Before the Anglo American invaded the home of the Native Americans, Native Americans were successfully governing themselves. They managed to keep peace and administer justice though using their own customs, laws, and traditions. After the white invasion, the United States government recognized the need to let a sovern nation (such as the Indian nations) make and govern themselves by their own rules, make their own laws and to be ruled by them(Williams v Lee, 1958).Like the other Montana tribes the Flathead (Confederation of Salish and Kootenai tribes) went through three main stages of government: Tradition, Transitional, and Contemporary before making themselves self-sufficient and able to govern themselves successfully.
History of Flathead Reservation
The Hellgate Treaty established the Flathead reservation in 1855. Governor Isaac Stevens presented this treaty to the tribes and although the tribes agreed on the treaty they did not agree on the location of the reservation. Victor a Flathead was named the first head chief of the reservation and in 1856 Dr. R.H. Landsdale was the first Flathead Indian Agent (www.edheritage.org/flathead/timelineflathead.htm). On the Flathead reservation there were several different tribes combined. The Salish (meaning people who speak Salish) who became known as the Flathead and consisted of four tribes: Flathead, Pend Oreille, Kalispel, and Spokane and the Kootenai (Ktunaxa meaning licks the blood) that consisted of three tribes: Lower Kootenai, the Upper Kootenai, and the Kutona. These two groups of people were quite different. The Salish was seen as progressive while the Kootenai were conservative and traditional. The Salish believed the Kootenai as inferior and didnt want to intermarry with them. The Salish Indians, especially the Flathead, were open to other cultures, both Indian and white, and intermarried frequently. In contrast to the Salish traits of friendliness and hospitality, the Kootenai were known for their social reserve and caution and preserved a more undiluted bloodline (Clow, 162). Because of this open-mindedness the Salish were able to except change and were willing to explore differences and advantages of other cultures. The Salish had a greater population (75%) on the reservation than the Kootenai (Clow, 163). The Flathead reservation was prime land capable of planting crops, raising livestock, hunting game, and fishing.
As prime land decrease due to settlement, Montana tried to negotiate with the Flathead but with no luck. 1904, Joseph M. Dixon executed the Flathead Allotment Act. With this act land was divided up in allotments and the surplus sold to non-Indians. July 4, 1907 the Secretary of the Interior, James Garfield’s train was met by nearly five hundred mounted Flatheads when he arrived on the Reservation. Indian leaders told him they opposed opening the reservation to homesteading (www.edheritage.org/flathead/timelineflathead.htm). The effects of this Allotment Act was that 61,000 acres used for Montana school land, 18,500 acres for Nation Bison Range, tribal usage, Indian agency, town sites, power/reservoir sites, and missionary churches and schools (Clow, 164). 2,390 Indians received either 80-acre agricultural allotments or 160-acre grazing land allotments (Clow, 164). With the Indian allotments Indian owned land only equaled one-fifth of the total land on the reservation. The total acres within the Flathead reservation was 1,245,000 however only 245,000 were received by Native Americans (Clow, 164). In 1909 President William H. Taft opened the reservation to non-Indians, however the official opening happened May 2, 1910. By 1960 the tribe only owned one out of every seven farms on the reservation. 1983, less than 4% of reservation acreage belonged to Indians. 1984, population of Indians was around 19%, the lowest of all Montana reservations (Clow, 164).
In 1994 there are 6,792 tribal members enrolled, 3,975 lived on the reservation, and 25% of the members are under the age of 18 (Bryan, 122). Currently there are 6,800 enrolled members and 3,700 live on or near the reservation (www.mtsbc.org/fladhead.htm). There are twice as many Salish as Kootenai and over 20% of the enrolled members have one-half or more Indian blood. As of 1960 the blood quantum for enrollment is one-fourth Indian blood. There are 1,242,969 acres on the reservation. 92% of the land is Indian owned; 52,000 acres on the reservation are used as refuges and parks. Such as Ninepipe, Pablo wildlife refuges, and National Bison Range (Bryan, 122).
Flathead road to self-government
The traditional form of government for the Flathead was really a combination of ideas from several different cultures. On page 165 they discuss a type of political structure that some of the plains Indians had. In this structure they had a council of headmen, a system of leadership: Head chief and lesser chiefs, and an ethic of individual autonomy. The chapter also suggests that the type of government the Flathead had was borrowed and revised with their own additions as far back as 1920s. Although the form of government was borrowed, the Flathead developed their own practices as well. Such practices include: disuse of bands, the emergence of tribes as political units, and elections of chiefs (Clow, 165). Before the Indian Reorganization Act tribes were ran by loose associations of chieftains.
From 1855 to 1934 the Indian Agents controlled the extent that tribal leaders could participate in their government (Clow, 166). Prior to 1909, general council elected certain individuals to represent the tribal voice on specific matters (Clow, 166). However, the important part of this concept was they chose whom they wanted. They chose progressive mixed-bloods who were more likely to agree with their ideas.
Legal Accomplishments Under Traditional Government Era
During this time of traditional government (1928) the tribe negotiated a lease for the construction of Kerr Dam, which brought in annual rental payments (Bryan, 120).
The tribes of the Flathead reservation were the first to adopt a tribal constitution under the Indian Reorganization Act. The constitution they adopted in 1935 represented the values of white society rather than Native interests. The road to self-government started with political isolation and improved to active involvement.
In 1944 Flathead tribal leaders requested full tribal control of resources. With this request came the eventual complete withdrawal of federal regulation. Tribes agreed to concurrent jurisdiction with the State under Public Law 280.
During the IRA period the tribal council was designed to deal with complains about reservation life but not to make or implement any policies. The tribal chairman was merely a presiding officer (Clow, 168). For almost forty years, 1934 to 1974 the agency superintendent was the dominant force of the reservation and all enactments by the tribal council were subject to the Secretary of Interiors review.
After many attempts of good faith with the Bureau the Flathead decided to make some changes. The only way they saw complete independence was to break away from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Legal Accomplishments Under Transitional Government Era
In 1951 the tribe sued the federal government for unfair payment regarding around 12 million acres of land that was ceded to the government in the Hellgate Treaty of 1855 and unfair compensation payments after the allotment of 1908. In 1971 a judgment of $22 million dollars was awarded to the Flathead (Bryan, 121).
1974 to 1984 were the years of progress that helped to create self-government. Their four points being: Organizational reform, successful negotiations, increasing regulation of nonmembers, and strong leadership (Clow, 171). The tribe brought about many changes. One changes was the way officials were elected. By making changes the tribe helped to create a government that was more open and rational and in return better able to represented a balance between past practices and present challenges. Election reform was accomplished in two stages. First they changed the district to at-large representation in 1977. Second they added a primary election in 1981. In 1984 the tribal council approved an executive reorganization plan. This plan called for administrative restructuring, consolidation of more than 30 departments into 8 and a new chain of command. At the top of the chain of command were a full-time tribal chairman and an executive secretary (chief administrative officer).
The tribe started to improve the reservation by using and preserving natural resources and implementing education. Along with the improvements came opposition.
Currently there are ten tribal-council members who serve staggered four-year terms. The council elects their chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, and treasurer who server two-year terms. All council members are elected from their districts (currently 8 districts) and Arlee and St. Ignatius has two council members each (Bryan, 123). Today the Confederated Tribes rarely rely on the BIA, thanks to their compacts and Public Law 638 contracts (Bryan, 123). Public Law 638 is the Indian Self-determination Act.
The current tribal council consists of Donald Matt (Chairman), Jamie Hamel (Vice Chair), Carole Lankford (Secretary), Mary Lefthand, Elmer Morigeau, Lloyd Irvine, Joel Clairmont, Denny Orr, Ron Trahan, and Maggie Goode.
Legal Accomplishments Under Contemporary Government Era
In 1989 a federal district court ruled that tribal government had no authority to regulate the marina, the city, and the state. Tribes have no power to regulate how a non-member exercises his or her riparian rights(Montana v United States). However it was overturned in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Clow, 181).
The result of this case known as the Namen case was recognition of enhanced tribal power over non-Indians.
In 1984 a settlement was reached between the Flathead and Montana Power over the operation of the Kerr dam. The tribe gave Montana Power operation of the dam and in return the tribe would receive annual payments of $9 million dollars for thirty years at the end of this time, 2015 the tribe would gain control and operation of the dam.
Current status and programs on Reservation
Natural resources on the Flathead reservation are both a cultural heritage and a door to self-determination (Clow, 178). The Flathead reservation has an abundance of natural resources, far more than any other Montana reservation. It is because of their resources the Flathead have such a promising future. Some of their natural resources include: Agricultural land, Wildlife and Fisheries, Forest resources, Mineral resources, and Flathead Lake and other Water resources.
The balance between economic growth and preserving natural resources can be a difficult one however; the Flathead have found a way to do both. Some of the tribal economic goals are to include clean industries that dont ruin the natural resources and are in line with the tribes values. The tribe also encourages and assists tribal members to establish business ventures. The Flathead also try to produce as many goods and services possible for the consumption of the tribe along with this they try to control the majority of economic resources coming into the reservation thus giving them control over actual and potential economic enterprises.
Because of the mass amount of natural resources on the Flathead reservation the tribe has created many programs to help ensure its long future. One battle won was the quality of air on the reservation. Since 1981 the tribes work in natural resources management has outpaced the Bureau of Indian Affairs in terms of expertise an ambition (Clow, 178). In 1982 the federal government granted the tribe a Class 1 air status. The Shoreline Protection Board monitors water-quality and work on issues involving Mackinaw trout and Kootenai salmon with fishery management. Other examples are the tribe trying to protect the grizzly population, and their desire to develop a compact with the state on hunting and fishing management and jurisdiction. They have also fought to keep high-voltage transmission lines and pipeline construction off their land (Bryan, 128).
In 1984 the tribe started to negotiate with the state Water Compact Commission however they have negotiated for ten years but still have not reached an agreement.
Flathead Reservation Firsts
May 10, 1910 City of Polson was incorporated. It had three banks, four hotels, two churches, eight rooming houses, one steam laundry, one electric light plant, one water works system, three grain warehouses, two department stores, two grocery stores, three general merchandise stores, one jewelry store, one photograph gallery, three secret societies, one chamber of commerce, two weekly newspapers, one moving picture show, three blacksmith shops, one woodworking factory, five lumber yards, one saw mill, four restaurants, three billiard halls, two harness shops, three hardware and implement stores, four physicians, four lawyers, one drug store, one soft drink bottling company, one undertaker, two furniture stores, two telephone companies, three livery stables, two express and stage lines, two paint and wall paper stores, three barber shops, two auto stage lines, and two steamboat lines.
1911(?) Polson telephone directory (a 6 x 12 sheet of cardboard) listed 39 businesses or professionals and 19 residences with telephones. The Telephone Company of Kalispell brought the first telephone lines to the valley, one from Kalispell and one from Missoula. It provided service from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Telegraph messages were received by the Western Union office in Kalispell and phoned to Polson, and outgoing messages were phoned to Polson then telegraphed to Kalispell.
1934 The Flathead Nation was the first tribe to reorganize under the Act, forming a self-governing body in 1936.
Their law enforcement department was the first in Indian Country to employ DNA-testing in an investigation.
The SKC was the first tribally run institution to inaugurate a 4-year degree program and the first tribal college in Montana to set up for the specialty license plate program to raise money for scholarships.
The electric utility operated by the Tribes, Mission Valley Power, is the first to employ native languages on its cautionary signs.
The Char-Kootsa News was the first tribal paper in Montana to go online.
The name of this tribal paper comes from the names of the last traditional leaders of the Salish and Kootenai peopleChief Charlo (last traditional chief of Salish people) and Chief Koostatah (last traditional chief of Kootenai people).
Tribally owned S;K Electronics recently became the first Native American-owned firm to be named a prime contactor for NASA.
The Kicking Horse Job Corps Center, southeast of Ronan, is the first and only all-Native American Job Corp school in U.S.
They established the first tribal wilderness area in 1979 on the west side of the Mission Mountains.
Flathead Reservation Recognitions
March 2002 received Tribal Business of the Year from American Indian Business Leaders.
April 2002 Outstanding National Tribal Business-National Indian Business Association.
October 2002 Montana Minority Business of the Year by US Small Business Administration.
October 2002 Top Minority owned Business Firm of the Year by Government Computer News, Industry Information Award.
November 2002 Tribally owned Business of the Year from National Center for American Indians, Enterprise Development.
1999 National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA, Johnson Space Center-Flight Directors Award.
1999 NASA, Johnson Space Center Engineering Directorate, AR ; SD-Elite Team Award.
Flathead Reservation Miscellaneous Facts
1997 Flathead tribal government was the largest employer
73% of tribal members have high school diploma, 5.5% have bachelors degrees or higher.
41% of workforce is unemployed, 22.8 fall below federal poverty guidelines, $19,826 median Indian household income.
The political values of the emerging period are accountability and efficiency, as well as participation. The symbol is a strong government, which is both professional and representative (Clow, 183). The Flathead have reach self-government and self-sufficiency because of their natural resources (timber and water), the memberships open-mindedness and willingness to use outsiders approaches, and their great ability to adapt to change.
i Flathead Reservation Firsts and Flathead Reservation Miscellaneous Facts are interesting facts found while researching this subject. These facts came from all of the sources listed on the Reference page and a presentation given by Rene Greenfield in NAS 492 on 4-9-03.