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Kootenai (also spelled Kutenai) is a state formed mostly of US state parks and reservations in the northwestern corner of the state of Montana. The official name of the state is Ktunaxa Free State, though the state encompasses all the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation and was the result of an agreement between the Ktunaxa Nation and the recently reconstituted government of the United States of America in 1993. It consists of the former Montanan counties of Lincoln, Flathead, Missoula, Mineral and Lake, with a total area of 14,426 sq mi. Though a minority (about 12,000), the Ktunaxa support a population of about 200,000 that continue to live in the cities. The capital city is Missoula.
The original Ktunaxa had inhabited the lower plains at the edge of the glaciers of the ice age, moving north to what would become the border between the United States and Canada. The upper band, living in the mountains, were largely large game hunters, the lower ban, some of which ended up in the U.S. state of Idaho, were avid fishermen. Their sturgeon-nosed canoe was a marvelous piece of aboriginal technology, made from bark removed in one piece from tall straight trees found in the mountains. The smooth inside of the bark became the outside of the canoe, removing any need for woodworking for a planned and efficient craft. Their hooks and nets were of like quality, as they harvested the mountain streams of all kinds of fish to feed their people.
The governments of the U.S. and Canada had greatly reduced the area that these people were able to claim as their own, and some of them had never formerly agreed to give up their land for the security of the reserve system. One such band had been in Idaho in the 1970's. Having only signed a treaty with the U.S. government in 1975, the Ktunaxa Nation had been the last indigenous people to declare war on the old U.S. before doomsday.
Doomsday and Beyond
On September 25, 1983, the relative peace the Ktunaxa had achieved was shattered along with the ground to the east of the Lewis Range of the Rocky Mountains of northwestern Montana. Protected by the mountains and the prevailing wind patterns, the tribes were not directly affected by the intense bombardment of the missile silos. However, they were cut off from civilization and had to begin to depend on the old ways to survive.
In 1992, after winning a war against the much larger Lakota tribe in the Dakotas, President Hunkins strengthened his ties with other American Indians by negotiating the states of Kootenai and Absaroka from the largely unpopulated state of Montana. To secure the deal, he made citizenship automatic for all Ktuanxa who would come in to the new state. The tribes gave up their tiny reservations (about 3 sq. mi.) for access to over 14,000 sq mi!
Even with an influx of Kootenai from Canada, though, the tribes were still a tiny minority in the state. However, this tribe only represented all the American Indian tribes on and around the Flathead Indian Reservation, an area in which they were promised autonomy and equality with the other peoples - mostly in the cities - when it came to ruling the state. Outside of the cities, in the formally protected national forests, ethnic Kootenai and Salis peoples were assured free access to game and resources.
By agreement with the PUSA government, the state has a republican form of government. The American Indians dominate the state, but the non-native minority have their rights protected by both the state and national constitutions.