Swaney, Former CSKT Tribal Chairman, Dies

By Beacon Staff

POST CREEK – Thomas “Bearhead” Swaney, a former chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, has died of cancer at age 78.

Swaney died Thursday at his daughter’s house, his family said.

Swaney’s nephew, current CSKT chairman James Steele Jr., says his uncle was instrumental in creating the Mission Mountains Wilderness, the designation of the Flathead Indian Reservation as a Class I airshed and protecting the lower Flathead River from any more dams after Kerr Dam was built in the 1930s.

Swaney served two terms on the tribal council, from 1972-75 and again from 1978-81. He served as tribal chairman for a few months in 1978 before being ousted after the council argued he was making decisions without consulting them.

Swaney was born in St. Ignatius on April 16, 1931. He and his wife, Doreen, who were married for 21 years before their divorce in 1979, had four children.