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Crow Indians

Crow Reservation, Wyola, MT, USA

First Contact:


gather% / fish % / hunt %
fat % / protein % / carb%

A rough estimate to help us understand how carnivorous and how ketogenic these people were before being exposed to western civilization

Click this Slide deck Gallery to see high quality images of the tribe, daily life, diet, hunting and gathering or recipes

About the Tribe


This once formidable tribe once lived on the North side of the Missouri East of the mouth of the Yellow Stone about the year 1790 they crossed the Missouri and took the region of country which they now inhabit, by conquest from the Snakes It is bounded on the East and South by a low range of Mountains called the "Black Hills" on the West by the Wind river Mountains and on the North by the Yellow Stone river The face of the country presents a diversity of rolling hills and Valleys and includes several plains admirably adapted for grazing. the whole country abounds with Coal and Iron in great abundance and signs of Lead and Copper are not infrequently seen and gypsum exists in imense quarries. timber is scare except along the streams and on the mountains wild fruit such as cherries service berries currants gooseberries and plums resembling the pomgranate are abundant - The latter grow on small trees generally 6 or 8 feet high varying in color and flavor from the most acute acid to the mildest sweetness - Hops grow spontaneously and in great abundance along the streams. When the Crows first conquered this country their numbers amtd to about 8,000 persons but the ravages of war and small pox combined has reduced their numbers to about 2,000. of which upwards of 1200 are females They are proud treacherous thievish insolent and brave when they are possessed with a superior advantage but when placed in the opposite situation they are equally humble submissive and cowardly Like the other tribes of Indians residing in the Rocky Mts. they believe in a Supreme Deity who resides in the Sun and lesser deitys residing in the Moon and Stars. Their government is a kind of Democracy The Chief who can enumerate the greatest number of valiant exploits is unanimously considered the Supreme ruler All the greatest warriors below him and above a certain grade are Counsillors and take their seats in the council according to their respective ranks. the voice of the lowest rank having but little weight in discussing matters of importance. When a measure is adopted by the council and approved by the head Chief it is immediately put in force by the order of the military commander who is appointed by the Council to serve for an indefinite period A standing Company of soldiers is kept up continually for the purpose of maintaining order in the Village. The Captain can order any young man in the Village to serve as a soldier in turn and the council only can increase or diminish the number of soldiers at pleasure. The greatest Chiefs cannot violate the orders which the Capt. receives from the Council - No office or station is hereditary neither does wealth constitute dignity. The greatest Chief may fall below the meanest citizen for misdemeanor in office and the lowest citizen may rise to the most exalted station by the performance of valiant deeds - The Crows both male and female are tall well proportioned handsomly featured with very light copper coloured skins. Prostitution of their wives is very common but sexual intercours between near relatives is [strictly] prohibited - when a young man is married he never after speaks to his mother in law nor the wife to the father in law altho they may all live in the same lodge If the husband wishes to say anything to the mother in law he speaks to the wife who conveys it to the mother and in the same way communication is conveyed between the wife and father in law - This custom is peculiar to the Crows They never intermarry with other nations but a stranger if he wishes can always be accommodated with a wife while he stops with the Village but cannot take her from it when he leaves - Their laws for killing Buffaloe are most rigidly enforced. No person is allowed to hunt Buffalo in the vicinity where the village is stationed without first obtaining leave of the council - for the first offense the offenders hunting apparatus are broken and destroyed for second his horses are killed his property destroyed and he beaten with rods the third is punished by death by shooting - When a decree is given by the council it is published by the head Chief who rides to and fro thro. the village like a herald and proclaims it aloud to all - They generally kill their meat by surrounding a band of Buffaloe and when once enclosed but few escape - The first persons who arrive at a dead Buffaloe is entitled to one third of the meat and if the person who killed it is the fourth one on the spot he only gets the hide and tongue but in no wise can he get more than one third of the meat if a second and third person appears before It is placed on the horses designed for packing. A person whether male or female poor or rich gets the 2d or 3d division according to the time of arrival each one knowing what parts they are allowed - This is also a custom peculiar to the Crows which has been handed down from time immemorial - Their language is clear distinct and not intermingled with guttural sounds which renders it remarkably easy for a stranger to learn It is a high crime for a father or mother to inflict corporeal punishment on their male children and if a Warrior is struck by a stranger he is irretriveably disgraced unless he can kill the offender immediately Taking prisoners of war is never practiced with the exception of subjecting them to servile employments - Adult males are never retained as prisoners but generally killed on the spot but young Males are taken to the Village and trained up in their mode of warfare until they imbibe the Crow Customs and language when they are eligible to the highest station their deeds of valor will permit. The Crows are remarkably fond of gaudy and glittering ornaments. The Eye teeth of the Elk are used in connexion with [?] are used as a circulating medium and are valued according to their size - There exists among them many customs similar to those of the ancient Israelites A woman after being delivered of a male child cannot approach the lodge of her husband under 40 dys and for a female 50 is required - and 7 dys seperation for every natural menses. The distinction between clean and unclean beasts bears a great degree of similarity to the Jewish law. They are remarkable for their cleanliness and variety of cookery which exceeds that of any other tribe in the Rocky Mts. They seldom use salt but often season their cookery with herbs of various kinds and flavors.

Sickness is seldom found amongst them and they naturally live to a great age. There is no possibility of ascertaining the precise age of any Mountain Indians but an inference may be drawn with tolerable correctness from their outward appearance and such indefinite information from their own faint recollections of dates as may be collected by an intimate acquaintance with their habits customs traditions and manner of living I have never known a Mountain [Indian] to be troubled with the tooth ache or decayed teeth nither have I ever known a case of insanity except from known and direct causes. I was upon one particular occasion invited to smoke in a circle comprising thirteen aged Crow warriors the youngest of whom appeared to have seen upwards of 100 winters and yet they were all in good health and fine spirits - they had long since left the battle ground and council room to young aspirants of 60 and under it is really diverting to hear those hoary headed veterans when they are collected together conversing upon the good old times of their forefathers and condemning the fashions of the present age - They have a tradition among them that their most powerful Chief (who died sometime since) commanded the Sun and Moon to stand still two days and nights in the valley of Wind River whilst they conquered the Snakes and that they obeyed him. They point out the place where the same chief changed the wild sage of the prarie into a band of Antelope when the Village was in starving condition I have also been shown a spring on the west side of the Big horn river below the upper Mountain which they say was once bitter but thro. the medicine of this great Chief the waters were made sweet. They have a great aversion to distilled spirits of any kind terming it the `White mans fool water' and say if a Crow drink it he ceases to be a Crow and becomes a foolish animal so long as he senses are absorbed by its influence


Importance of Animal Products

Culture > Subsistence

The main food source for the Crow was the American bison which was hunted in a variety of ways. Before the use of horses the bison were hunted on foot and required hunters to stalk close to the bison, often with a wolf-pelt disguise, then pursue the animals quickly on foot before killing them with arrows or lances. The horse allowed the Crow to hunt bison more easily as well as hunt more at one time. Riders would panic the herd into a stampede and shoot the targeted animals with arrows or bullets from horseback or lance them through the heart. In addition to bison the Crow also hunted bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, elk, bear, and other game. Buffalo meat was often roasted or boiled in a stew with prairie turnips. The rump, tongue, liver, heart, and kidneys all were considered delicacies. Dried bison meat was ground with fat and berries to make pemmican.[88] In addition to meat, wild edibles were gathered and eaten such as elderberries, wild turnip, and Saskatoon berries.

The Crow often hunted bison by utilizing buffalo jumps. "Where Buffaloes are Driven Over Cliffs at Long Ridge" was a favorite spot for meat procurement by the Crow Indians for over a century, from 1700 to around 1870 when modern weapons were introduced.[89] The Crow used this place annually in the autumn, a place of multiple cliffs along a ridge that eventually sloped to the creek. Early in the morning the day of the jump a medicine man would stand on the edge of the upper cliff, facing up the ridge. He would take a pair of bison hindquarters and pointing the feet along the lines of stones he would sing his sacred songs and call upon the Great Spirit to make the operation a success.[89] After this invocation the medicine man would give the two head drivers a pouch of incense.[89] As the two head drivers and their helpers headed up the ridge and the long line of stones they would stop and burn incense on the ground repeating this process four times.[89] The ritual was intended to make the animals come to the line where the incense was burned, then bolt back to the ridge area.[89]

Importance of Plants

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Transition to Industrialized Food Products

The Crow, whose autonym is Apsáalooke ([ə̀ˈpsáːɾòːɡè]), also spelled Absaroka, are Native Americans living primarily in southern Montana. Today, the Crow people have a federally recognized tribe, the Crow Tribe of Montana,[1] with an Indian reservation located in the south-central part of the state.[1]

Crow Indians are a Plains tribe, who speak the Crow language, part of the Missouri River Valley branch of Siouan languages. Of the 14,000 enrolled tribal members, an estimated 3,000 spoke the Crow language in 2007.[2]

During the expansion into the West, the Crow Nation was allied with the United States against its neighbors and rivals, the Sioux and Cheyenne. In historical times, the Crow lived in the Yellowstone River valley, which extends from present-day Wyoming, through Montana and into North Dakota, where it joins the Missouri River.

Since the 19th century, Crow people have been concentrated on their reservation established south of Billings, Montana. Today, they live in several major, mainly western, cities. Tribal headquarters are located at Crow Agency, Montana.[3] The tribe operates the Little Big Horn College.[2]

When European Americans arrived in numbers, the Crows were resisting pressure from enemies who greatly outnumbered them. In the 1850s, a vision by Plenty Coups, then a boy, but who later became their greatest chief, was interpreted by tribal elders as meaning that the whites would become dominant over the entire country, and that the Crow, if they were to retain any of their land, would need to remain on good terms with the whites.[23]

By 1851 the more numerous Lakota and Cheyenne were established just to the south and east of Crow territory in Montana.[24] These enemy tribes coveted the hunting lands of the Crow and warred against them. By right of conquest, they took over the eastern hunting lands of the Crow, including the Powder and Tongue River valleys, and pushed the less numerous Crow to the west and northwest upriver on the Yellowstone. After about 1860, the Lakota Sioux claimed all the former Crow lands from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Big Horn Mountains of Montana. They demanded that the Americans deal with them regarding any intrusion into these areas.

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 with the United States confirmed as Crow lands a large area centered on the Big Horn Mountains: the area ran from the Big Horn Basin on the west, to the Musselshell River on the north, and east to the Powder River; it included the Tongue River basin.[25] But for two centuries the Cheyenne and many bands of Lakota Sioux had been steadily migrating westward across the plains, and were still pressing hard on the Crows.

Red Cloud's War (1866–1868) was a challenge by the Lakota Sioux to the United States military presence on the Bozeman Trail, a route along the eastern edge of the Big Horn Mountains to the Montana gold fields. Red Cloud's War ended with victory for the Lakota. The Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) with the United States confirmed the Lakota control over all the high plains from the Black Hills of the Dakotas westward across the Powder River Basin to the crest of the Big Horn Mountains.[26] Thereafter bands of Lakota Sioux led by Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gall and others, along with their Northern Cheyenne allies, hunted and raided throughout the length and breadth of eastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming, which had been for a time ancestral Crow territory.

On 25 June 1876, the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne achieved a major victory over army forces under Colonel George A. Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in the Crow Indian Reservation,[27] but the Great Sioux War (1876–1877) ended in the defeat of the Sioux and their Cheyenne allies. Crow warriors enlisted with the US Army for this war. The Sioux and allies were forced from eastern Montana and Wyoming: some bands fled to Canada, while others suffered forced removal to distant reservations, primarily in present-day Montana and Nebraska west of the Missouri River.

In 1918, the Crow organized a gathering to display their culture, and they invited members of other tribes. The Crow Fair is now celebrated yearly on the third weekend of August, with wide participation from other tribes.[28]

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