The Indians Were Prosperous


The Indians Were Prosperous

Documents of Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and Kootenai Indian History, 1900–1906

Edited by Robert Bigart and Joseph McDonald

362 pages
18 illus., 2 maps, and index


September 2021


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About the Book

By the beginning of the nineteenth century the crescendo of economic change on the Flathead Reservation was reaching a climax. Income was not distributed equally on the reservation even though by 1905 the Indians were basically self-supporting and most of the poorer tribal members had enough to get by.

But the surrounding white community cast covetous eyes on tribal assets—especially the land. In 1903, Congressman Joseph Dixon led an assault on the tribes to force the sale of reservation land to white homesteaders at far below its real value. Tribal leaders realized they were being robbed and protested vigorously—to no avail. With the loss of their assets in land, the tribes’ future income declined, leaving them poorer than white rural Montanans. As part of the allotment policy, tribal members wrestled with a formal enrollment to determine who had rights on the reservation. White businessmen also moved to claim possession of the dam site at the foot of Flathead Lake. While the tribes were fighting against the coerced allotment, they fought the State of Montana over taxes and hunting rights. In the background alcohol and crime impacted some tribal members.

Author Bio

Robert Bigart is librarian emeritus at the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana. Joseph McDonald is president emeritus at the Salish Kootenai College.

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