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Gros Ventre - A name applied to two and sometimes three bands of indians.  The name meant "Big Belly" in French.

The Gros Ventre of the Prairies, the Atsina, originally were part of the Arapaho, according to historians.  They are supposed to have received their name, "Big Belly," from the fact they lived on the Big Belly River, now known as the South Saskatchewan.  About 1836 smallpox wiped out more than three fourths of the tribe and the remaining small band, continually attacked by the Sioux, fled to the protection of the Blackfoot and have been associated with them since that time.

The Gros Ventre of the missouri (River) were of the Siouan family and called themselves the Hidatsa.  They lived at one time near the Knife River, a branch of the Missouri River, in North Dakota.  Some contend it was among these Indians and their neighbors, the Mandan, that the famous spreading eagle feather headdress of the Dakota originated.  They were on the Knife River at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition and it was with this tribe that Sacajawea, the famous "Bird Woman," lived.

It is claimed by some that the Gros Ventre of the Missouri, or Hidatsa, were direct descendants of eastern Woodland tribes because of their habit of living in earthen lodges.  At one time the Gros Ventre of the Missouri and the Crow Indians were grouped under the same head.  It is claimed that in the latter part of the eighteenth century a quarrel arose between two chiefs over the paunch, or first stomach, of the buffalo during a hunt, and the tribe split.

As a result of the split the Crow Indians have at different times been known as the Gros Ventre of the Prairies to distinguish them from the other half of the tribe, the Gros Ventre of the Missouri.  The Gros Ventre of the Prairies were the Atsina, and soon the name ceased to apply to the Crow.

Related Information within this Site
[ Arapaho ][ Blackfoot ][ Crow ]
[ Headdress ][ Mandan ][ Sacajawea ]