This article has been archived from the now-defunct MSU E-Museum (http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/)
for educational purposes. Please visit our Article Archive Index for
further information. If the author of this article would like to make changes to it, or if you are the author of another article you would
like us to add to our archives, please contact us.
Kutenai is pronounced kʊt-ən-ai (ʊ as in 'oo' from book and ə as in 'a' cat).
The Kutenai live in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and as far north as British Columbia, and Alberta. Their homelands stretch from west of the Rocky Mountains to Arrow Lake in British Columbia. The majority of Kutenai today share the Flathead Reservation with Confederated Salish tribes.
They are divided into eight separate bands including the Tunaxa, Tobacco Plains, Jennings, Libby, Bonners, Ferry, Ft. Steele, Creston, and Windermere. The word "Kutenai" may have originated from Kutunaiua, a Blackfoot word meaning "slim people." There are several other possible explanations for the tribe's name.
Their first contact with European settlers was around 1800. Canadian traders brought the Kutenai to the attention of their employers hoping to establish trade. the European settlers were the first to initiate trade, and the Kutenai weren't hard to coax. In 1855, Governor Isaac Stevens presented the "Hell's Gate" treaty. This treaty established reservations for many of the tribes and controlled interactions between the Kutenai and their European neighbors. Many of the Kutenai fled to Canada because of this.
Until recently the Kutenai maintained their semi-nomadic life-style living on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.
Malinowski, Sharon, Sheets, Ann. The Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes Volume lll. London: Gale Pub., 1998.
Smith, H. Allen. Kutenai Indian Subsistence and Settlement Patterns of Northwest Montana. Washington State University, 1984.
Kootenai Tribe of Idaho: http://www.kootenai.org/main.html
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation: http://www.cskt.org/
Char-Koosta News - Official Newspaper of the Salish and Kootenai Tribe: http://charkoosta.com/links.html