Margaret Mathias “Muggs” Friedlander moved on to join the ancestors on February 26, 2022. After an extended illness, she went peacefully in the comfort of her eldest son’s arms. Margaret was born on April 20,1932 at the family home on the Yawuʾni shores in Elmo Montana. She was delivered by her grandmother, Marion Big Knife Pierre. Muggs was a proud fullblood Kootenai (Ksanka) who remained true to her culture by honoring the traditions and beliefs of her people. She was a fluent speaker of the isolate Kootenai language and worked tirelessly to instill cultural knowledge and customs to those who wanted to learn.
At the tender age of 5, Margaret was sent to the Ursulines but she never gave up her identity or language. She attended Polson High School and received a business administration certificate from VoTech in Missoula. Muggs dedicated her life to a new level of Tribal activism where she educated oppressors and resisted colonialism in the aboriginal homelands of western Montana and Canada. In 1975, she joined her cousin, Amelia Cutsack Trice who declared war on the United States, winning federal recognition and reclaiming the homeland for the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho. A documentary of “Idaho’s Forgotten War” tells the story of this courageous feat.
She worked for the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and served as Tribal Judge in the newly formed judiciary. Margaret and Amy were also instrumental in allying with NARF to save Kootenai Falls, a significant sacred site of the Ktunaxa Nation. Her career spanned another decade with three Kootenai bands in Canada where she helped usher in self-governance and community development. She retired as Band Administrator for the St. Mary’s Band (ʾAamniʾ) in Cranbrook. Throughout her tenure, she never registered for a work visa because she didn’t consider herself an immigrant in her own homeland.
In her retirement, she returned home to ʾA·kiȼqa (Dayton) to become the caretaker of the Roundhouse and served the Kootenai Elders Advisory Committee until her health declined. Always grounded in her culture, she believed her people could overcome anything through spiritual practices. She often remarked that “in a world where you can be anything, it’s best to be Kootenai first and foremost.” More than anything she hoped for equal and fair representation for indigenous people and encouraged the Kootenais to stay politically active to protect their homelands.
Margaret will be missed by her wide circle of friends, Indian relatives from the West Coast to Plains of Alberta. As an avid stickgame player, she spent Summers in pursuit of this unique socialization, either getting whipped or whipping others in stickgame. In the off-season, she frequented Kwaanuk, the CDA and Kootenai River Inn casinos. She possessed sage wisdom often counseling her family to work hard and make sacrifices to partake in ceremonies and rejuvenate. She was pleased with younger generations who have gravitated back to their traditions and continue to learn the native languages.
Margaret now rejoices with her ancestor’s: parents, Adeline Mathias and the Chief Eneas Big Knife family, Michel Mathias and the Chief Baptiste Mathias family. She is preceded by her adoring husband, Ken Friedlander, Sr. and In-laws Bill and Velda Friedlander, her brothers, Patrick, Barney and Joseph Mathias, Sr., a son, Duane Albert, nephews, Patrick Mathias, Joe Mathias, Jr. and grandson, Jeremy Stiffarm. She is survived by children, Ken (Charlene) Friedlander, Jr. of Evaro, Karen “De-De” (Mike) McCuistion of Spokane, Rhonda (Ted) Friedlander of Omak, Velda (Bruce) Shelby of Ya·kiⱡ paȼniⱡki, Lois (Dave) Friedlander, Wendell (Mary) Friedlander of ʾA·kiȼqa and Gina Johnson of South Dakota. She is also survived by nieces, nephew, cousins and her numerous grandchildren and aȼmiⱡnaⱡa who she cherished deeply.
Wake services were held in Elmo and she was laid to rest in ʾA·kiȼqa. Memorial services will be announced at a later date.