Box Elder, Montana

Irrigated farm land on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation

Box Elder is a settement on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation that straddles the county line between Chouteau and Hill Counties. Box Elder is probably the largest settlement on the reservation and serves as the headquarters of the Chippewa-Cree tribe, although part of the townsite extends beyond the reservation boundaries. The town is named for Box Elder Creek which is lined with Box Elder trees.

Irrigation diversion structure on Box Elder Creek

The Chippewa-Cree immigrated from Canada and North Dakota in the 1870's, a particularly bad time for Native Americans to be newly arriving in Montana. But the area of the reservation is the first land they settled on back in those days. Box Elder itself was first surveyed and platted by Jonas Breemer, the leader of a group of forty families from Ohio who emigrated to the area as a single group in the spring of 1889. The Ohioans set up and started to build, then the overly hot and dry summers of 1889-1890 convinced everyone but two families that this area wasn't right for them so they left.

The Rocky Boy Reservation was established by executive order in 1916. This action recognized the rights of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe to land of their own, although the tribal organization itself wasn't fully recognized until the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (amended in 1935). Bear Paw Ski Bowl is a tribe-owned, fully functional ski area on reservation land in the Bear Paw Mountains. Stone Child College, an accredited two-year college is located on Upper Box Elder Road, just outside of town.

Fast Facts about Box Elder, Montana
Box Elder, Chouteau County, MT 59521
Census Designated Place
Elevation: 2,677'
Latitude: 48.3172°N
Longitude: 110.0128°W
Resident Racial Breakdown:
White Non-Hispanic: 8.3%
Hispanic: 8.6%
Native American: 82.2%
Two or more races: 1.0%
High School or Higher: 86.0%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 12.2%
Graduate or Professional Degree: 5.7%
2009 Estimates:
Population: 787
Males: 369
Females: 418
Median Resident Age: 18.8 Years
Estimated Median Household Income: $16,800
Estimated Median Home Value: $98,750
Population Density: 137 People per Square Mile
2011 Cost of Living Index for Box Elder: 84.6
Major Industries:
Educational Services, Lodging & Food Services, Government, Health Care, Construction, Grocery Stores, Real Estate Services, Social Services, Professional Services, Entertainment & Recreation, Personal & Laundry Services
Unemployed (March 2011): 6.5%
Photos of Rocky Boy Indian Reservation courtesy of the NRCS
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