In the way of the Crow, storytellers have passed down the traditions and history of the people word by word, from one generation to the next, since the beginnings of the tribe.
The Crow Indians used to be farmers that were part of the Hidatsa tribe living in North Dakota. In the early 1700s, they moved west and became travelers who lived in teepees and followed herds of buffalo. They also became successful traders of horses, bows, shirts, and feather items.
The Apsalooka, later named the Crow, were a nomadic tribe that inhabited the Yellowstone River Valley in Montana and Wyoming.
The Crow relied primarily on buffalo as their main source of subsistance. These animals were not only a source of food, clothing, and shelter, but were also considered sacred. The Crow lived in hide tipis to follow the herds, and constructed the largest teepees of all the Indian tribes. The Crow were rich in horses obtained through trade and by stealing; they were known as the premier horse thieves of the Plains.
Because they moved often and had great numbers of horses, the Crow acted as middlemen in the transfer of goods between various tribes. They also befriended fur traders and trappers and opened further trade opportunities by providing robes and furs to settlers.
The Crow believed in supernatural visions that were triggered by fasting in isolation, and agonizing one’s body with skewers. They also performed many elaborate tobacco-related ceremonies.
The Crow were frequently at war with neighboring tribes, but were friendly with white settlers and soldiers. In 1825, they signed a friendship treaty with the US government, and beginning in 1851, the US government established the Crow reservation through another series of treaties.
Over time, the U.S. government pushed this tribe out of its territory, even though the Crow had sided with the U.S. in the Indian Wars of the 1860s. By 1870, the Crow were forced to move onto the reservation.
About 5,000 current day Crow tribe members live on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana not far from where the Battle of the Little Big Horn (or Battle of the Greasy Grass as the Crow tribe calls it) where Custer was killed is called. Modern day Crow operate the tribal government through a tribal council, and still participate in many traditional ceremonies.
The great Crow Fair and Rodeo is still held every year during the 3rd weekend in August. The pow wow encampment and pow wow grounds are still on the original land where this gathering was first established 112 years ago, in 1904.