The Kutenai Indians

The word Kutenai may be a combination of the words "coo," meaning water, and "tinneh," meaning people. When we consider the great number of lakes and waterways in the Kootenay River basin, this name seems appropriate for the local Native population.

The Kutenai were divided into three groups, the Lower Kutenai, the Upper Kutenai, and the Plains Kutenai. The Lower Kutenai Indians, who live south of Creston, were also known as the Arcplat, or Flatbow, Indians, a name inspired by the shape of Kootenay Lake. They lived mainly by hunting, trapping, and fishing. At tribal ceremonies, they worshipped the sun and the Great Spirit. There was a great deal of contact and intermingling amongst the three groups.

The Kutenai Canoe, unique to the local Indians, was originally made from a single piece of white pine bark. The bark was laid smooth side out, over a frame of cedar strips and maple ribs. Either cedar root or wild cherry bark was used for binding. Pitch from the ponderosa pine or Douglas fir provided caulking materials for joints and knotholes. The only real change the canoe has undergone over the years is the substitution of readily?available canvas for the traditional white pine bark.

Although no other Indian nation in North America builds canoes in the same manner as the Kutenai, in the mid1800's a canoe of similar design was discovered in the Amur River region of northern Asia. This coincidence

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