Flathead Indian Reservation
Meet the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes
Directly south of Kalispell is the Flathead Indian Reservation. This area has been inhabited for thousands of years and today is home to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes. With 1.3 million acres, the reservation is made up of diverse landscapes, including the lower half of Flathead Lake, the Jocko Valley and the National Bison Range. There are also numerous communities – like Polson, Ronan, Charlo and St. Ignatius, to name a few – on the reservation.
In 2018, the 19,000 acres of the National Bison Range were put into a trust for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the tribes will manage the bison range in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the next two years, with the tribes expected to fund management and conservation of the National Bison Range in the near future.
Points of Interest
Powwow — The Kootenai Tribe welcome all nations and the general public to a powwow weekend of dancing, Indian gambling, and traditional food the third weekend of July. Colorful costumes blurred in dance and drums thundering off the mighty Mission Mountains. You can’t beat that.
Garden of One Thousand Buddhas - Ewam Sang-ngag Ling in Arlee, MT is a center for Tibetan Buddhist studies. Open to the public for self-guided walks through the statues and gardens.
Birding at Ninepipes — Ninepipes is a shallow reservoir and marsh that attracts hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each spring and fall. It also affords spectacular views of the Missions.
Wildlife Watching at the National Bison Range — Created by Teddy Roosevelt, this century old wildlife refuge is home to a large bison herd, elk, mule deer, antelope, big horn sheep and black bear. The long interpretive drive through the park is three of the best hours you’ll spend in Montana.
Kerr Dam at Runoff — Flathead Lake is a natural lake but the Se¿lis¿ Ksanka Ql¿ispe¿ Project (formerly known as Kerr Dam) is a dam at the downstream end of the lake. During runoff it’s a sight that rivals Niagara Falls.
Miracle of America Museum - This museum boasts 250,000 items from harps to helicopters, a 5-acre Pioneer Village and a large collection of Native American artifacts. Located in Polson, the museum is great fun for kids and open year-round.
St. Ignatius Mission — Located in the town of St. Ignatius near the Bison Range, this mission features intricate wall paintings by Brother Joseph Carignano.
Three Chief's Culture Center — Located in St. Ignatius, the Three Chief's Culture Center recounts the history of the local tribes and offers interpretive activities seasonally.
Native American Speaks program, Glacier National Park - Each summer Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Oreille tribal members share knowledge of their history and culture as part of the Native America Speaks program. This program began in 1982 and is the longest running indigenous speaker series in the National Park Service. The presentations provide opportunities for local tribal members to share their rich history and culture through singing, storytelling, presentations, and hands-on learning. The program is made possible by a generous donation from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Video recordings are also available.
Paddle the Lower Flathead — Put your canoe in at the Dixon access and float along beneath sandstone colored hills. Be sure to look back upstream occasionally for views of the lower Missions.
Seasons You'll Enjoy
Summer is the high season, with July and August offering the most Native American activities such as powwows. Birding opportunities abound in spring and fall. And much of the reservation provides excellent upland and migratory bird hunting from October through December.
How To Get There
Drive south on Highway 93 from Kalispell along Flathead Lake. Drive time is about one hour.