People born and raised here in Stillwater County, Montana should have a solid education about the Native American reservations, specifically about the Apsáalooke Crow Nation. Montana has a rich history and the state would not be where it is today with the influence of this great tribe.
This article briefly goes over the history and culture of Crow Nation that you might not have known before so that you can have a better appreciation and understanding of Stillwater County.
Do You Know This Brief History of Crow Nation?
Let’s briefly discuss the history of this reservation.
The Crow Nation Reservation is located in south-central Montana and is bordered by Wyoming on the south and its northwestern boundary is about 10 miles from Billings, MT. They are federally recognized tribe of Native Americans who have historically lived in the Yellowstone River Valley, and their tribal headquarters are located at Crow Agency, Montana.
History of the Name
First of all, the Crow are called Apsáalooke or Absaroka in their own language. Early French interpreters mistranslated Apsáalooke, which means “people of the large-beaked bird” and instead thought it meant “people of the crow.”
The Crow Nation people speak Crow, a Missouri Valley Siouan language. The Crow language has one of the largest populations of people who speak this American Indian language, though most Crow speakers also speak English.
Brief History and Culture
In the early fifteenth century, the Hidatsa-Crow were pushed westward from the northern Minnesota or Wisconsin area by an influx of Sioux because of the European-American expansion. This push led to the separation of the Crow Nation from the Hidatsa in the form of three groups – the Mountain Crow, the River Crow, and the Kicked in the Bellies.
The largest group, the Mountain Crow were the first to separate from the ancestral tribe, when their leader, No Intestines, led them on a search for tobacco. They eventually settled in southeastern Montana in the Valley of the Yellowstone River.
The Crow Nation picked up on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle but found conflict with the eighteenth-century spread of the horse in the Great Plains. Various eastern and northern tribes pushed in and the Crow Nation became a target of horse thefts. Warring against Shoshone bands and becoming allies with the Kiowa and Kiowa Apache bands, the Crow remained dominant in their area through the nineteenth century and even assisted the United States military as scouts.
In 1851, the 1850 Laramie Treaty granted the Crow 3.5 million acres. However, even though the Crow people support the U.S. Military in the Indian Wars, they were forced to cede much of their land and settle on their reservation. By 1981, the Reservation had been cut down to 2.2 million acres.
Chief Plenty Coups made many trips to Washington D.C., where he tried to fight against the Senate’s plan to abolish the Crow Nation entirely and take away their lands. Though they were forced onto a reservation, he was successful in keeping part of the Crow’s original land. He was considered by his people to be the last of the great chiefs, and his work to preserve the Crow Nation is something that will always be celebrated.
Places of Interest
More than a small-town museum, the Museum of the Beartooths’ professional displays lend clarity to local history. The Museum’s ever-changing exhibits enhanced with traveling exhibits, invite visitors to stop by again and again. Follow them on Facebook to see their latest events and exhibits.
This monumental battlefield commemorates the Sioux/Cheyenne victory over the Seventh Cavalry. Learn more about the history at the museum, visit the bookstore and see “Custer’s Last Stand.”
There are two visitor centers here, one at Fort Smith and one at Yellowtail Dam. Explore the canyons scenery, excellent wildlife, and amazing camping opportunities to really immerse yourself in history.
This is the gravesite of the well-known Crow Chief, Plenty Coups. His home location is a National Historic Landmark and includes a visitor center and picnic area.
Now that you know a little more about Crow Nation history, you can have a little more appreciation for the cultures that make Stillwater County such a great place to be. Today the Crow of Montana are part of the 5th largest Indian reservation in the United States and include over 11,000 tribal members.
The tribe hosts an annual Crow Fair that is the largest Indian celebration in the Northern Plains. The reservation land is also rich in natural resources, and the tribe controls Little Big Horn College which provides opportunities for those in the tribe. The College is also committed to the preservation of the Crow culture and language.
If you’re thinking of visiting Stillwater County, Montana, make sure you stop at The Museum of the Beartooths, and get your fill of history, and ask the locals all about how Stillwater County got its start.