Time Line
Flathead Indian Reservation
1880 - 1899

    Pre-contact 1800 1840 1860 1880 1900 1910 1920
  1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000


About this Exhibit

Articles and Stories
Ideas for Schools
September 2, 1882

The tribes agreed to sell the Northern Pacific Railroad a strip of land 200 feet wide and fifty-three miles long for $16,000. Chief Arlee opened the negotiations by asking for a million dollars. The chiefs made witty and shrewd comments through the three-day negotiations but they did not have a real choice. They did not want to sell, but assistant attorney general Joseph McGammon promised them that if they made a deal with the railroad, he would propose adjusting their reservation boundary north to the Canadian border, so they would have plenty of land for hunting and fishing. He never made the proposal, but the coming of the railroad greatly reduced the  isolation of the Flathead Reservation.

1883 The plains bison were nearly extinct.

The first commercial ship on Flathead Lake, the Swan, was built by Fred Lingren, Neil and George Nelson and Hugh F. Sinclair. Many people wanted a water route connecting the Mission Valley with the Kootenai Valley north of Flathead Lake. The Swan was a twenty ton sailboat, and due to unreliable winds it was not a commercial success. Sometimes it took a week to make the trip from Polson Landing to Dooley's landing, a few miles up the Flathead River. In 1885, the partners sold the boat to Captain Kerr, who put a steam engine in it and renamed it the U.S.S. Grant. In 1886, Duncan McDonald and Mr. Biggs launched a new boat, the Pocahontas

July, 1885

The Flathead reservation court was organized. The judges included Joseph (Grizzly Bear Stand Up), Baptiste Ka-Ka-She (Spotted Foot), and Louison (Red Owl). The court prohibited the sun, war, and scalp dances as well as "outrages against the Northern Pacific Railroad such as displacing switches, placing obstructions on the track, shooting at telegraph insulators, cutting wires, and camping on the right of way." The creation of the court led to contests with chiefs, such as Arlee, about  who would exercise authority. The legal status of reservation Indians remained unclear.

1885 Photographer F. J. Haynes visited Lambert's Landing (called Polson after the Post Office was established in 1898).
  February 8, 1887 Congress passed the General Allotment Actusually called the Dawes Act. Indian lands were to be split into individual allotments, with remaining lands offered for sale to the public. Citizenship would be conferred on Indians who gave up their tribal affiliations. Most Flatheads had no interest in owning land in severalty but wanted to continue owning it in common.
  June, 1887 Two Dayton Creek Kutenais were lynched after a man was murdered near Horse Plains. Not much later, ten Indians murdered three white men in their camp. Whites got revenge by murdering a hunting party of the Pend d'Oreille chief's family.
  August 8, 1889 Chief Arlee died. According to Mary Ronan, "his body was borne in state from his home, a mile west of the agency, to the church. Hundreds of Indians and half-breeds, on horseback, in wagons, and on foot, formed the motley cortege and chanted the Salish song of mourning all the way."

By this time, according to the Flathead Agency's annual report, there were 5,782 horses and 12,250 cattle on the reservation, most owned by a few ranchers, such as Michel Pablo and Charles Allard.

  December 11, 1889 John F. Stevens, working for James J. Hill's Great Northern railroad, located Marias Pass. The pass had been nearly forgotten since the Flatheads had stopped using it to visit buffalo country decades before due to attacks by Blackfeet. The discovery of the pass led Hill to build the Great Northern westward from Havre rather than farther south, crossing the mountains near Helena or Great Falls. The northern route created a busy transportation corridor through the reservation from the Northern Pacific at Ravalli to the Great Northern at the north end of Flathead Lake.
  1890 The Sisters of Providence asked the Ursuline Sisters to establish a kindergarten for Indian children at the St. Ignatius Mission. This was later expanded into an elementary and a high school.
  1891 The Northern Pacific, with its mainline through the reservation, completed connections from Seattle to Chicago. Between 30 and 40 four- and six-horse freight wagons were in continuous operation between Ravalli And Polson. One observer reported meeting nearly 200 people traveling south on his trip from Polson to Ravalli.  (Elwood, 1976)
  1891 Commissioner Thomas Morgan announced he would contract directly with schools rather than with the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions because support of sectarian schools violated the Constitution.
  October 17, 1891
Chief Charlo and the Salish people crossing the Clark Fork River at Missoula, Montana, on their way to the Flathead Reservation, October 16, 1891. Courtesy the Montana Historical Society.
At seven in the morning, Chief Charlo and his band of followers began their trip from the Bitterroot Valley to the Jocko Agency on the Flathead Reservation. The march included about 250 people, four hundred horses, and a few cows. Streams in the Bitterroot Valley were bridged with steel, the fields were crossed by telegraph wires, and brick buildings dotted the landscape. The trip took two days. Charlo demanded that a half-breed's allotment be given to him, but Agent Ronan refused. By the end of November, homes had been built for the new arrivals, all but two with cooking stoves. Most whites believed that the Flathead Reservation included far more land than the small bands of Indians would ever use.
  1892 Completion of the Great Northern Railway through the Flathead Reservation.
  July, 1893 The new brick church in St. Ignatius was dedicated.
  August 19, 1893 Peter Ronan died. Most Flathead Indians owned houses and fenced fields. The population, reported in October 1994 by the new agent, Joseph T. Carter: 1,654 members of confederated tribes, 65 Lower Pend Oreilles, 173 Flatheads of Charlot's band, 67 Kutenais from Idaho, and 106 Spokanes. Of these an estimated 700 had completely adopted white men's clothing. Carter estimated that 90 percent of the Flatheads earned their living in "civilized" pursuits--i.e. farming and stock growing, 2 percent hunting, and 8 percent (Charlot's people) from government rations.

A 1906 description of a stock roundup, which occurred during the "open range" period before allotment.

  Autumn, 1894 The U.S. Army confronted "Coxey's Army" at Arlee. Jacob Sechler Coxey was trying to get a massive federal program in place to alleviate unemployment. He had left Seattle heading for Washington D.C. in September, his group growing in size as they went. In Hope, Idaho, they commandeered a Northern Pacific train. A posse formed in Missoula and headed to Arlee to stop the train. They removed rails which stopped the train only long enough for the crew to lay down new rails. The posse, with a U.S. Marshall stopped the train at gunpoint just before it got to Arlee and arrested the entire army. They were held in a camp near Arlee for a couple of weeks, until the U.S. Army arrived and took over.
  1895 State senator William H. Smead from Missoula introduced a petition to the Montana Legislature to open the reservation to homesteaders. Peter Ronan had fought such measures but he had died two year earlier. The Montana Legislature sent its recommendation to the U.S. Congress. In 1897, Smead was appointed Flathead Indian agent. He was fired in 1904 for illegally leasing reservation land to white ranchers. He formed the Flathead Reservation Information Agency which marketed services to prospective reservation homesteaders.
  1897 A public school was opened in a restaurant in Arlee. It was  established for settlers' children. Some Indians children also enrolled.
  September 1, 1899 A government day school was opened at the agency with one teacher, Miss Louisa McDermott. It preferred full-blood students.

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