Kootenai Why Stories

Kootenai Why Stories

Kootenai Why Stories

Kootenai Why Stories


While trapping in Montana during the 1880s, young Frank B. Linderman listened to stories and legends told by Kootenai Indians around their campfires. In 1926 he translated the tales for KOOTENAI WHY STORIES. These stories explain the "why" of nature--such as why the coyote has thin legs. Linderman's retelling captures the mystery and spirit of a forested world. Illustrated.


These are told in the Indian's own words as nearly as possible and the effect is of listening to the story teller himself before a blazing camp-fire in some remote trading post.

--Saturday Review of Literature, 27 November 1926

When Frank Bird Linderman wrote Kootenai Why Stories in 1925, forty years had passed since he first arrived in the land of the Kootenai Indians. Born in Ohio in 1869, he had journeyed from the Midwest to the Flathead Valley in northwestern Montana Territory in March 1885. In later years he reminisced, "I came to Montana when I was a boy and Fortune directed my way to its wildest portion, the Flathead country, where I trapped and hunted for nearly seven years. During all of this time I was among the Flatheads and Kootenais."

The first Indian he encountered was a Flathead warrior named Red-horn, who instinctively knew that he was a rank pilgrim. "His smile said as plainly as words that he thought me a babe in the woods." When they met at Linderman's camp in the forest, Red-horn, who became a lasting friend, tried through sign language to impress upon the young novice that he was a Flathead, not a Kootenai. In the fall of 1885 thirty lodges of refugee Chippewa and Cree Indians, who had come over the "medicine- line" after taking part in the Riel Rebellion in Canada, camped near Linderman in the Flathead Valley. Some were still wounded from the fighting, and he helped them hunt for meat. "I had had trouble with the Kootenai," he wrote, "so I sought to strengthen the friendship between the new arrivals and myself. . . ."

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