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indigenous people of North America, also known as the Flathead, who in the early 19th cent. inhabited the Bitterroot River valley of W Montana. Their language belongs to the Salishan branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
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). These people never practiced head flattening, but the Columbia River tribes who shaped the front of the head to create a pointed appearance spoke of their neighbors, the Salish, as "flatheads" in contrast. After the introduction of the horse the Salish adopted a Plains culture, including the hunting of buffalo and the use of the tepee. They fought a series of wars with the Blackfoot over hunting land. The Jesuit missionary Pierre Jean De SmetDe Smet, Pierre Jean
, 1801–73, Jesuit missionary in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, b. Belgium. He emigrated to the United States in 1821, served his novitiate in Florissant, Mo., and was ordained in 1827.
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, who in 1841 founded the mission of St. Mary in the Bitterroot valley among the Salish, persuaded the Blackfoot to make peace. By the Garfield Treaty (1872) the Salish agreed to move north to the valley of the Flathead lake and river. Many now live on the Flathead Reservation in Montana, which they share with a small group of Kootenai. In 1990 there were close to 5,000 Salish and over 2,000 people of mixed Salish and Kootenai descent in the United States.

There are several Coast Salish groups centered around Puget Sound. They numbered some 10,000 in 1990, including the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip, and other groups. The city of Seattle is named after one of their great chiefs. The Native Americans of the Puget Sound area were traditionally part of the Northwest Coast cultural area (see under Natives, North AmericanNatives, North American,
peoples who occupied North America before the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th cent. They have long been known as Indians because of the belief prevalent at the time of Columbus that the Americas were the outer reaches of the Indies (i.e.
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), speaking Salishan languages, living in large wooden houses, and practicing wood carving. Their diet was based on an abundant supply of salmon, shellfish, berries, and game until they were moved onto reservations by the treaties of Medicine Creek, Point Elliott, and others in the 1850s. Since then they have waged a continual battle in federal courts over fishing and shellfish rights in the area, one of the most productive in the country.


See O. W. Johnson, Flathead and Kootenay (1969); J. G. Jorgensen, Salish Language and Culture (1969).



a group of North American Indian tribes speaking related languages. Before the Europeans came to America, the Salish lived in what is now Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and southern British Columbia. Those along the coast engaged in fishing and hunted various marine animals, whereas those in the inland regions fished in rivers and streams and hunted game. The Salish tribes were divided into exogamous clans. Descent and inheritance were reckoned according to the father’s line. Patriarchal slavery, the potlatch custom, and secret religious societies existed among the Salish and a cult of personal guardian spirits was practiced.

Most of their lands having been seized by settlers, the Salish have lived since 1855 on reservations within the areas they formerly inhabited. Their population numbers approximately 40,000 (1970, estimate). They work for hire in the fishing and lumber industries and as hired laborers in agriculture; some engage in fishing.


Narody Ameriki, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.
Averkieva, Iu. P. Razlozhenie rodovoi obshchiny iformirovanie ranneklas-sovykh otnoshenii v obshchestve indeitsev severo-zapadnogopoberezh’ia Severnoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1961.