Who are the Flathead Indians?

Flathead Indian Chief - image from First People - NKCR

Flathead Indian Chief - image from First People - NKCR

The Flathead Indians received their name from white men who first came into to the Columbia River region. The Flatheads do not have flat heads, but other tribes in the area had their babies in a type of cradle board and head bindings which forced their heads to come to a point. Early visitors to the region used the name without knowing why it first came into use, leading to the misunderstanding that these people have flat heads. Ironically, they were the only tribe in the area who did not practice the reshaping of the skull.

The homeland of the Flathead was in present-day Montana. They once lived in the Bitterroot River valley, but later treaty agreements moved them to northern Montana. The Flathead had ties to the Lemhi Shoshone, even spending part of the year with them. Their enemies were the Blackfeet, who prevented the Flathead from expanding eastward. The Flatheads are good-natured and polite to those they meet, again more culturally similar to the Pueblos than to the warrior tribes found on the plains. Although never a large tribe, they have always maintained a reputation for bravery, honesty, and general high character.

They subsisted chiefly by hunting and the gathering of wild roots, lived in skin tipis or mat-covered lodges, and were at peace with all tribes excepting their hereditary enemies, the powerful Blackfeet. In 1855 the Flatheads made a treaty giving up most of their territory, but kept a reservation south of Flathead Lake. They are one of the few Indian communities actually increasing in population.

The tribe has about 6,800 members with approximately 4,000 tribal members currently living on the Flathead Reservation and 2,800 tribal members living off the reservation.

For more information about the Flathead Indians

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1 Comment

  • eiffel says:

    Hi Digs,

    I resized the photo to 500 pixels maximum, and added a mention of First People. Hope that’s OK.

    In the second line, shouldn’t it say “The Flatheads do NOT have flat heads”?

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