along small tributary streams.
Throughout human history, the importance and usage of the Missouri River has only increased. The Corps of Discovery documented interactions with over 50 Native American nations during their two-year journey in 1803, and about one third of these communities lived along the Missouri River. The river served as a major trade and communication highway for nearby tribes.

Information courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation
Photo courtesy of Travel South Dakota
Information and photo courtesy of Tower Rock State Park

Point of Interest:

Tower Rock State Park

If interested in learning more about the Upper Missouri River's indigenous peoples' history, be sure to visit Tower Rock State Park.

This notable 424-foot high rock formation was a key landmark used by Native American tribes when navigating the plentiful, prairie hunting grounds around the Missouri River.

Land Acknowledgement

Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance (UMOWA) would like to acknowledge that the Missouri River and its surrounding land we conserve and protect is homeland to the indigenous peoples of the Blackfoot, Salish Kootenai, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Sioux, Nez Perce, and Apsaalooké (Crow).

Our hope in acknowledging the communities whose land we are conserving is to raise awareness about their history, culture, and the continued disenfranchisement of indigenous populations today. The native communities of the Upper Missouri River Basin have a history of proven resilience and land stewardship. These communities continue to fight today for their rights, recognition, sustainable treatment, and deep connection with the environment along the Missouri River. We recognize that there is a lot to learn from the indigenous people who still inhabit this land and the generations that preceded them.

UMOWA would like to use our platform as an environmental non-profit to be allies in restoring justice for our native populations, and we encourage all visitors to the Upper Missouri Watershed to learn more about the indigenous peoples' homelands you are visiting.

Photo: Edward S. Curtis, (undated)

Contact Us

Do you have additional information about the First Peoples of the Upper Missouri River Watershed?

Please send your comments to info@umowa.org.