Flathead Indian Reservation (Montana)

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United States Gotoarrow.png American Indians Gotoarrow.png Montana Gotoarrow.png Indians of Montana Gotoarrow.png Flathead Indian Reservation (Montana) 

The Flathead Indian Reservation is a federally-recognized reservation, located north of Interstate 90 between Missoula and Kalispell,[1] mostly within the boundaries of Lake County. Small portions of the reservation are also located in Sanders, Missoula, and Flathead Counties.

Established -- 16 July 1855
Agency (BIA) -- Flathead Indian Agency at Pablo, Montana[2]
Principal tribes -- Salish (also called Flathead), Pend d'Oreille, and Kootenai  (also called the Confederated Salish and Kootenai).[3]
Population -- 28,359 (2010 census)[4].
Approx. 4500 living on or near the Reservation in 2009.[5]  1969: Tribal enrollment 5,296.


The Flathead Reservation Historical Society has compiled a time line of historical events, which lists important happenings from pre-contact to the year 2000.

The reservation was originally named the Jocko Reservation, as it was located on the Jocko River. It was created by a Treaty of July 16, 1855 (XII, 975). Some of reservation land has been allotted to individual Indians under acts of Apr. 23, 1904 (XXIII, 302), Feb. 8, 1887 (XXIV, 388), and Feb. 28,1891(XXVI, 791). Historical evidence indicates the Flathead Reservation may have extended into the Bitterroot Valley. It is clearly stated in the July 16, 1855 Hell Gate Treaty, that the Bitterroot Valley was wanted to be included as a Reservation. In fact, Indians were still living in the Bitterroot Valley until October 1891. United States soldiers forced them to relocate to the Flathead Reservation in that year.

They may have been the subjects of chief Aeneas or Ignace Paul. It is widely accepted that chief Charlo was the principle leader of the Bitterroot Valley Indians. However, chief Paul's father settled down to live in the Bitterroot Valley about 1816, after moving from Michigan. Chief Charlo had to be forced to gather his people together for the trek to the Flathead Reservation. He had great resentment against the whites.

In the early 1880s, the United States wanted to negotiate a treaty in which a railroad would be built across the Reservation. Chief Arlee jumped at the chance to receive the $1 million. Chief Paul had other worries to tend to because many of his subjects were living north and east of the Flathead Reservation. Supposedly a negotiator for the railroad and government of the United States, promised to negotiate on behalf of the Flathead Reservation about having the Reservation enlarged on the north. It may have been a deal in which the northern part of the Reservation was eradicated.

Frank Linderman wrote in one of his books that the region north of the Flathead Reservation was still occupied by chief Paul's subjects in the 1880s. Linderman described the region as a dangerous one in which every now and then Indians killed some whites. The Indians were Chippewa's who white historians have named the Kootenai. The canoes of the Kootenai look identical to the canoes of the Chippewa's. Western Montana has some lakes but not as many as found in the Great Lakes region where some of today's Kootenai claim they originally lived. That is Michigan.

1892, September 2, the Flathead, Kootenay and the Upper Pend d'Oreille Indians of the Flathead reservation in Montana Territory sold a portion of their reservation for the use of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  (Senate Ex. Doc. #15, 48th Congress, 1st session).

In 1904, the United States commenced to launch Land Acts which had intentions of granting land allotments to Indians. That same year chief Rocky Boy commenced to negotiate with American representatives about finding a Reservation for the Chippewa's living in the Flathead Reservation region. Though the United States supposedly claimed the bill failed, there is the region within the Flathead Reservation where the Kootenai settlements are located. They are Big Arm, Dayton Homesite, Elmo, and Niarada. Many of the Chippewa's refused to accept land allotments.

Those who agreed to accept land allotments received their land allotments in the southern Flathead Valley or Mission Valley. They also received land allotments in central and northern Montana. In October of 1908, a game warden and some deputized citizens attacked a camp of Chippewa's still living off Reservation in the Swan Valley which borders the Flathead Reservation on the east. The remaining Chippewa's still living off the Reservation, were forcefully relocated to the Blackfeet Reservation in November of 1909. In 1910, or shortly after chief Charlo's death, the United States broke treaty promises and opened up the Reservation to white settlement. Nearly all available agriculture land was eventually sold to non Indians.

During the 20th century, the Kicking Horse Job Corps was founded. It has led to many non Algonquin and Salish Indians settling down to live on the Reservation. The Flathead Reservation is also a Nez Perce and Spokane Reservation. However, they are not holding on to their tribal identities as well as the Chippewa's. Even today, up to 300 or more Chippewa's are holding on to their tribal identity at the Flathead Reservation.

Flathead Reservation has at least 24 communities. Most are predomonantly white. However, throughout the Reservation are numerous other areas which have clusters of housing units which are not categorized as a cdp, city, town, or village. All are probably predominantly Indian. The total number of these clusters of housing units is near 15. The Flathead Reservation has around 22 or 23 communities which are predominantly Indian.

Among their historical leaders are chief Victor, his son chief Charlo, chief Ignace Paul, chief Arlee and several others. Interestingly, a chief named Moses signed both the July 16, 1855 Hell Gate and the October 17, 1855 Blackfeet Stevens Treaties. He may be the same chief Moses of Washington State who refused to sign the Stevens Treaty involving his land around the Yakima Reservation region in Washington State.


Many of the records of individual Indians living on the Flathead Reservation were kept by the Flathead Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, located in Pablo, Montana. Others are kept by the Tribal Office.

In 1905, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs assigned Special Agent Thomas Downs to investigate the enrollment of the Indians of the Flathead Reservation. The National Archives has microfilmed the resulting documents as their Microcopy M1350, consisting of 3 rolls of microfilm. These records are available at the National Archives and their Regional Archives, and at other research institutions, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The records include census rolls for 1903, 1905, and 1908, as well as applications for enrollment and Agent Downs' field notes. It includes members of all tribes then living on the Flathead Reservation, including the Flathead, Kootenai, Pend d'Oreille, Kalispel, and Spokane tribes.

Land records: Tribally-owned land: 558,216.44 Allotted land: 56,869.08. [6]

Important Websites

Flathead Reservation Historical Society


  1. Montana Official State Travel Information Site, Flathead Reservation
  2. Montana Official State Travel Information Site, Flathead Reservation
  3. Montana Official State Travel Information Site, Flathead Reservation
  4. Census 2000 Tribal Entity Counts for American Indian Reservations and Off-Reservation Trust Lands. U.S. Census Bureau, Geography Division. Available online. {Note: This census figure only accounts for tribal members living on the reservation or trust lands. Other enrolled tribal members may live off-reservation.)
  5. Montana Official State Travel Information Site, Flathead Reservation
  6. Indian Reservations A State and Federal Handbook. Compiled by The Confederation of American Indians, New York, N.Y. McFarland and Co. Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, c. 1986. FHL book 970.1 In2


  • Confederation of American Indians. Indian Reservations: A State and Federal Handbook. Jefferson, North Caroline: McFarland & Co., c1986. WorldCat 14098308; FHL book 970.1 In2.
  • Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #30, 1906. This publication lists the 22 states which had reservations in 1908. Available online.
  • Kappler, Charles J. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1902. 7 volumes. WorldCat 74490963; FHL book 970.1 K142iAvailable online.
  • Klein, Barry T., ed. Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian. Nyack, New York: Todd Publications, 2009. 10th ed. WorldCat 317923332; FHL book 970.1 R259e.
  • Prucha, Francis Paul. Atlas of American Indian Affairs. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1991 WorldCat 257331735; FHL book 970.1 P95aa
  • Prucha, Francis Paul, ed. Documents of United States Indian Policy. 3rd Edition. Lincoln, Nebraska: Univeresity of Nebraska Press, 2000. WorldCat 50416280; FHL book 970.1 P95d.
  • Prucha, Francis Paul. Guide to the Military Posts of the United States, 1789-1895. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, c1964. WorldCat 522839; FHL book 973 M2pf.
  • Schmeckebier, Laurance F. The Office of Indian Affairs: Its History, Activities, and Organization. Service Monographs of the United States Government; no. 48. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1927. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1972.  WorldCat 257893; FHL book 973 B4b v. 48.
  • Sturtevant, William C. Handbook of North American Indians. 20 vols., some not yet published. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978– .
Volume 1 -- Not yet published
Volume 2 -- Indians in Contemporary Society (pub. 2008) -- WorldCat 234303751
Volume 3 -- Environment, Origins, and Population (pub. 2006) -- WorldCat 255572371
Volume 4 -- History of Indian-White Relations (pub. 1988) -- WorldCat 19331914; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.4.
Volume 5 -- Arctic (pub. 1984) -- WorldCat 299653808; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.5.
Volume 6 -- Subarctic (pub. 1981) -- WorldCat 247493742; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.6.
Volume 7 -- Northwest Coast (pub. 1990) -- WorldCat 247493311
Volume 8 -- California (pub. 1978) -- WorldCat 13240086; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.8.
Volume 9 -- Southwest (pub. 1979) -- WorldCat 26140053; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.9.
Volume 10 -- Southwest (pub. 1983) -- WorldCat 301504096; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.10.
Volume 11 -- Great Basin (pub. 1986) -- WorldCat 256516416; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.11.
Volume 12 -- Plateau (pub. 1998) -- WorldCat 39401371; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.12.
Volume 13 -- Plains, 2 vols. (pub. 2001) -- WorldCat 48209643
Volume 14 -- Southeast (pub. 2004) -- WorldCat 254277176
Volume 15 -- Northwest (pub. 1978) -- WorldCat 356517503; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.15.
Volume 16 -- Not yet published
Volume 17 -- Languages (pub. 1996) -- WorldCat 43957746
Volume 18 -- Not yet published
Volume 19 -- Not yet published
Volume 20 -- Not yet published
  • Tiller, Veronica E. Velarde. American Indian Reservations and Trust Areas. [Washington, DC]: Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1996. WorldCat 35209517; FHL book 970.1 T463a.
  • United States Department of Commerce, Frederick B. Dent, Secretary. Federal and State Reservations and Trust Areas. 1974. FHL book 970.1 Un3fe/1974.
  • United States Department of the Interior. Executive Orders Relating to Indian Reservations. Washington: [United States] Government Printing Office, 1912 (v. 1), 1922 (v. 2). Vol. 1 – May 14, 1855 to July 1, 1912. Vol. 2 – July 1, 1912 to July 1, 1922. FHL film 1440543 Items 8-9.
  • United States Federal and State Indian Reservations, Map. Available online.
  • Waldman, Carl. Atlas of the North American Indian. New York: Facts on File, 2009. 3rd ed. WorldCat 244771132; FHL book 970.1 W146a 2009.
  • Waldman, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. New York, New York: Facts on File, 2006. 3rd ed. WorldCat 14718193; FHL book 970.1 W146e 2006.