The Crow (Apsáalooke) Tribe of Indians has a membership of approximately 11,000, of whom approximately 7,900 reside on the Crow Indian Reservation in south central Montana. The Crow Indian Reservation is the largest of the seven Indian Reservations in the state, encompassing 2.3 million acres.
Tradition holds that the Crow (Apsáalooke) Tribe of Indians went through three transitions to become who they are. They were Awaakiiwilaxpaake/People of the Earth, then they became Biiluke/Our Side, and then they became Awashe/Earthen Lodges. Ultimately they became Apsáalooke, meaning “children of the large-beaked bird.” White men later misinterpreted the word as “Crow.”
Eighty-five percent of the members who live on the Reservation speak Crow as their first language. The Apsáalooke/Crow people are known for the strength of their Crow writing system and clan system. Students in schools on the Reservation learn Crow language and history daily, with aspects of the Crow culture integrated into the curriculum.
One of the nation’s richest deposits of strippable low sulfur coal lies along the eastern sector of the reservation. One active coal mine, the Sarpy, and several oil and gas fields are yielding important economic resources for the Crow Tribe.
Visitors to the Reservation can take cultural and heritage tours in personal vehicles, caravans, coaches, or on horseback. Some other prominent sites of historical interest on the Reservation include Pompey’s Pillar, Indian Trails, the Custer Battlefield Museum, Fort Phil Kearny, Fort C. F. Smith, the Chief Plenty Coups Museum, and the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center.
Key events that occur on the Crow Reservation annually are the Crow Fair and Rodeo, Crow Native Days, and the re-enactment of Custer’s Last Stand. Part of Native Days is an activity called the Ultimate Warrior Challenge, in which three-member teams compete in canoeing, running, and relay horse racing. A powwow and a parade are also part of this event, which takes place on the anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and instills pride in Crow culture and history.
The Crow Fair has occurred annually since 1918 and is considered the largest modern day American Indian encampment in the world. The fairgrounds are dubbed the “Teepee Capital of the World” because of the 1,200 to 1,500 teepees in the encampment for the weeklong celebration. Highlights include powwows that showcase elaborate garments, dance styles, and Native music, drumming contests, and an All-Indian Rodeo, showcasing the best Indian-Cowboys in the West. The influx of tourists who learn about Crow culture and heritage at this gathering boosts the local economy significantly.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2009.