Horse Plains on the Flathead River

The Flathead River downstream of Plains, Montana in 1938 (W.C. Alden, USGS-awc02357) and in June, 2015 (CW-2015-07-25-0167). The repeat photograph was moved westward a few hundred meters due to increased forest cover in the foreground, but could likely be retaken in a closer location to the original location.

During the equestrian era, Flathead, Okanogan, Kalispel, Kootenay, Nez Perce and other groups of Native Americans routinely met at the “Horse Plains” along the Flathead River to begin their expeditions eastward to the foothills and plains to hunt bison 1 The Flathead people, key players in these expeditions, pastured large numbers of horses on the the vast grasslands north of the river, extending to Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains provided pasture for the large numbers of horses necessary to mount the large number of warriors and hunters to make the trip on to the plains where they might faced  opposition from members of the Blackfoot confederacy. 2

  1. Anastasio, A. “The Southern Plateau: An Ecological Analysis of Intergroup Relations.” Northwest Anthropological Research Notes. Moscow: University Idaho, 1985.
  2. Binnema, T. Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001
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