North American Indian people living in Montana, U.S. Salish is what they call themselves, and their language is of Salishan linguistic stock. The name Flathead is now customary, although it is a misnomer; they themselves did not practice head flattening, but some of their slaves came from tribes that did. The Flatheads, who inhabited what is now western Montana, were the easternmost group of the Plateau Indians, but they exhibited many cultural traits of the Plains Indians just east over the Rocky Mountains. They acquired horses and went on bison hunts on the Plains, often warring with Plains tribes. The Plains tepee was the usual dwelling. Western Flatheads used bark canoes, and fishing was important for all groups. Religious belief centred on guardian spirits, with whom they communicated in visions. Since 1872 the Flatheads have resided primarily on a reservation north of Missoula, Mont. Early 21st-century population estimates indicated more than 4,000 individuals of Flathead descent.
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