The Lower Kootenai Tribe has lived in the area since prehistoric times, and is one of six bands of the Kootenai Nation, an area that later became northern Idaho, northwest Montana and southeastern British Columbia. Now known as the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, they were the original inhabitants of Boundary County.

Historically, the Kootenai bands occupied territories along the Kootenai River, in parts of Montana, Idaho and British Columbia. Although they did not share a common language with any other group, they were closely aligned with the Flatheads, Kalispel, and Pend Oreille tribes by common territories and intermarriage. Their culture was of the “Basin” type found in the Columbia Basin area.

Their lifestyle was sustained through hunting, fishing and gathering of roots and berries. The mainstay of their diet was salmon, starchy roots and bulbs. Theirs was a semi-nomadic culture, with permanent winter villages near good fishing sites. Their social structure was based on the extended family groupings. Clothing was made from woven bark and plant fibers; lodges were conical huts constructed of a pole framework covered with rush mats. Basketry supplied most of their utensils, including cups, bowls, and storage bags.

Much of the tribe’s original territory is now in the hands of non-Indians.  In the 1855 Hellgate Treaty, the Tribes ceded to the United States all the land they occupied or claimed in exchange for reservations. However, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho was not represented at the Treaty.  Consequently, they did not acquire any land.  As with other tribes, the Dawes Act of 1877 let to the loss of tribal and individual allotments they had received from the Treaty of 1855.  

The Kootenai Tribe gained international attention on Sept. 20, 1975 when it formally declared war on the United States. As a result, they gained a small reservation.  They operate under a constitution written subsequent to the Wheeler-Howard Act.  

The Tribe strongly maintains its native language, religion and other cultural elements. There are 120 enrolled members with about 75 living in a modern village at ”the Mission” three miles northwest of Bonners Ferry.

In 1986, to improve their economic situation, the Tribe built the Kootenai River Inn, a 52-unit waterfront luxury motel in Bonners Ferry. In 1993, they expanded the motel and added bingo and gaming machines. In 2005, the Kootenai Tribe expanded and renovated the facility once again. Investments totaled $6 million, and a full service spa was added.

In 1991, the Tribe built the Kootenai Tribal Sturgeon Hatchery to help enhance the endangered population of this ancient fish that plays a large role in tribal heritage.

Kootenai Tribal Health Facility and Tribal Headquarters

Kootenai Tribal Health Facility and Tribal Headquarters: Among other endeavors, the Kootenai Tribe operates a health care facility. Providers contracted include one physician, one physician assistant, one LPN, one CHR, one medical social worker and a mental health specialist. The positions are direct tribal hires. Care is covered by contract Health. CHR, Alcohol, Dental and Well-Child Program. The total patient population is 300.

Other Offices and Programs    The tribe owns and operates the sturgeon hatchery and the Kootenai River Inn in Bonners Ferry, which houses a restaurant, gift shop, and spa.  The tribe also owns 33 acres of prime industrial property located three miles north of Bonners Ferry at the intersection of Highway 95 and Highway 2.  The total number of tribal employees is currently 32 FTE.

Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
Kootenai Tribal Health Facility
PO Box 1269
Bonners ID 83805
Phone: (208) 267-3519
Fax: 208-267-2960