ETHNONYMS: Absarokee, Apsaalooke, Apsaroke
The Crow are an American Indian group who today live primarily on the Crow Reservation in Big Horn and Yellowstone counties, Montana. The 1980 U.S. census counted 7,074 Crow of whom 4,846 were in Montana, with about 4,000 living on the reservation. The Crow and Hidatsa are closely related linguistically and evidently formed one group in the past before the Crow split off and moved west where they eventually adopted a nomadic bison-hunting life-style typical of the Plains culture of the 1800s. The Crow and Hidatsa languages are classified as a subfamily in the Siouan language family. The Crow language is still spoken regularly on the reservation. The Crow were often at war with the Blackfoot and Teton but maintained generally peaceful trade relations with the Shoshone and Hidatsa. Regular contact with Whites, which began in the early 1800s, was usually peaceful, with the Crow often serving as scouts for the U.S. Army. In 1851 the Crow were given a 38-million-acre reservation, which was much reduced in size in 1868. The Crow Reservation today contains 335,951 acres of tribal land, with an additional 1,229,628 acres allotted to individuals.
As with other Plains groups, Crow life centered on hunting bison from horseback to obtain food and most other material objects. The tipi was the major type of dwelling. The Crow were divided into thirteen exogamous matrilineal clans and six phratries. There were also named military and social societies, with membership through election. The camps were governed by a council of esteemed warriors and a head chief, who achieved this status through succesful military exploits. Governance today rests with the tribal council composed of all adults on the reservation and an executive committee comprising seventeen district representatives. Special Commissions oversee specific activities or projects such as water and utilities and industrial development. Following the Decline of the bison after 1880, the Crow turned to horse and cattle raising and farming on the reservation. Today, compared to many other American Indian groups, the Crow are well-off financially, although the poverty and unemployment rates are several times higher than the national averages. Individual and tribal income is derived from ranching, farming, manufacturing, commercial establishments, wage and salaried labor, and tourism, with many tourists visiting the Custer Battlefield National Monument on the reservation and the fairs and rodeos run by the Crow. The tribe also operates Little Big Horn College at Crow Agency, Montana.
The traditional religion centered on beliefs in various spirits, the Trickster (Coyote), visions, and vision quests. Shamanism, although not highly developed, existed. Shamans were those who had acquired stronger supernatural powers in certain endeavors through especially important visions. The Sun Dance and Tobacco Society ceremonies were the most important, and both are still performed today. Most Crow have now been converted to either Roman Catholicism or Protestantism, though traditional beliefs and practices continue.
Frey, Rodney (1987). The World of the Crow Indians: As Driftwood Lodges. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Lowie, Robert H. (1935). The Crow Indians. New York: Farrar & Rinehart.