Crow Nation

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Apsáalooke
Crow
Swallow Bird- Crow Indian- Edward S. Curtis.jpg
Photograph of a Crow man named Swallow Bird, by Edward S. Curtis, 1908.
Total population
12,000 enrolled members
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( Montana)
Languages
Crow, English, Plains Sign Talk
Religion
Crow Way, Tobacco Society, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Hidatsa
Crow Indians, c. 1878–1883

The Crow (also known as Apsáalooke in their own Siouan language, or Absaroka) are Native Americans. In the past, they lived in the Yellowstone River valley, which is in Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. Today, they are federally recognized as the Crow Tribe of Montana.[1]

During their history, the Crow have changed their territory many times because of conflicts with the Ojibwe, Cree, Cheyennes, and Lakota (Sioux) peoples. They were generally friendly with the whites. Since the 19th century, most Crow people have lived on their reservation that is south of Billings, Montana. Although they have lost land, it is over 9300 km2. They also live in several major western cities. The tribe's headquarters are located at Crow Agency, Montana.[2]

History[change | change source]

The name Apsáalooke means "children of the large-beaked bird".[3] The French translated the name as gens du corbeaux ("people of [the] crows"), and they became known in English as the Crow. Other tribes also refer to the Apsáalooke as "crow" or "raven" in their own languages.[4]

In 1743 the Crow first encountered people of European descent. They were French fur traders.

In the Northern Plains[change | change source]

The Crow and Hidatsa used to be the same tribe. They were nomadic hunters and farmers. The earliest known home of the Crow-Hidatsa tribe was in present-day Ohio. They were pushed out by stronger neighbors and moved to Manitoba.[5] Later, they moved to North Dakota, where they split from the Hidatsa. The Crow were then pushed westward, mostly by the Cheyenne and Sioux.

To gain control of their new home in the Yellowstone River valley, they fought against the Shoshone[6] and drove them westward. They were allied with some of the Kiowa and Kiowa Apache.[7][8][9] The Crow were an important tribe in this area through the 18th and 19th centuries, the era of the North American fur trade.[10][11]

After they started living in this area, the Crow divided into four groups: the Mountain Crow, River Crow, Kicked in the Bellies and Beaver Dries its Fur.[12][13] They adopted the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Indians, becoming gatherers and bison hunters.

Enemies and allies[change | change source]

Ledger drawing of a Cheyenne war chief and warriors (left) coming to a truce with a Crow war chief and warriors (right)
A scout on a horse, 1908

Around 1740, the Plains tribes, including the Crow, started using horses. This allowed them to hunt buffalo more actively. The Crow became well-known horse breeders and dealers. Sometimes, their horses were stolen by tribes like the Blackfoot Confederacy, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Pawnee, and Ute.[14][15] Later they had to fight the Lakota and their allies, the Arapaho and Cheyenne. The tribes in the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Lakota-Cheyenne-Arapaho alliance became their greatest enemies.

The Crow were generally allies with the northern Plains tribes of the Nez Perce, Kutenai, Shoshone, Kiowa and Kiowa Apache. They were also allies with the Flathead, although sometimes they had conflicts with them. The powerful Iron Confederacy (Nehiyaw-Pwat), an alliance of northern plains Indian nations developed as enemies of the Crow. It included the Plains Cree and Assiniboine peoples, and later included the Stoney, Saulteaux, Ojibwe, and Métis.

Gradual displacement from tribal lands[change | change source]

When a large number of white Americans arrived, the Crows were fighting enemies who greatly outnumbered them. In the 1850s, a boy named Plenty Coups had a vision. The tribal elders said the dream meant that the whites would become dominant over the entire country, and that the Crows would need to remain friendly with the whites.[16]

By 1851, the Lakota and Cheyenne were fighting the Crow for their hunting lands.[17] They took over the eastern hunting lands, and pushed the Crow to the west and northwest upriver on the Yellowstone. After about 1860, the Lakota Sioux had all the former Crow lands. They threatened Americans who were moving into these areas.

The Crow signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 with the United States. This treaty recognized a large area around the Big Horn Mountains as Crow lands.[18] But the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux were still moving westward and pushing the Crows.

"Eight Crow prisoners under guard at Crow agency, Montana, 1887"

After Red Cloud's War (1866–1868) between the Lakota Sioux and the United States, the Lakota controlled territory from the Black Hills to the Big Horn Mountains.[19] Bands of Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne began to hunt and raid in ancestral Crow territory.

Crow warriors fought for the US Army in the Great Sioux War (1876–1877). This war ended with the defeat of the Sioux and Cheyenne. Some of the Sioux and their allies went to Canada, while others were removed to reservations.

Culture[change | change source]

Gender and kinship system[change | change source]

The Crow had a matrilineal system. After marriage, the husband moved to the wife's mother's house. Women held a significant role within the tribe.

Like other Plains tribes, the Crow historically had three defined gender roles: male, female and baté (trans female / "two-spirit").[20][21][22][23]

The modern Crow Tribe Apsáalooke Nation[change | change source]

Geography[change | change source]

The Crow Indian Reservation is in south-central Montana. Its area is about 2,300,000 acres (9,300 km2), making it the fifth-largest Indian reservation in the United States. The 2000 census reported a total population of 6,894 on reservation lands.

Government[change | change source]

Flag of the Crow Nation.

The seat of government and capital of the Crow Indian Reservation is Crow Agency, Montana.

In 1948, a Constitution was adapted. It organized the tribe as a General Council (Tribal Council). The General Council had the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of the government. It was made up of all adult members of the Crow Nation. To be members of the General Council, females had to be 18 years or older and males had to be 21 or older. The General Council was a direct democracy, similar to that of ancient Athens. A chairperson was elected once every two years.

At a 2001 Council Meeting, four officials of the General Council established a three-branch government. The new government is known as the 2001 Constitution. The General Council is still the governing body of the tribe, but it has not met since 2001. Its powers were given to the three-branch government. The 2001 Constitution has been controversial because its establishment did not follow the rules of the 1948 Constitution. Opponents also say that it gives too much power to the US Bureau of Indian Affairs over the Crow government.

The officials who established the 2001 Constitution became the Executive Branch. These officials are known as the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary, and Vice-Secretary. The Chairperson's term lasts four years. The current Chairman is Darrin Old Coyote.

The Legislative Branch has three members from each district on the Crow Indian Reservation. The Crow Indian Reservation is divided into six districts known as The Valley of the Chiefs, Reno, Black Lodge, Mighty Few, Big Horn, and Pryor Districts.

The Judicial Branch consists of all courts established by the Crow Law and Order Code. It consists of an elected Chief Judge and two Associate Judges. The Crow Court of Appeals receives all appeals from the lower courts. The Chief Judge of the Crow Nation is Julie Yarlott.

Notable Crow[change | change source]

Delegation of Important Crow chiefs, 1880. From left to right: Old Crow, Medicine Crow, Long Elk, Plenty Coups, and Pretty Eagle.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. "Crow Tribe of Montana". National Indian Law Library. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  2. "Crow Nation, Apsaalooké". Crow Nation. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  3. Johnson, Kirk (24 July 2008), "A State That Never Was in Wyoming", The New York Times
  4. William C. Sturtevant, Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest (1979, ISBN 0160504007), page 714: "Among other tribes the Crow are most commonly designated as 'crow' or 'raven'."
  5. Barry M. Pritzker:A Native American Encyclopedia
  6. Phenocia Bauerle: The Way of the Warrior: Stories of the Crow People, University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 978-0-8032-6230-0
  7. Peter Nabokof and Lawrence L. Lowendorf, Restoring a History, University of Oklahoma Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8061-3589-1, ISBN 978-0-8061-3589-2
  8. John Doerner, "Timeline of historic events from 1400 to 2003", Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
  9. Timeline and citations, Four Directions Institute
  10. Rodney Frey: The World of the Crow Indians: As Driftwood Lodges, University of Oklahoma Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-8061-2560-2
  11. "The Crow Society". crow.bz. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  12. Timothy P. McCleary: The Stars We Know: Crow Indian Astronomy and Lifeways, Waveland Press Inclusive, 1996, ISBN 978-0-88133-924-6
  13. Lowie 1912: 183–184
  14. Osborn, Alan J. "Ecological Aspects of Equestrian Adaptation in Aboriginal North America", American Anthropologist, No l. 85, No. 3 (Sept 1983), 566
  15. Hamalainen, 10–15
  16. Plenty Coups and Linderman, Plenty-Coups, Chief of the Crows, 2002, p. 31-42.
  17. Brown, Mark H (1959). The Plainsmen of the Yellowstone. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 128–129. ISBN 0-8032-5026-6.
  18. Text of the Fort Laramie Treat of 1851, see Article 5 relating to the Crow lands
  19. Text of Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, See Article 16, creating unceded Indian Territory east of the summit of the Big Horn Mountains and north of the North Platte River
  20. Will Roscoe (2000). Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-22479-6.
  21. Walter L. Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture (ISBN 0807046159)
  22. Sabine Lang (1998). Men as women, women as men: changing gender in Native American cultures. University of Texas Press. p. 117. ISBN 0-292-74701-2.
  23. The Crow Indians (1983, ISBN 0803279094)

References[change | change source]

  • The Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1983, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-7909-4
  • The World of the Crow Indians: As Driftwood Lodges, Rodney Frey, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1987, hardback, ISBN 0-8061-2076-2
  • Stories That Make the World: Oral Literature of the Indian Peoples of the Inland Northwest. As Told by Lawrence Aripa, Tom Yellowtail and Other Elders. Rodney Frey, edited. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1995, paperback, ISBN 0-8061-3131-4
  • The Crow and the Eagle: A Tribal History from Lewis & Clark to Custer, Keith Algier, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1993, paperback, ISBN 0-87004-357-9
  • From The Heart Of The Crow Country: The Crow Indians' Own Stories, Joseph Medicine Crow, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2000, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-8263-X
  • Apsaalooka: The Crow Nation Then and Now, Helene Smith and Lloyd G. Mickey Old Coyote, MacDonald/Swãrd Publishing Company, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 1992, paperback, ISBN 0-945437-11-0
  • Parading through History: The Making of the Crow Nation in America 1805-1935, Frederick E. Hoxie, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1995, hardcover, ISBN 0-521-48057-4
  • The Handsome People: A History of the Crow Indians and the Whites, Charles Bradley, Council for Indian Education, 1991, paperback, ISBN 0-89992-130-2
  • Myths and Traditions of the Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, AMS Press, 1980, hardcover, ISBN 0-404-11872-0
  • Social Life of the Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, AMS Press, 1912, hardcover, ISBN 0-404-11875-5
  • Material Culture of the Crow Indians, Robert H Lowie, The Trustees, 1922, hardcover, ASIN B00085WH80
  • The Tobacco Society of the Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, The Trustees, 1919, hardcover, ASIN B00086IFRG
  • Religion of the Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, The Trustees, 1922, hardcover, ASIN B00086IFQM
  • The Crow Sun Dance, Robert Lowie, 1914, hardcover, ASIN B0008CBIOW
  • Minor Ceremonies of the Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, American Museum Press, 1924, hardcover, ASIN B00086D3NC
  • Crow Indian Art, Robert H. Lowie, The Trustees, 1922, ASIN B00086D6RK
  • The Crow Language, Robert H. Lowie, University of California press, 1941, hardcover, ASIN B0007EKBDU
  • The Way of the Warrior: Stories of the Crow People, Henry Old Coyote and Barney Old Coyote, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2003, ISBN 0-8032-3572-0
  • Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior, Peter Nabokov, Crowell Publishing Co., 1967, hardcover, ASIN B0007EN16O
  • Plenty-Coups: Chief of the Crows, Frank B. Linderman, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1962, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-5121-1
  • Pretty-shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows, Frank B. Linderman, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1974, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-8025-4
  • They Call Me Agnes: A Crow Narrative Based on the Life of Agnes Yellowtail Deernose, Fred W. Voget and Mary K. Mee, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1995, hardcover, ISBN 0-8061-2695-7
  • Yellowtail, Crow Medicine Man and Sun Dance Chief: An Autobiography, Michael Oren Fitzgerald, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1991, hardcover, ISBN 0-8061-2602-7
  • Grandmother's Grandchild: My Crow Indian Life, Alma Hogan Snell, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2000, hardcover, ISBN 0-8032-4277-8
  • Memoirs of a White Crow Indian, Thomas H. Leforge, The Century Co., 1928, hardcover, ASIN B00086PAP6
  • Radical Hope. Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, Jonathan Lear, Harvard University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-674-02329-3

Other websites[change | change source]