Native American Tribes Nations and Confederacies: Kootenai

Kootenai, a group of Native North Americans who in the 18th century occupied the so-called Kootenai country, which spanned across North Montana, North Idaho, and South British Columbia. Their language forms a branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock, although scholars argue that it has not been definitely related to any known linguistic family.

The Upper Kootenai lived near the headwaters of the Columbia River, and the Lower Kootenai lived on the Lower Kootenai River. According to tradition the Kootenai once lived east of the Rocky Mountains, but they were driven westward by their enemies, the Blackfoot.

Kootenai culture was essentially that of the Plateau area, but after the advent of the horse, The Kootenai adopted many Plains area traits including a seasonal buffalo hunt. Contact with the settlers began early in the 19th century, when the North West Company established Rocky Mountain House on the upper Saskatchewan River. In 1807 the same company opened the first trading post in Kootenai country.

The Kootenai are related to the Salish, with whom they share the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Another group of Kootenai live on a reservation in Idaho. In 1990 there were 750 Kootenai and about 2,300 people of mixed Salish and Kootenai descent in the United States, as well as some 500 Kootenai in Canada. Their name is sometimes spelled Kootenay or Kutenai.

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