The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation are the 6,800 modern representatives of several Salish, Kootenai and Pend O’Reilles bands who lived in western Montana, northern Idaho, and eastern Washington in the early 1800s. Around 4,000 tribal members currently live on the Flathead Reservation, along with about 1,100 Indians from other tribes and perhaps three times as many non-Indians.
In 1855, the tribal people surrendered their claim to western Montana and northern Idaho, but reserved an area known as the Bitterroot Valley as their homeland. Within a generation, the white government reassigned them to a new homeland about 100 miles northwest in the Lower Flathead River Basin which came to be called the Flathead Reservation. Within another generation, the white government apportioned the land amongst the Indians and sold what hadn’t been assigned — generally the most fertile pieces of the valley — to non-Indians as “surplus” land.