Demographic and epidemiological changes on the Flathead Reservation 1887-1935

Christina J. Heiner
Anthropology, University of Montana
June, 2016


This dissertation examines the patterns of health among the Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and Kootenai tribes living on the Flathead Reservation in the late 19th and early 20th century. Previous research on early Native American demographic and epidemiological patterns has essentially focused on patterns following European contact to the pre-reservation era, ignoring that Native populations continued to struggle with ill-health and disease under the control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This research found while large infectious disease epidemics did not occur after the 1900s, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia were the leading causes of death for all ages on the reservation. In addition, chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer began to emerge as causes of death. The importance of political and economic factors are stressed as ultimate causes of disease over biological or genetic factors.