Underwriting provided by:
The Laura Moore Cunningham

The Kootenai River and the Kootenai Tribe

The Kootenai is the largest river in the northern panhandle of Idaho. But the river doesn't begin in Idaho or even Montana. Its waters spring from the Canadian Rockies before running through those two states. And in Idaho the five-hundred mile long Kootenai flows west and then north before returning to Canada. The Kootenai Tribe has lived along the river for generations.

Kootenai River

Probably one of the biggest things that it meant to the tribe was it was kind of like a highway, and it got us through a lot of portions of our aboriginal territory. And they traveled up and down the Kootenai River to get from one place to another. The whole territory was used by individual members. And they moved around from area to area for hunting and fishing and gathering purposes.
-- Ron Abraham, Kootenai Tribal Council member

Another valuable contribution from the Kootenai River are white sturgeon. The fish, which are sacred to the tribe, are now endangered because of the Libby Dam in Montana and other changes in the river. Over the last decade a number of U.S. and Canadian agencies have been working with the tribe to try and help the sturgeon recover. It's a multi-year project that's been going on for some time. The Kootenai Tribe has been working on riparian restoration along the river corridor and have just added a new and larger hatchery facility at the confluence of the Kootenai and Moyie Rivers.

Sturgeon at hatchery

The hatchery itself, that's the Kootenai Tribe's main role. We control and we oversee the aquaculture production. But again, that's in a common agreement with all the agencies. How many fish should we produce, and how many fish should we release at X number of release locations. And that's specific to a lot of how much good habitat or food is available there. So we all get together and determine that as a group. We're hoping that we can jump start the natural recruitment. The long term goal is not to have a hatchery program; it is for the fish to be able to find the appropriate habitat, survive through all their life stages, and self propagate.
-- Shawn Young, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho Fisheries program