Lesson 4: Lower Kootenai

I’m a few days late with this one. Last Thursday we discussed Lower Kootenai society and culture. The Kootenai lived on the Plateau, which is a geographic region of North America, most people don’t know about. It’s eastern Washington, southeastern British Columbia, Northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana. We discussed several facets of Kootenai society and culture, spending the most time on the social and political structure, which are significantly different from the groups we’ve discussed already. On a side note, the lack of explanation offered in Oswalt’s text is both good and bad. It would be nice to have more information, but it does provide good opportunities for the students and myself to use our knowledge and experience with anthropological theory to think about possible explanations.

We also read a psychological anthropology article by Theresa O’Nell about the relationship between depression, alcoholism, and suicide on the Flathead Reservation. The take away message is that in order to understand and combat these problems in modern American Indian societies, it is important to understand depression in it’s proper cultural context, not from a Western perspective. Depression varies from culture-to-culture, as do the causes of alcoholism and suicide. O’Nell does a good job of explaining these phenomena among the Salish and Kootenai on the reservation and why we need culturally appropriate solutions to these problems.

Up next: the Tlingit and traditional environmental knowledge.

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