Native Americans

The Kootenai Indians are believed to be the first inhabitants of the Kootenai Lodge property - other than the bear, deer, mountain lion, and a wide variety of wildlife who roamed its vast forest. The Kootenai tribe as well as the Flathead and Blackfeet Indians camped on the shores of Swan Lake where they hunted and fished. Local lore also says that the Kootenai Indians gathered here for a sweat, which is a spiritual cleansing ceremony that included prayer and worship conducted under the protective canopy of a tipi.

Kootenai Indians are thought to be the first Montana Indians, a tribe that migrated to the Flathead Lake region from the north in the 1500s. As hunters, the Kootenai Indians were nomadic and traveled to the plains to hunt bison. They were eventually pushed into Northwest Montana by the aggressive Blackfeet tribe, a dominating force at that time.

The Kootenai were originally known as Ksunka, which means "People of the Standing Arrow" symbolizing strength, unity and dexterity. French explorers re-named them Kootenai, which means "Water People," because of their skillful canoeing ability. A vision of this peaceful, majestic people gliding on the glassy waters of Swan Lake in their canoes is easy to imagine when you visit the shores of Kootenai Lodge.


Debi Rolfing cradling her
 first Native American newborn

The Daily Inter Lake
By Jo Ann Speelman, November 21, 1999
Kootenai Lodge a first home for newborns 

"Mark and Debi Rolfing have made Kootenai Lodge on Swan Lake a "cradle care" home for newborn babies awaiting adoption… 

…One symbol of the foster-care work is a beaded leather cradle board from Kootenai elder Agnes Kenmille. 

The Pablo woman, whose Native American name is Oshanee, blessed the lodge compound seven years ago, and the gift of her handmade cradle board was a prophecy for the future of Kootenai Lodge."





Native Americans




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Charles M. "Charlie" Russell, western artist at Kootenai Lodge
Charlie Russell