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NATIVE AMERICAN FLAGS

The Flathead Nation of the Salish & Kootenai Tribes

Covering almost 620,000 acres of western most Montana, near the border with Idaho's panhandle lies the Flathead Reservation. This land is home two two separate tribes that function as a single unit. This is the home of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as they are officially named.

It is from the first of the two tribes that the reservation gets its name. The Salish nation is just one of many Salish speaking tribes that were found by the white man when he came to the northwest. Quite a few others, such as the Quinault and Upper Skagit resided to the west of the Salish. What differentiated this group of Salish-speaking Native Americans was that they did not practice the custom of head flattening. Coastal Salish frequently tied padded boards to their foreheads and over a gradual process tapered their heads by the time they reached adulthood. To whites, it was the Montana Salish who possessed the "flat heads" and the coastal Salish seemed to have tapered or pointed heads. Although the reservation retains the name Flathead Reservation, the people have reverted to the name they have bestowed upon themselves, the Salish They are joined there by other Salish people, especially members of the Kalispell and Spokane tribes.

The Kootenai live both in the United States and Canada. To the north the name is usually pronounced and spelled slightly different than in the United States - Kootenay. The Kootenai were for generations primarily fisherman. Around 1700 the tribe obtained the horse from neighboring Indians and it changed their lives. From a fishing based culture, they transformed themselves into a tribe of the Plains. The pursued the buffalo, they built teepees, etc.

Today, these two tribes of the Plains celebrate their former lifestyle on their flag. That flag is red. It bears the name of the reservation in yellow and the names of the two peoples in dark blue. Centered upon the flag is a picture of a typical teepee used by the Indians of the Plains. The teepee bears the sketch of a buffalo and the prints of a bear. These two emblems reflect the two bases of the lives of the two tribes - hunting and fishing, since the bear is a great fisherman. Behind the teepee lie the Rocky Mountains which transverse the land of the Salish and Kootenai.

Above these mountains appears a yellow sun.

The teepee is shown in tan. The buffalo and bear prints are both dark blue as are the mountains. The sky and the snow covering the mountains appear in light blue.

Crossing behind the central device, which, when taken as a whole, represents an Indian shield, are a traditional bow and arrow. From the bow and shield hang seven eagle feathers in black and white. These feathers represent the seven members of the Flathead Council. The bow and arrow are both colored tan and dark blue.

In recognition of the difficulty that writing causes on a flag viewed from the reverse, two versions of the flag of the Flathead nation exists. The formal flag is dual sided, with the writing appearing properly on both sides. For economic reasons, the flag is also available in a single sided version.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603