On our way to Rexford Bench, MT we rode along Lake Koocanusa. We were wondering what the origins of this name were.

Was it…. …..?

  1. The Flat Iron Indians have a word in their language to depict a crazy person who doesn’t understand the spiritual relationship between humankind and the natural world that sustains humankind. A person who is “koocan” is the sort of person who’d kill a buffalo and not collect the the meat and hide to provide for his group. And some policies of the US Federal government in building the railroads and enforcing the relocation of American Indians were koocan on a large scale–hence, koocan-USA.
  2. In the late 1880’s a group of Jews from New York, NY who were in the fur business decided to get closer to the source of the furs and escape the bustling life of the lower east side in NYC and become fur trappers in Montana. Unfortunately, city life had not prepared the group for the rigors of the frontier and they were not successful trappers. So, they reverted to more familiar skills and started baking sweet treats, kuchen (cake in German or Yiddush), for the locals. To make the name more familiar, they added USA to create Kuchenusa, which ended up being spelled more simply as Koocanusa.
  3. Bob and Alice lived near Libby, MT and were sitting around drinking beer and “chewing the fat” and came up with a new name for the vast reservoir created by a new dam on the Kootenai river. They combined Koo for Kootenai, can for Canada, and USA for, well, the USA. They proposed the name to the Army Corps of Engineers and it stuck.