Time Line
Flathead Indian Reservation
Pre-Contact - 1799

    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
Before Euro-American arrival

Shining Shirt, a prophet claimed by both the Salish and the Kalispels, told the people that men with fair skins and long black robes would come. They would make slaves of the people, but, nonetheless, they should not be resisted. Later, the people would rise again.

Before 1700

Flathead oral traditions hold that the people have inhabited western Montana since time immemorial. 

In the first decades of the twentieth century, anthropologist J. A. Teit speculated that before the arrival of horses, the Flatheads lived on the plains east of the Rocky Mountains. In another place he apparently contradicted this, suggesting that their material culture before horses was most like that of the Plateau tribes. His theories were based mostly on traditions and legends translated by one interpreter. 

Anthropologist Harry Hobert Turney-High, Montana State University professor in the 1930s and early 1940s, said that the Salish and Kalispels came from the west, perhaps the upper Klamath region in Oregon, while the Kootenai came from the east. When they came the country was still occupied by a tribe of small people"Foolish Folk"who were exterminated by the Flatheads. 

circa 1730

Flatheads obtained horses from tribes farther south and west (Shoshone, Ute, Comanche), who had gotten them from the Spaniards. The Blackfeet at this time lived on the Saskatoon Plains near Eagle Hills, four hundred miles east of the Rocky Mountains. With horses, the Blackfeet left their forested homes and migrated onto the plains of the upper Missouri.

1760 - 1770

A smallpox epidemic decimated the Flatheads. They contracted the disease during the times they camped with the Nez Perce. The population of Flathead tribes may have been reduced by half before 1800.


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