Flathead Tribes

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Guide to Flathead Tribes ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, and other agency records.

Alternate Names: Bitter Root Salish

Flathead chief's granddaughter-AngelicLaMoose-inbeaded dress-atFlathead-Reservation,MT-byH.T.CorySept1913-No.27a.jpg
1980 3,771 

Regions with significant populations
Ancestral Homelands: Western Montana and parts of northern Idaho, British Columbia, and Wyoming

Flathead Reservation in Montana, formerly the Jocko Reservation


Federally recognized

Linguistic Group

not yet researched

Cultural Group

not yet researched

Other Related Ethnic Groups


Tribal Headquarters[edit | edit source]

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
42487 Complex Blvd / PO Box 278
Pablo, MT 59855
Phone: 406-675-2700

History[edit | edit source]

The first recorded contact between the Flathead or Salish Tribe and non-Indian explorers occurred in 1806 when the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through what was later to become Montana.

After several requests were made delegations from the tribe, the Catholics established a mission among the Flatheads in the Bitter Root Valley in the 1840s. That mission, called St. Mary's, closed in 1849, but another mission known as St. Ignatius was established in 1854.[1]

Although Victor, the head chief of the Flathead, signed the Hellgate Treaty in 1855, the Flathead Tribe was allowed to remain in Bitter Root Valley until further surveys were made to determine if there was a better place for a reservation for the tribe, rather than assigning them to the Jocko Reservation.[2]

In 1890, members of the Flathead Tribe were removed from the Bitter Root Valley to the Jocko Reservation, now known as the Flathead Reservation.[3]

The allotment of land to members of the Flathead Tribe was begun in 1904. Following that allotment, nearly 1/2 million acres passed out of tribal ownership as surplus land.

Brief Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1806: Lewis and Clark Expedition made contact with the tribe
  • 1840-1846: Jesuit missionary - Father Pierre Jean de Smet - lived in the area
  • 1841: St. Mary's Mission established by Catholics in Bitter Root Valley
  • 1853: United States terminated its relationship with the sovereign nations of Flathead by the U.S. Congress under House Concurrent Resolution 108.
  • 1854: St. Ignatius Mission established on the Jocko River
  • 1855October 17, Territory of Nebraska, Treaty with the Blackfeet 
  • 1855 July 16, at Hell Gate in Bitter Root Valley,Treaty with Flatheads Etc.,land in Montana and Idaho was ceded.
  • 1864-80: The tribe was under the jurisdiction of the Montana Superintendency
  • 1872: Ceded additional land
  • 1890-1891: Removed from Bitter Root Valley to Jocko Reservation

Additional References[edit | edit source]

The Flathead Tribe was under the jurisdiction of agencies, reservations, and superintendencies

Records[edit | edit source]

The majority of records of individuals were those created by the agencies. Some records may be available to tribal members through the tribal headquarters.They were (and are) the local office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and were charged with maintaining records of the activities of those under their responsibility. Among these records are:

Agency Records[edit | edit source]

The following agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs had jurisdiction over the Flathead for the time periods indicated. BIA agencies were responsible to keep such records as census rolls, allotment (land) records, annuity rolls, school records, correspondence, and other records of individuals under their jurisdiction. For details, see the page for the respective agency.

Flathead Agency, 1854-1857, 1861-present
Washington East of the Cascades Agency, 1857-1861

Census Records[edit | edit source]

The Bureau of Indian Affairs compiled annual Indian Census Rolls on many of the reservations from 1885 to 1940. They list the names of individuals, their age, and other details about each person enumerated. For more information about these records, click here.

The following table lists the census rolls for the Flathead Native Americans:

Agency Location of Original Records

Post-1885 Census M595 RG 75

Roll Number


Film Number

Flathead Agency, 1886-1939 Seattle Rolls 107-16 FHL Film 575799-800, 576464-471

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Gregory Mengarind and Gloria Ricci Lothrop. Recollections of the Flathead Mission. Glendale, CA., Arthur H. Clark Co., 1977. FHL Book 970.3 Sa34m

Correspondence Records[edit | edit source]

There are several sets of correspondence between the supervising offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the local offices -- agencies, subagencies, etc. The correspondence is often historical in nature, including reports of the conditions among local groups of Native Americans, hostilities, plans for building facilities, activities of traders or missionaries, etc. Occasionally, there will be names of individuals but little detail about them. For more information about American Indian correspondence, click here.

The following table lists some correspondence relating to the Flatheads:

Agency Location of  Original Records

Pre - 1880 Correspondence

M 234 RG 75 -- 962 Rolls

Roll Number


Film Number

Montana Superintendency, 1864-1880 Washington D. C. Rolls 488-518 -

Enrollment Records[edit | edit source]

In 1905, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs assigned Special Agent Thomas Downs to investigate the enrollment of the Native Americans of the Flathead Reservation. The National Archives has microfilmed the resulting documents as their Microcopy M1350, consisting of 3 rolls of microfilm. These records are available at the National Archives and their Regional Archives, and at other research institutions, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The records include census rolls for 1903, 1905, and 1908, as well as applications for enrollment and Agent Downs' field notes. It includes members of all tribes then living on the Flathead Reservation, including the Flathead, Kootenai, Pend d'Oreille, Kalispel, and Spokane tribes.

Land Records[edit | edit source]

Flathead Allotment Records, 1889 -- List of those signing consents for land transfer.

Montana Flathead Land Patents, 1908 -- Abstracts of names beginning A-D

Those who signed consents to be removed from the Bitter Root Valley to the Jocko Reservation in 1890 are included in a list taken from the book entitled Flatheads of Bitter Root Valley. An abstract of the list is also available online.

Treaties[edit | edit source]

During the latter part of the 18th Century and most of the 19th Century, treaties were negotiated between the federal government and individual Indian tribes. The treaties provide helpful information about the history of the tribe, but usually only include the names of those persons who signed the treaty. For more information about treaties, click here.

Treaties to which the Flathead were a part are:

  • 1855October 17, Territory of Nebraska, Treaty with the Blackfeet 
  • 1855 July 16, at Hell Gate in Bitter Root Valley,Treaty with Flatheads Etc.,

Tribal Office Records[edit | edit source]

The Tribal Office is responsible for enrollment records, vital records, tribal police records, tribal court records, employment records and many others. They are an entirely different set of records from those kept by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Most of them remain in the Tribal Office. For details, contact that office at the address for the Tribal Headquarters listed above.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Prior to the Indian Reorganization Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, through their agencies, may have recorded some vital events. Some were recorded on health forms, such as the "Sanitary Record of Sick, Injured, Births, Deaths, etc." Others were recorded as supplements to the "Indian Census Rolls." Some were included in the unindexed reports and other correspondence of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Some vital records for the Flathead include:

  • Flathead Agency, M595, births and deaths, 1924-1934, FHL Film: 576469 and births and deaths, 1927-1937,FHL Film: 576471. FHL Film: 576468 also includes supplemental rolls of the Flathead (Montana) Agency

Reservations[edit | edit source]

Reservations are tracts of land set aside for occupation and use by Native Americans.

The principle reservation occupied by the Flathead is currently called the Flathead Reservation, formerly known as the Jocko Reservation, because of its location on the Jocko River in northern Montana.

The reservation includes land in Flathead, Lake, Missoula, and Sanders Counties in Montana

Superintendencies[edit | edit source]

Montana Superintendency

Oregon Superintendency

Washington Superintendency

Idaho Superintendency

Websites[edit | edit source]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Flathead[edit | edit source]

General[edit | edit source]

For background information to help find American Indian ancestors see For Further Reading.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Catholic Encyclopedia
  2. Treaty of Hellgate, Treaty of July 16, 1855, 12 Stat. 975, Ratified March 8, 1859.
  3. Flathead Indians of Bitter Root Valley