Tribal History

In 1855, the United States sent representatives to make a treaty with all tribes in the Northwest. Tribal representatives met at Hellgate in Montana but were told that the government wanted to take the aboriginal territory and put the tribe on a reservation. No Kootenai ever signed the treaty. In 1860, the International Boundary Commission came to survey the United States Canadian border. The Bonners Ferry Kootenai took the men and their supplies across the Kootenai River, sharing food and showing them safe trails to follow. In return, as one Kootenai said, "We helped them, and then they drew a line through the middle of our house and said we couldn't cross it." That line is referred to as the U.S. Canadian border.

Because of that border and the epidemic which killed so many tribal members, the Kootenai Nation was reduced to seven communities - five in Canada and two in the U.S. No matter how hard they struggled, the Kootenais kept losing their land. From the beginning of time, the Kootenais had respected each other and everything in His creation. Strange diseases came, killing tribal members. First smallpox then measles, diptheria, tuberculosis, and alcohol. Then the State of Idaho revoked tribal rights to fish and hunt on aboriginal lands. Without the resources to live off the land, the Kootenai People would have to leave their country or become extinct.

In the 1930's, the Government granted tribal allotments; few in the tribe ever received an allotment. In 1960, the Government awarded the Kootenais $425,000 for loss of Aboriginal Territory, but the money came with strings attached and the struggle to survive in their homeland went on. On September 20, 1974, following years of hardship and loss of their Aboriginal Lands, the 67 remaining Kootenais declared war on the United States. Although it was a peaceful warm the publicity got the bureaucrats' attention and the Kootenais were finally deeded 12.5 acres. Things began to go better for the tribe.

On December 1, 1986, the first major step in the Kootenai's economic development came into being with the Kootenai River Inn. The Inn is wholly and proudly owned by the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.

During all those terrible years, the Kootenai People never lost sight of their original purpose - to guard the land gifted by the Creator forever. They continue to work towards that purpose.