Kootenai elders pass down the history of the beginning of time, which tells that the Kootenai people were created by Quilxka Nupika, the supreme being, and placed on earth to keep the Creator-Spirit’s Covenant – to guard and keep the land forever.
The Kootenai people lived in peace until the arrival of strangers who spoke a new language and used guns to get their way. They wanted the Native Americans to sign a treaty and move to the reservations. The Kootenai people kept the Covenant, and no Kootenai ever signed the treaty.
It was a difficult time. The U.S.-Canadian border split the people into seven communities. And despite promises that the lands along the Kootenai River would always belong to the tribe, that land kept being taken away. Horrible new diseases killed many tribal members. The struggle for their homeland went on.
On September 20, 1974, following years of loss of their aboriginal lands, the 67 remaining Kootenais declared war on the United States. Although it was a peaceful war, the publicity got the nation’s attention and at long last the Kootenais were deeded 12.5 acres of land. Things took a positive turn for the tribe.
In 1986, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho celebrated the first major step in their economic independence – the Kootenai River Inn. The Inn is wholly owned by the Kootenai Tribe, which is very proud of the fine facility.
The tribal elders hand down the skills and traditions of the ancestors, and many tribal members still speak the Kootenai language. Tribal customs and culture are preserved for future generations.
During all those terrible years, the Kootenais never lost sight of their original purpose – to be the guardians of the land forever. They continue to work to that purpose.