North American Indian tribe that traditionally lived in what are now southeastern British Columbia, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana. Their language is of uncertain classification, some authorities placing it in the Wakashan family and some classifying it independently. The tribe is thought to be descended from an ancient Blackfoot group that migrated westward from the Great Plains to the drainage of the Kootenai River, a tributary of the upper Columbia. Plentiful streams and lakes, adequate rainfall, and abundant game and fish made this area the most favourable part of the plateau between the Rockies and the Pacific Coast Ranges.
Learn more about Kutenai with a free trial on Britannica.com.