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The Kutenai language
is named after and is spoken by some of the Kootenai
The Ktunaxa , also known as Kootenai, Kutenai or Kootenay , are an indigenous people of North America. They are one of three tribes of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation in Montana, and they form the Ktunaxa Nation in British Columbia...
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...
First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...
people who are indigenous to the area of North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...
that is now Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....
, and British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...
Kutenai is a language isolate
A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. They are in effect language families consisting of a single...
having no demonstrable relation to any other language. The most plausible hypothesis for a connection to other languages is the proposal that it is distantly related to the Salishan languages. This hypothesis is generally considered plausible but has not been established.
The 1990 US Census counted 102 Kutenai speakers in the United States and the Canadian Census counted 220 speakers. However, as of 1999, only about a dozen elders spoke the language fluently.
History of Description
The first grammar of Kutenai, by Roman Catholic missionary Philippo Canestrelli, was published in 1894 in Latin.