The deadliest massacre of Native Americans in Montana’s history was a mistake. Colonel Eugene Baker had been sent by the government to “pacify” a rebellious band of the Blackfeet tribe.Eventually, Baker’s men tracked the tribe to a village along the Marias River. On January 23, 1870, the men surrounded the village and prepared to attack.But a scout recognized some of the painted designs on the lodges and reported to Baker that this was the wrong band. Baker replied, “That makes no difference, one band or another of them; they are all [Blackfeet] and we will attack them.”Most of the Native American men were out hunting, so the majority of the 173 massacred were women, children, and the elderly. When Baker discovered that the survivors had smallpox, he abandoned them in the wilderness without food or shelter, increasing the death toll by 140.
Photo credit: Bozeman Daily Chronicle