Crow tribe symbols

Crow tribe symbols DEFAULT

The Crow Tribe of Montana is a federally recognized indian tribe which split off from the Hidatsa tribe in the 1400s. The Battle of the Little Big Horn occurred near where the agency headquarters is located today, about 100 miles from the present day city of Billings, Montana.


Official Tribal Name: Crow Tribe of Montana

Address:P.O. Box 159, Crow Agency, MontanaBuy this crow tribe t-shirt
Phone: 406.638.3700
Fax: 406.638.3881

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

The early ancestral name of the Crow Tribe is Awaakiiwilaxpaake (People of the Earth). They later began westward migrations in search of the “Sacred Tobacco Plant,” and eventually split into three groups: the Biiluke(On Our Side), the Awashe (Earthen Lodges), and 2,000 years ago, the Apsáalooke.

Common Name: Crow Tribe

Crow Reservation
Crow Reservation
Photo By Boyd Norton, 1936-, Photographer (NARA record: 1111093), U.S. National Archives and Records Administration 
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Meaning of Common Name:  Children of the big-beaked bird.
When French speaking Europeans asked what they called themselves, they said “Children of the big beaked bird,” meaning the eagle. At the time there had just been a buffalo hunt and they were butchering. A lot of crows were hanging around the camp eating carrion, and the French mistakenly thought the crow was the big beaked bird referred to.

Alternate names:

Moutain Crow, River Crow, Kick in the Belly Band – These are actually divisions of the Crow tribe, which collectively make up the whole.

Biiluke (also known as the River Crow)

Awashe (also known as the Mountain Crow)

Apsáalooke (also known as Kicked in the Bellies, which refers to an early first encounter with the horse).

Ashalaho (‘Many Lodges’, today called Mountain Crow)

Awaxaawaxammilaxpaake (‘Mountain People’) or Ashkuale (‘The Center Camp’)

Beaux hommes, French term meaning “handsome men.”

Binneessiippeele (‘Those Who Live Amongst the River Banks’), today called River Crow or Ashshipite (‘The Black Lodges’)

Eelalapito (Kicked In The Bellies) or Ammitaalasshe (‘Home Away From The Center’, that is, away from the Ashkuale – Mountain Crow)

Alternate spellings / Mispellings:

Often misspelled and mispronouned as Absaroke, Apsalooka, Aparaoke, Apsaalook

Name in other languages:

It was not until 1805 that they began to be called the Crow people—the French Canadian explorer and trader Francois Laroque documented his observations of the tribe and gave them the name gens de corbeaux, People of the Crow.

First Contact with Europeans:

The Crow were first encountered by the La Verendrye brothers, two French-Canadian traders, in 1743 near the present-day town of Hardin, Montana. These explorers called the Apsáalooke beaux hommes, “handsome men.” The Crow called white people baashchiile, “person with white eyes.

Region: Great Plains, formerly Eastern Woodland

State(s) Today:Montana

Traditional Territory:

Some historians believe the early home of the Crow-Hidatsa ancestral tribe was near the headwaters of the Mississippi River in either northern Minnesota or Wisconsin; others place them in the Winnipeg area of Manitoba. Later the people moved to the Devil’s Lake region of North Dakota before the Crow split from the Hidatsa and moved westward. The Crow were largely pushed westward by the intrusion and influx of the Sioux, who had been pushed westerly by European-American expansion.

Once established in the Valley of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries on the Northern Plains in Montana and Wyoming, the Crow eventually divided into three groups: the Mountain Crow, River Crow, and Kicked in the Bellies. Formerly semi-nomad hunters and farmers in the northeastern woodland, they picked up the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Indians as hunters and gatherers and hunted bison.



The Crow Tribe signed treaties in 1825, 1851, and 1868.

Reservations: Crow Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

The Crow Reservation was first defined by the treaties of 1851 and 1868, negotiated with representatives of the United States at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Reduced by subsequent land sales, the reservation is today significantly “checkerboarded,” with Indian and non-Indian lands interspersed.

Almost half of the reservation is technically owned by Indians and held in trust by the federal government, but land use by tribal members is minimal. Indian lands have been sold and/or leased to nonmembers to such an extent that the overwhelming majority of Crow Indian land is under the control of white farmers and ranchers.

The populations of Indian and non-Indian residents on the reservation are about equal.The Crow reservation is located about 10 miles south of Billings, Montana. The largest settlement is the tribal headquarters at Crow Agency, Montana. Crow Agency is located about 120 miles south of Billings and a few miles from the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where General Custer was killed.

About 8,000 Crow live on the reservation. Around 3,000 Crow people live off reservation in several major, mainly western, cities, as well as spread across the United States in small numbers.

Land Area: 2.2 million acres (Approximately 60 miles X 40 miles)
Tribal Headquarters: Crow Agency, MT
Time Zone: Mountain

Today, the Crow Indian Reservation spans about 3,600 square miles, making it the 5th or 6th largest reservation in the US – depending on whether you include bodies of water. There are six main communities: Crow Agency, Saint Xavier, Yellowtail, Lodge Grass, Wyola, and Pryor (Arrow Creek). At one time, the reservation was larger. But the US government ceded Crow land after the Reservation Treaty was signed, using the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and other acts in 1882, 1890, and 1905.

Population at Contact: When the Lewis and Clark expedition came upon the Crow encampment in 1804, they estimated some 350 lodges with about 3,500 members.

Registered Population Today: 11,357 as of 2008, with almost 8,000 residing on the Crow Indian Reservation.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Charter: In 2001, the Crow Nation approved a new constitution, designating four year terms for elected officers and an elected district legislature. Since adopting the new constitution, the Crow Legislature has approved the Finance Protection and Procedures Act and the Model Tribal Secured Transactions Act. These two acts enable Crow members to obtain home ownership and business ownership financing. This recently enacted legal infrastructure has provided economic opportunity and stability for Crow members and the community.

Name of Governing Body: The Tribal Council consists of the Executive Branch of Government and the Legislative Branch of Government.
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers:

The Executive Branch of Government consists of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary and Vice-Secretary. Each Executive Officer shall be elected by the qualified voters in an election held in accordance with an Election Ordinance duly adopted by the Crow Tribe. The Executive Branch of the Crow Tribe shall operate as a separate and distinct branch of the Crow Tribal Government and shall exercise a separation of powers from the other branches of the Crow Tribal Government. Members of the Executive Branch shall serve a four (4) year term or until their successors are duly elected and installed. No person may serve as Tribal Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary or Vice-Secretary for more than two (2) four (4) year terms.

A person may not serve in other Executive Branch positions after serving two (2) four (4) year terms as Tribal Chairman. A person may serve two (2) four (4) year terms in the positions of Vice-Secretary, Secretary and Vice-Chairman and still serve in the other Executive Branch positions of a higher level for up to two (2) terms.

A person may not serve in lower level positions after completing terms in a higher level position.

Number of Council members: (LEGISLATIVE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT) The Crow Tribal General Council shall elect three members from each of the established districts within the Crow Reservation known as Valley of the Giveaway or Big Horn, Black Lodge, Valley of the Chiefs or Lodge Grass, Arrow Creek or Pryor, Center Lodge or Reno, and Mighty Few or Wyola, to serve as legislators comprising the Legislative Branch of the Crow Tribal government.

Elections: Elections are held every four years for the Executive officers and every two years for the council members.

Language Classification:
Souian -> Missouri Branch -> Crow

The Crows are of Siouan origin, speaking a language classified as Siouan.The Siouan language family is the second largest family of Amerindian languages in North America, after the Algonquian family.

Language Dialects: Crow

Number of fluent Speakers:

Until the 1930s, the majority of tribal members spoke only the Crow language, but today the majority speak English as a second language. The Crow tribe is one of the few native american tribes where their language is alive and thriving. 85% of Crow people still speak Crow as their first language, although most are also fluent in English.



The Crow tribe is directly descended from the Hidatsa tribe of present-day North Dakota, sometimes called the North Dakota Gros Ventres. The separation of the Crows from the Hidatsas is placed at 1400-1500 by anthropologists, and at a.d. 900-1000 by linguists, whose estimates are based on the age of glottal development and the variance of the Crow language from that of the parent tribe.

There were originally three bands of the tribe: the River Crows, who inhabited the territory along the Musselshell and Yellowstone Rivers south of the Missouri River; the Kicked-in-the-Bellies, the band that frequented the area now known as the Bighorn Basin in northern Wyoming; and the Mountain Crows, also known as the Main Camps, who frequented the area of the Upper Yellowstone River and the Bighorn Mountains. Among the stories told concerning the separation of the Crows from the Hidatsas is that of No Vitals and his search for the sacred tobacco.

No Vitals and his brother were on a vision-quest fast, during which they experienced very similar visitations of the supernatural. The brothers’ shared vision was said to be of corn, which was already grown by the Hidatsas. But in No Vitals’s vision he also saw wild mountain tobacco growing in the foothills of mountains. Thus began the separation on the Missouri River of No Vitals and his followers from the rest of the Hidatsas. No Vitals and his small band of followers embarked on the first of two odysseys, which saw them journey to the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies, in present-day Alberta, to the upper reaches of the Arkansas River. To this day the Crows still sing lullabies of the mountains of Glacier Park and the fowl of the Arkansas.

Not finding any tobacco on the first odyssey, the No Vitals band returned to the Missouri to pursue the vision again. When they finally did find wild tobacco (Nicotiana multivalvis and N. quadrivalvis), it was growing among the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, and the small band relocated to the valleys of the Bighorn and Yellowstone Rivers.

Bands, Gens, and Clans

The Crow tribe originally had four divisions: the Mountain Crow, the River Crow, the Kick in the Belly Band, and the Beaver Dries Its Fur Band. Today, only three divisions are still recognized as Crow, with the River Crow and the Mountain Crow being the two dominant divisions. The Crow divisions each led separate lives, except they would band together for defense in times of conflict.

  • Ashalaho (‘Many Lodges’, today called Mountain Crow), Awaxaawaxammilaxpáake (‘Mountain People’) or Ashkúale (‘The Center Camp’). The Ashalaho or Mountain Crow, the largest Crow group, split from the Awatixa Hidatsa and were the first to travel west. (McCleary 1997: 2-3)., (Bowers 1992: 21) Their leader No Intestines had received a vision and led his band on a long migratory search for sacred tobacco, finally settling in southeastern Montana. They lived in the Rocky Mountains and foothills on the present-day Wyoming-Montana border along the Upper Yellowstone River, in the Big Horn and Absaroka Range (also Absalaga Mountains) with the Black Hills comprising the eastern edge of their territory.


  • Binnéessiippeele (‘Those Who Live Amongst the River Banks’), today called River Crow or Ashshipíte (‘The Black Lodges’) The Binnéessiippeele, or River Crow, split from the Hidatsa proper, according to tradition because of a dispute over a bison stomach. As a result, the Hidatsa called the Crow Gixáa-iccá—”Those Who Pout Over Tripe”. They lived along the Yellowstone and Musselshell rivers south of the Missouri River and in the river valleys of the Big Horn, Powder and Wind rivers, (historically known as the Powder River Country), sometimes traveling north up to the Milk River.


  • Eelalapito (Kicked In The Bellies) or Ammitaalasshé (‘Home Away From The Center’, that is, away from the Ashkúale – Mountain Crow). They claimed the area known as the Bighorn Basin, from the Bighorn Mountains in the east to the Absaroka Range to the west, and south to the Wind River Range in northern Wyoming. Sometimes they settled in the Owl Creek Mountains, Bridger Mountains and along the Sweetwater River in the south.

The oral tradition of the Apsaalooke mentions a fourth group, the Bilapiluutche (‘Beaver Dries its Fur’), who are believed to have merged with the Kiowa in the second half of the eighteenth century.

The Apsáalooke/Crow People are known today for the strength of their Apsáalooke ammaalaátuua, (Crow writing system) and clan system. The Crow Indian language is a part of the greater Siouan language family. The Apsáalooke Ashammalíaxxiia, Clan System still consists of several active clans today:

  • Ashshitchíte/the Big Lodge, Ashhilaalíoo/ Newly Made Lodge

  • Uuwatashe/ Greasy Mouth, Ashíiooshe/ Sore Lip Clan

  • Xúhkaalaxche/ Ties the Bundle Clan

  • Biliikóoshe/ Whistling Waters Clan Ashkápkawiia/ Bad War Deeds Clan

  • Aashkamne/ Piegan clan. The other name they are called is: Aashbatshua or Treacherous clan.

Related Tribes:

Hidatsa – Some time after the Hidatsa reached the Missouri River, internal troubles broke out, and part of the tribe separated and moved westward to the neighborhood of Yellowstone river. This separated faction became the Crow tribe. The Hidatsa tribe is also known by the earlier name Minataree.

Traditional Allies:

The Crow were generally friendly with the northern Plains tribes of the Flathead, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Shoshone (although sometimes they had conflicts); Nez Perce, Kutenai, Kiowa and Kiowa Apache. The Crows maintained relatively good relations with the whites, and many Crow men were scouts for the US Calvary.

When white Americans arrived in numbers, the Crows were resisting heavy pressure from enemies who greatly outnumbered them. In the 1850s, a vision by Plenty Coups, a Crow boy 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 Crows, if they were to retain any of their land, would need to remain on good terms with the whites.

During the period of the Indian Wars, the Crow supported the United States military by supplying scouts and protecting travelers on the Bozeman Trail. Crow scouts helped to track Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce in his flight to freedom; they supplied information to the Army that helped to defeat and capture many Native tribes, friend and enemy alike, and they took part in the battle against Crazy Horse and his people. Once the fighting was over, and the white man’s domination of the plains was secure and unchallenged, the Crow were sent to a reservation with the same treatment given the other Native Nations that had resisted.

As a show of gratitude for his efforts, Chief Plenty Coup (then a very old man), was chosen to represent all the Native Nations at the dedication of the first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921, following World War I. In an ultimate display of respect for the fallen soldiers of this war, Chief Plenty Coup left his eagle feather bonnet and coup stick on the grave.

Traditional Enemies:

Hidatsa, Blackfeet, Dakota and Lakota Sioux, and Cheyenne. Sometimes Shoshone. The Crow were subject to raids and horse thefts by horse-poor tribes including the powerful Blackfoot Confederacy, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Pawnee, and Ute.Later they had to face the Lakota and their allies, the Arapaho and Cheyenne, who also stole horses from their enemies. Their greatest enemies became the tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Lakota-Cheyenne-Arapaho alliance.

The mighty Iron Confederacy (Nehiyaw-Pwat) developed as enemies to the Crow. The Iron Confederacy was Nehiyaw in Plains Cree, Pwat-sak in Assiniboine. It was named after the dominating Plains Cree and Assiniboine peoples, with the latter including the Stoney, Saulteaux, Ojibwe, and Métis as the most powerful.

Ceremonies / Dances:

The worship system of the Crows’ parent tribe, the Hidatsas, was carried on by the Crows; some forms have persisted to the present day. The tribe also copied, adopted, and adapted worship practices and ceremonies from other tribes.

The original principal ceremony of the Crow tribe is known as the Tobacco Ceremony (sometimes mistakenly called the Beaver Dance). This ceremony surrounds the harvesting, cultivation, and keeping of the sacred tobacco seeds first identified in No Vitals’s vision. No Vitals believed that by practicing the Tobacco Ceremony, the Crows would multiply and grow stronger. The Crow still hold their own Tobacco Society ceremony involving rituals related to tobacco, the tribe’s sacred plant.

As with other plains tribes, the Crow practiced the Sundance and the Vision Quest, had medicine bundles, and carried shields. However, their use of these ancient traditions was very different.

The Crow Sun Dance, a communal worship of the sun, was banned by federal authorities in the late 1800s, but the Shoshone Sun Dance came to the Crows in 1941 and became a popular feature of tribal life. The peyote ceremony also came from the tribes of Oklahoma in the early twentieth century.

The original Crow Sundance was practiced as a way to call down revenge against an enemy, and a special Sundance medicine bundle was used only for this purpose. Customarily, the Sundance is a ceremony of supreme sacrifice and prayer for the welfare of all people, all creatures of the earth, and of Mother Earth herself. Not so with the Crow.

Fasting for divine guidance as practiced by the Hidatsas was retained by the Crows, as were wound healing and other ceremonies for health maintenance, and the sweat lodge.

The Vision Quest was of paramount importance in the life of a Crow. Both boys and girls began their Vision Quests around age 9, and it was believed that the villages carried the combined power of all the visions received, and that this power joined forces to be shared by the tribe as a whole. Until visions were received and explained by the village medicine person or shaman, the child had no standing in the village, or in the tribe. The Vision Quest was repeated at intervals set by the elders and medicine people until visions were received, but to lie about success was unthinkable and an unforgivable sin. However, if there were repeated failures in the Vision Quests, the individual was ostracized. Such repeated failure was cause for dishonor and for scorn as such individuals were not allowed to marry and take their rightful place in the village, or in the tribe. In order to preserve self-worth and dignity, a person could buy a part of the vision of a tribal leader, elder or medicine person until such time as he received his own messages.

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

First held in 1918, the Crow Fair and All Indian Rodeo is always held the third week of August. It is known as the Tipi Capital of the World, with over 1,000 authentic tipis in the encampment, and about 50,000 people in attendance. It has the largest outdoor powwow held in the United States, traditional Crow parades daily that stretch out over two miles, horse races, foot races, a rodeo, and many cultural ceremonies that are all open to the public. Every morning the traditional camp crier rides through the camps, wakening the campers and giving them the news.

The third weekend in June, the Crow tribe performs a reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The battlefield memorial and actual land where this battle occurred is on the Crow reservation, a few miles from Crow Agency.

Legends / Oral Stories:

Origin of tobacco as told by the Crow and Hidatsa tribes

Art & Crafts:

The Crow People are probably best known for their beadwork. They adorned basically every aspect of their lives with these beads, giving special attention to ceremonial and ornamental items. Their clothing, horses, cradles, ornamental and ceremonial gear, and leather cases of all shapes, sizes and uses were decorated in beadwork.
In their beadwork, geometric shapes were primarily used with triangles, diamonds and hour-glass structures being the most prevalent. A wide range of colors were utilized by the Crow, but blues and various shades of pink were the most dominant. To intensify or to draw out a certain color or shape, they would surround that figure or color in a white outline.

Pinks represent the various shades of the rising sun with yellow being the East, the origin of the sun’s arrival. Blues are symbolic of the sky; red represents the setting sun or the West; green symbolizes mother earth, black the slaying of an enemy, and white representing clouds, rain or sleet. White is often also used to outline figures or shapes for emphasis.
Although most colors have a common symbolism, each piece’s symbolic significance is fairly subjective to its creator, especially when in reference to the individual shapes. One person’s triangle might symbolize a teepee, a spear head to a different individual or a range of mountains to yet another. Regardless of the individual significance of each piece, the Crow People give reverence to the land and sky with the symbolic references found in the various colors and shapes found on their ornamental gear and clothing.

Some of the clothing that the Crow People decorated with beads included robes, vests, pants, shirts, moccasins and various forms of celebratory and ceremonial gear. In addition to creating a connection with the land, from which they are a part, the various shapes and colors reflected one’s standing and achievements. For example if a warrior were to slay, wound or disarm an enemy, he would return with a blackened face.The black color would then be incorporated in the clothing of that man, most likely in his war attire.

The Crow are also adept at dyed porcupine quillwork.


Unlike many Plains indian tribes, the Crow did not eat dogs or horses, but they are among the tribes that had the most of both, estimated at between 500-600 canines, and up to 40,000 horses in their heyday. Before 1700, dogs were used to pull travois for carrying goods. They also used dogs as guards and to hunt. Unlike most other Plains tribes, the Crow never used horses to replace the dog travois. Instead they used horses as riding and pack animals, which enabled them to travel faster than other tribes in rough terains.

Hidatsa records date the arrival of horses in the Northern Plains to around 1728, and it wasn’t long after that the Crow stole horses from the Hidatsa. The Crow were the most accomplished and most famous horsemen of the northern plains. Only the Comanches of the south came close to the reputation of the Crow as riders, and only the Comanches owned as many, and sometimes more horses than the Crow.

Because of this, the Crow were constantly raided by other tribes who needed horses, especially by the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Arapaho. In 1914, Crow horses numbered approximately thirty to forty thousand head. By 1921 the number of mounts had dwindled to just one thousand. (Do you know the cause of this drastic decline in just 7 years? If so, please email us.) Most of the remaining Crow Tribe’s horses were slaughtered by the federal government in the 1940s to make room for cattle.

Some of the Crow horses in the 1800s were said to be from the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang line. The tough ponies of the Pryor Mountains are celebrated in the lore of the Crow Tribe.

“The reason the Crow used them is they could run all day and go for a week without food,” said Elias Goes Ahead, a Crow historian who teaches at Pryor.

Today, the Crow Tribe has the largest herd of buffalo in the US.


The Crow wore clothing distinguished by gender. Women wore simple clothes – dresses made of deer and buffalo skins, decorated with elk teeth. They covered their legs with leggings during winter and their feet with moccasins.

Male clothing usually consisted of a shirt, trimmed leggings with a belt, a robe, and moccasins.
Elk teeth dress is epitome of Crow status and style


Elk teeth were a highly prized form of adornment, because there are only two ivory teeth in each elk. Elk teeth were a symbol of wealth.

Crow women wore their hair in two braids, unlike the men, who wore their hair loose and unusually long.

Men kept their hair long, in some cases reaching or dragging the ground, and often part of it was cut in front and styled into a pompadour, which was held high and in place with a combination of bear grease and clay. Hair was of the utmost importance to Crow men, and their goal was to have hair that drug the ground. To accomplish this, they saved the hair they cut, as well as hair that was naturally shed, and wove extensions into the head hair. When this was not long enough, they would braid wide falls of human hair and animal hair (especially horsehair after this became available) which they attached to the head hair with buckskin strips.


Traditional Crow shelters of the nomad Crow people were tipis made with bison skins stretched over wooden poles. The Crow are historically known to construct some of the largest tipis. Inside the tipi, mattresses and buffalo-hide seats were arranged around the edge, with a fireplace in the center. The smoke from the fire escaped through a hole in the top of the tipi. Many Crow families still own and use a tipi when traveling.

The Biiluke (also known as the River Crow) lived in lean-tos and wikiups.


The Crows began as an agricultural and quasi-sedentary tribe. They became a nomadic, hunting tribe,that mostly hunted the buffalo for food. They also hunted mountain sheep, deer, elk, antelope, and other smaller game. Buffalo meat was often roasted or boiled in a stew with prairie turnips, camas or cattail root depending on the time of year (both are similar to a potatoe), and wild carrots and onions. The rump, tongue, liver, heart, and kidneys all were considered delicacies. Dried bison meat was ground with fat and berries to make a food called pemmican that would keep through the winter without spoiling.

The Plains Crow foraged for many roots and berries, but the only crop they planted was tobacco. Before they split with the Hidatsa, they were farmers.

The Biiluke (also known as the River Crow) were fishers and hunters and gathers.

The Mountain Crow were farmers.

The Crows’ yearly cultural round was similar to that of other Indian tribes of the northern Great Plains. Spring, considered the beginning of the cycle, was perhaps the most significant of the seasons.

First thunder was a signal to discontinue the winter’s activities such as storytelling and to take up tools and revive the tribal ceremonies. This activity coincided with the birth of new birds and animals. Adoption and initiation ceremonies were begun, and a new perspective on life blended with new plant growth and the coming abundance of the warm seasons.

Summer was a time of gathering the fruits of Crow country. Fresh berries, roots, and other items of subsistence were plentiful. It was time to enjoy the pure waters and cool winds of the mountains.

Autumn was a time to harvest necessities and prepare for the winter. Traditional war parties were forgone to intensify the hunt for prime animals and the gathering of other necessities. Meat, berries, and other supplies were accumulated and prepared for the winter ahead.

Winter was a time to retreat to the sheltered valleys and to strengthen family and tribal ties. After the first snow, storytelling began, and continued until the first thunder of spring.

Economy Today:

The majority of employment is supplied by the Crow Tribe and federal programs, providing work to 2,202 employees in total. More specifically, the Bureau of Indian Affairs provides employment to 87 employees and the Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital has 270 employees including all outreach services. Privately owned businesses account for 253 employees.

The basis of the economy is derived from the rich resources of the Tribe’s land, which is used directly to support livestock operations. The Tribe owns vast and varied amounts of renewable and non-renewable resources on the reservation which include land, sand and gravel, water and timber, coal, oil, and methane gas. 

The Crow operate only a small portion of their irrigated or dry farm acreage and about 30 percent of their grazing land.

The Crow maintain a buffalo herd of about 300 head.

In October of 2004, the Crow Tribe contracted Koski Geophysical Consulting of Billings to conduct seismic testing, evaluation and interpretation of data. With the findings, the Tribe was able to market its potential for oil and methane gas production at trade shows in Houston and Denver. In May 2005, the Tribe secured a minerals lease agreement with Golden Arrow Energy of Wyoming to begin production on 7,680 acres south of Crow Agency.

This reservation includes about one-fourth of the total US coal reserve. For many years the vast coal deposits under the eastern portion of the reservation remained untapped. One mine is now in operation and providing royalty income and employment to tribal members.

Unemployment is estimated at 50% to 60%, meaning many of these families fall below the federal poverty level. The median income for households with employment is about $30,000.

Points of Interest

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and Reno-Benteen Battlefield
Crow Agency, 406-638-2621

These monuments commemorate the Sioux/Cheyenne victory over the Seventh Cavalry. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument featuresthe cemetery,  museum exhibits, an interpretive center and ranger-led programs.

Chief Plenty Coups State Park
Pryor, 406-252-1289

This is the home and grave site of the well-known Crow chief, Plenty Coups. There is a display of Crow artifacts and history, and a scenic picnic area.

Crow Fair & Rodeo
Always the third weekend in August

Claims to be the “Tee Pee Capital of the World” because during Crow Fair, which lasts for five days, there are more than 1,000 traditional tipis on the grounds. If you only get one chance to attend a traditional pow wow, this is the one to visit. There is a traditional parade through camp each morning and an all indian rodeo each afternoon, then dancing and ceremonies until dawn. Hundreds of dancers in traditional regalia will be in attendance.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

The medicine people of the tribe are known as Akbaalia (“healer”).

The Mannegishi, also called little people, are bald humanoids with large bulky, pretty eyes and tiny, tan bodies. They were tricksters and may be similar to fairies.

Baaxpee is a spiritual power that can cause a person to mature, as well as unusual events or circumstances that force maturation. Baaxpee comes upon every human to make them into adults. After transformation, the changed are known as Xapaaliia.

Andiciopec is a warrior hero who is invincible to bullets.

The Crow believe that that people, horses, and dogs are the only creatures that possess the necessary ‘energy’ to have souls.


Crow people

Indigenous ethnic group in North America

Crow Indians, c. 1878–1883

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]


The name of the tribe, Absaroka (pronounced ab-SOR-ka), which translates as "children of the large-beaked bird",[4] was given to them by the Hidatsa, a neighboring Siouan-speaking tribe. French interpreters translated the name as gens du corbeau ("people of [the] crow"), and they became known in English as the Crow. Other tribes also refer to the Apsáalooke as "crow" or "raven" in their own languages.[5] However, the ecology of the tribes ancestral lands would suggest this moniker is more likely attached to the visually distinctive and territorily discreet Long-billed Curlew.


In the Northern Plains[edit]

The early home of the Crow Hidatsa ancestral tribe was near Lake Erie in what is now Ohio. Driven from there by better armed, aggressive neighbors, they briefly settled south of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.[6][page needed] Later the people moved to the Devil's Lake region of North Dakota before the Crow split from the Hidatsa and moved westward. The Crow were largely pushed westward due to intrusion and influx of the Cheyenne and subsequently the Sioux, also known as the Lakota.

To acquire control of their new territory, the Crow warred against Shoshone bands, such as the Bikkaashe, or "People of the Grass Lodges",[7] and drove them westward. The Crow allied with local Kiowa and Plains Apache bands.[8][9][10] The Kiowa and Plains Apache bands later migrated southward, and the Crow remained dominant in their established area through the 18th and 19th centuries, the era of the fur trade.

Their historical territory stretched from what is now Yellowstone National Park and the headwaters of the Yellowstone River (E-chee-dick-karsh-ah-shay in Crow, translating to "Elk River") to the west, north to the Musselshell River, then northeast to the Yellowstone's mouth at the Missouri River, then southeast to the confluence of the Yellowstone and Powder rivers (Bilap Chashee, or "Powder River" or "Ash River"), south along the South Fork of the Powder River, confined in the SE by the Rattlesnake Mountains and westwards in the SW by the Wind River Range. Their tribal area included the river valleys of the Judith River (Buluhpa'ashe, or "Plum River"), Powder River, Tongue River, Big Horn River and Wind River as well as the Bighorn Mountains (Iisiaxpúatachee Isawaxaawúua), Pryor Mountains (Baahpuuo Isawaxaawúua), Wolf Mountains (Cheetiish, or "Wolf Teeth Mountains") and Absaroka Range (also called Absalaga Mountains).[11]

Once established in the Valley of the Yellowstone River[12] and its tributaries on the Northern Plains in Montana and Wyoming, the Crow divided into four groups: the Mountain Crow, River Crow, Kicked in the Bellies, and Beaver Dries its Fur. Formerly semi-nomad hunters and farmers in the northeastern woodland, they adapted to the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Indians as hunters and gatherers, and hunted bison. Before 1700, they were using dog travois for carrying goods.[13][14]

Enemies and allies[edit]

Ledger drawingof a Cheyenne war chief and warriors (left) coming to a truce with a Crow war chief and warriors (right)
A scout on a horse, 1908 by Edward S. Curtis

From about 1740, the Plains tribes rapidly adopted the horse, which allowed them to move out on to the Plains and hunt buffalo more effectively. However, the severe winters in the North kept their herds smaller than those of Plains tribes in the South. The Crow, Hidatsa, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Shoshone soon became noted as horse breeders and dealers and developed relatively large horse herds. At the time, other eastern and northern tribes were also moving on to the Plains, in search of game for the fur trade, bison, and more horses. The Crow were subject to raids and horse thefts by horse-poor tribes, including the powerful Blackfoot Confederacy, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Pawnee, and Ute.[15][16] Later they had to face the Lakota and their allies, the Arapaho and Cheyenne, who also stole horses from their enemies. Their greatest enemies became the tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Lakota-Cheyenne-Arapaho alliance.

In the 18th century, pressured by the Ojibwe and Cree peoples (the Iron Confederacy), who had earlier and better access to guns through the fur trade, the Crow had migrated to this area from the Ohio Eastern Woodland area of present-day Ohio, settling south of Lake Winnipeg. From there, they were pushed to the west by the Cheyenne. Both the Crow and the Cheyenne were pushed farther west by the Lakota, who took over the territory west of the Missouri River, reaching past the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and Montana. The Cheyenne eventually became allies of the Lakota, as they sought to expel European Americans from the area. The Crow remained bitter enemies of both the Sioux and Cheyenne. The Crow managed to retain a large reservation of more than 9300 km2 despite territorial losses, due in part to their cooperation with the federal government against their traditional enemies, the Sioux and Blackfoot. Many other tribes were forced onto much smaller reservations far from their traditional lands.

The Crow were generally friendly with the northern Plains tribes of the Flathead (although sometimes they had conflicts); Nez Perce, Kutenai, Shoshone, Kiowa and Plains Apache. The powerful Iron Confederacy (Nehiyaw-Pwat), an alliance of northern plains Indian nations based around the fur trade, developed as enemies of the Crow. It was named after the dominating Plains Cree and Assiniboine peoples, and later included the Stoney, Saulteaux, Ojibwe, and Métis.

Historical subgroups[edit]

By the early 19th century, the Apsáalooke fell into three independent groupings, who came together only for common defense:[17]

  • Ashalaho ('Many Lodges', today called Mountain Crow), Awaxaawaxammilaxpáake ('Mountain People'), or Ashkúale ('The Center Camp'). The Ashalaho or Mountain Crow, the largest Crow group, split from the Awatixa Hidatsa and were the first to travel west. (McCleary 1997: 2–3)., (Bowers 1992: 21) Their leader No Intestines had received a vision and led his band on a long migratory search for sacred tobacco, finally settling in southeastern Montana. They lived in the Rocky Mountains and foothills along the Upper Yellowstone River, on the present-day Wyoming-Montana border, in the Big Horn and Absaroka Range (also Absalaga Mountains); the Black Hills comprised the eastern edge of their territory.
  • Binnéessiippeele ('Those Who Live Amongst the River Banks'), today called River Crow or Ashshipíte ('The Black Lodges') The Binnéessiippeele, or River Crow, split from the Hidatsa proper, according to tradition because of a dispute over a bison stomach. As a result, the Hidatsa called the Crow Gixáa-iccá—"Those Who Pout Over Tripe".[18][19] They lived along the Yellowstone and Musselshell rivers south of the Missouri River and in the river valleys of the Big Horn, Powder and Wind rivers. This area was historically known as the Powder River Country. They sometimes traveled north up to the Milk River.
  • Eelalapito (Kicked in the Bellies) or Ammitaalasshé (Home Away From The Center, that is, away from the Ashkúale – "Mountain Crow").[20][21] They claimed the area known as the Bighorn Basin, from the Bighorn Mountains in the east to the Absaroka Range to the west, and south to the Wind River Range in northern Wyoming. Sometimes they settled in the Owl Creek Mountains, Bridger Mountains and along the Sweetwater River in the south.[22]

Apsaalooke oral history describes a fourth group, the Bilapiluutche ("Beaver Dries its Fur"), who may have merged with the Kiowa in the second half of the 17th century.

Gradual displacement from tribal lands[edit]

Crow Indian territory (areas 517, 619 and 635) as described in Fort Laramie treaty (1851), present Montana and Wyoming

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.

"Eight Crow prisoners under guard at Crow agency, Montana, 1887"

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]

Crow Tribe history: a chronological record[edit]


A group of Crow Natives went west after leaving the Hidatsa villages of earth lodges in the Knife River and Heart River area (present North Dakota) around 1675–1700. They selected a site for a single earth lodge on the lower Yellowstone River. Most families lived in tipis or other perishable kinds of homes at the new place. These Indians had left the Hidatsa villages and adjacent cornfields for good, but they had yet to become "real" buffalo hunting Crows following the herds on the open plains.[29] Archaeologists know this "proto-Crow" site in present Montana as the Hagen site.[30]


Some time before 1765 the Crows held a Sun Dance, attended by a poor Arapaho. A Crow with power gave him a medicine doll, and he quickly earned status and owned horses as no one else. During the next Sun Dance, some Crows stole back the figure to keep it in the tribe. Eventually the Arapaho made a duplicate. Later in life, he married a Kiowa woman and brought the doll with him. The Kiowas use it during the Sun Dance and recognize it as one of the most powerful tribal medicines. They still credit the Crow tribe for the origin of their sacred Tai-may figure.[31]


The trading posts built for trade with the Crows

The enmity between the Crow and the Lakota was reassured right from the start of the 19th Century. The Crows killed a minimum of thirty Lakotas in 1800–1801 according to two Lakota winter counts.[32] The next year, the Lakotas and their Cheyenne allies killed all the men in a Crow camp with thirty tipis.[33]

In the summer of 1805, a Crow camp traded at the Hidatsa villages on Knife River in present North Dakota. Chiefs Red Calf and Spotted Crow allowed the fur trader Francois-Antoine Larocque to join it on its way across the plains to the Yellowstone area. He travelled with it to a point west of the place where Billings, Montana, is today. The camp crossed Little Missouri River and Bighorn River on the way.[34]

The next year, some Crows discovered a group of whites with horses on the Yellowstone River. By stealth, they captured the mounts before morning. The Lewis and Clark Expedition did not see the Crows.[35]

The first trading post in Crow country was constructed in 1807, known as both Fort Raymond and Fort Lisa (1807–ca. 1813). Like the succeeding forts, Fort Benton (ca. 1821–1824) and Fort Cass (1832–1838), it was built near the confluence of the Yellowstone and the Bighorn.[36]

The Blood Blackfoot Bad Head's winter count tells about the early and persistent hostility between the Crow and the Blackfoot. In 1813, a force of Blood warriors set off for a raid on the Crows in the Bighorn area. Next year, Crows near Little Bighorn River killed Blackfoot Top Knot.[37]: 6 

A Crow camp neutralized thirty Cheyennes bent on capturing horses in 1819.[38] The Cheyennes and warriors from a Lakota camp destroyed a whole Crow camp at Tongue River the following year.[39] This was likely the most severe attack on a Crow camp in historic time.[40][41]


The Crows put up 300 tipis near a Mandan village on the Missouri in 1825.[42] The representatives of the US government waited for them. Mountain Crow chief Long Hair (Red Plume at Forehead) and fifteen other Crows signed the first treaty of friendship and trade between the Crows and the United States on 4 August.[43] With the signing of the document, the Crows also recognized the supremacy of the United States, if they actually understood the word. River Crow chief Arapooish had left the treaty area in disgust. By help of the thunderbird he had to send a farewell shower down on the whites and the Mountain Crows.[44]

In 1829, seven Crow warriors were neutralized by Blood Blackfoot Indians led by Spotted Bear, who captured a pipe-hatchet during the fight just west of Chinook, Montana.[37]: 8 

In the summer of 1834, the Crows (maybe led by chief Arapooish) tried to shut down Fort McKenzie at the Missouri in Blackfeet country. The apparent motive was to stop the trading post's sale to their Indian enemies. Although later described as a month long siege of the fort,[45] it lasted only two days.[46] The opponents exchanged a few shots and the men in the fort fired a cannon, but no real harm came to anyone. The Crows left four days before the arrival of a Blackfeet band. The episode seems to be the worst armed conflict between the Crows and a group of whites until the Sword Bearer uprising in 1887.

The death of chief Arapooish was recorded on 17 September 1834. The news reached Fort Clark at the Mandan village Mitutanka. Manager F.A. Chardon wrote he "was Killed by Black feet".[47]

The smallpox epidemic of 1837 spread along the Missouri and "had little impact" on the tribe according to one source.[48] The River Crows grew in number, when a group of Hidatsas joined them permanently to escape the scourge sweeping through the Hidatsa villages.[49]

Fort Van Buren was a short-lived trading post in existence from 1839–1842.[50]: 68  It was built on the bank of the Yellowstone near the mouth of Tongue River.[47]: 315, note 469 

In the summer of 1840, a Crow camp in the Bighorn valley greeted the Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet.[51]: 35 

From 1842 to around 1852,[52]: 235  the Crows traded in Fort Alexander opposite the mouth of the Rosebud.[50]: 68 

The River Crows charged a moving Blackfeet camp near Judith Gap in 1845. Father De Smet mourned the destructive attack on the "petite Robe" band.[53] The Blackfeet chief Small Robe had been mortally wounded and many killed. De Smet worked out the number of women and children taken captive to 160. By and by and with a fur trader as intermediary, the Crows agreed to let 50 women return to their tribe.[54]


De Smet map of the 1851 Fort Laramie Indian territories (the light area). Jesuit missionary De Smet drew this map with the tribal borders agreed upon at Fort Laramie in 1851. Although the map itself is wrong in certain ways, it has the Crow territory west of the Sioux territory as written in the treaty, and the Bighorn area as the heart of the Crow country.

Fort Sarpy (I) near Rosebud River carried out trade with the Crows after the closing of Fort Alexander.[50]: 67  River Crows went some times to the bigger Fort Union at the confluence of the Yellowstone and the Missouri. Both the "famous Absaroka amazon" Woman Chief[52]: 213  and River Crow chief Twines His Tail (Rotten Tail) visited the fort in 1851.[52]: 211 

Crow Indian Chief Big Shadow(Big Robber), signer of the Fort Laramie treaty (1851). Painting by Jesuit missionary De Smet.

In 1851, the Crow, the Sioux and six other Indian Nations signed the Fort Laramie treaty along with the US. It should ensure peace forever between all nine partakers. Further, the treaty described the different tribal territories. The US was allowed to construct roads and forts.[55]: 594–595  A weak point in the treaty was the absence of rules to uphold the tribal borders.[50]: 87 

The Crow and various bands of Sioux attacked each other again from the mid-1850s.[56]: 226, 228 [57]: 9–12 [58]: 119–124 [59]: 362 [60]: 103  Soon, the Sioux took no notice of the 1851 borders[61]: 340  and expanded into Crow territory west of the Powder.[62]: 46 [63]: 407–408 [64]: 14  The Crows engaged in "… large-scale battles with invading Sioux …" near present-day Wyola, Montana.[64]: 84  Around 1860, the western Powder area was lost.[61]: 339 [65]

From 1857 to 1860, many Crows traded their surplus robes and skin at Fort Sarpy (II) near the mouth of the Bighorn River.[50]: 67–68 

During the mid-1860s, the Sioux resented the emigrant route Bozeman Trail through the Powder River bison habitat, although it mainly "crossed land guaranteed to the Crows".[50]: 89 [66]: 20 [67]: 170, note 13  When the Army built forts to protect the trail, the Crows cooperated with the garrisons.[50]: 89 and 91 [68]: 38–39  On 21 December 1866, the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho defeated Captain William J. Fetterman and his men from Fort Phil Kearny.[50]: 89  Evidently, the US could not enforce respect for the treaty borders agreed upon 15 years before.[50]: 87 

The River Crows north of the Yellowstone developed a friendship with their former Gros Ventre enemies in the 1860s.[50]: 93 [60]: 105  A joint large-scale attack on a big Blackfoot camp at Cypress Hills (Canada) in 1866 resulted in a chaotic withdrawal of the Gros Ventres and Crows. The Blackfoot pursued the warriors for hours and killed allegedly more than 300.[60]: 106 [69]: 140 

In 1868, a new Fort Laramie treaty between the Sioux and the US turned 1851 Crow Powder River area into "unceded Indian territory" of the Sioux.[55]: 1002  "The Government had in effect betrayed the Crows…".[68]: 40  On 7 May, the same year, the Crow ceded vast ranges to the US due to pressure from white settlements north of Upper Yellowstone River and loss of eastern territories to the Sioux. They accepted a smaller reservation south of the Yellowstone.[55]: 1008–1011 

The Sioux and their Indian allies, now formally at peace with the US, focused on intertribal wars at once.[70]: 175  Raids against the Crows were "frequent, both by the Northern Cheyennes and by the Arapahos, as well as the Sioux, and by parties made up from all three tribes".[71]: 347  Crow chief Plenty Coups recalled, "The three worst enemies our people had were combined against us …".[72]: 127 and 107, 135, 153 

Lone Dog's Sioux winter count, 1870. Thirty Crows killed in battle.

In April 1870, the Sioux overpowered a barricaded war group of 30 Crows in the Big Dry area.[57]: 33  The Crows were killed to either last or last but one man. Later, mourning Crows with "their hair cut off, their fingers and faces cut" brought the dead bodies back to camp.[73]: 153  The drawing from the Sioux winter count of Lone Dog shows the Crows in the circle (the breastwork), while the Sioux close in on them. The many lines indicates flying bullets. The Sioux lost 14 warriors.[74]: 126  Sioux chief Sitting Bull took part in this battle.[57]: 33 [75]: 115–119 

In the summer of 1870, some Sioux attacked a Crow reservation camp in the Bighorn/Little Bighorn area.[76] The Crows reported Sioux Indians in the same area again in 1871.[77]: 43  During the next years, this eastern part of the Crow reservation was taken over by the Sioux in search of buffalo.[78]: 182  In August 1873, visiting Nez Percés and a Crow reservation camp at Pryor Creek further west faced a force of Sioux warriors in a long confrontation.[50]: 107  Crow chief Blackfoot objected to this incursion and called for resolute US military actions against the Indian trespassers.[50]: 106  Due to Sioux attacks on both civilians and soldiers north of the Yellowstone in newly established US territory (Battle of Pease Bottom, Battle of Honsinger Bluff), the Commissioner of Indian Affairs advocated the use of troops to force the Sioux back to South Dakota in his 1873 report.[79]: 145  Nothing happened.


Crooks army before battle of the Rosebud. The Crow and Shoshone scouts and the Army are crossing Goose River on the way to the Rosebud in 1876. The equestrian woman may be either the Crow berdacheFinds-them-and-kills-them or the Crow amazon The-other-magpie.[80]: 228 

Two years later, in early July 1875,[81]: 75 Crow chief Long Horse was killed in a suicidal attack on some Sioux,[72]: 277–284  who previously had killed three soldiers from Camp Lewis on the upper Judith River (near Lewistown).[82]: 114 George Bird Grinnell was a member of the exploring party in the Yellowstone National Park that year, and he saw the bringing in of the dead chief. A mule carried the body, which was wrapped in a green blanket. The chief was placed in a tipi "not far from the Crow camp, reclining on his bed covered with robes, his face handsomely painted".[82]: 116  Crow woman Pretty Shield remembered the sadness in camp. "We fasted, nearly starved in our sorrow for the loss of Long-Horse."[80]: 38 

Exposed to Sioux attacks, the Crows sided with the US during the Great Sioux War in 1876–1877.[61]: 342  On 10 April 1876, 23 Crows enlisted as Army scouts.[78]: 163  They enlisted against a traditional Indian enemy, "... who were now in the old Crow country, menacing and often raiding the Crows in their reservation camps."[83]: X Charles Varnum, leader of Custer's scouts, understood how valuable the enrolment of scouts from the local Indian tribe was. "These Crows were in their own country and knew it thoroughly."[84]: 60 

Notable Crows like Medicine Crow[85]: 48  and Plenty Coups participated in the Rosebud Battle along with more than 160 other Crows.[64]: 47 [72]: 154–172 [68]: 116 

The Battle of the Little Bighorn stood on the Crow reservation.[68]: 113  As most battles between the US and the Sioux in the 1860s and 1870s, "It was a clash of two expanding empires, with the most dramatic battles occurring on lands only recently taken by the Sioux from other tribes."[62]: 42 [63]: 408 [61]: 342  When the Crow camp with Pretty Shield learned about the defeat of George A. Custer, it cried for the assumed dead Crow scouts "… and for Son-of-the-morning-star [Custer] and his blue soldiers …".[80]: 243 

On 8 January 1877, three Crows participated in the last battle of the Great Sioux War in the Wolf Mountains.[86]: 60 

In the spring of 1878, 700 Crow tipis were pitched at the confluence of Bighorn River and Yellowstone River. Together with Colonel Nelson A. Miles, an Army leader in the Great Sioux War, the big camp celebrated the victory over the Sioux.[50][87]: 283–285 



The Oath Apsarokeby Edward S. Curtisdepicting Crow men giving a symbolic oath with a bison meat offering on an arrow

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]

Habitation and transportation[edit]

Crow Lodge of Twenty-five Buffalo Skins, 1832–33 by George Catlin
Crow men trading on horseback

The traditional Crow shelter is the tipi or skin lodge made with bison hides stretched over wooden poles. The Crow are historically known to construct some of the largest tipis. Tipi poles were harvested from the lodgepole pine which acquired its name from its use as support for tipis.[90] Inside the tipi, mattresses and buffalo-hide seats were arranged around the edge, with a fireplace in the center. The smoke from the fire escaped through a hole or smoke-flap in the top of the tipi. At least one entrance hole with collapsible flap allowed entry into the tipi. Often hide paintings adorned the outside and inside of tipis with specific meanings attached to the images. Often specific tipi designs were unique to the individual owner, family, or society that resided in the tipi. Tipis are easily raised and collapsed and are lightweight, which is ideal for nomadic people like the Crow who move frequently and quickly. Once collapsed, the tipi poles are used to create a travois. Travois are a horse-pulled frame structure used by plains Indians to carry and pull belongings as well as small children. Many Crow families still own and use the tipi, especially when traveling. The annual Crow Fair has been described as the largest gathering of tipis in the world.

The most widely used form of transportation used by the Crow was the horse. Horses were acquired through raiding and trading with other Plains nations. People of the northern plains like the Crow mostly got their horses from people from the southern plains such as the Comanche and Kiowa who originally got their horses from the Spanish and southwestern Indians such as the various Pueblo people. The Crow had large horse herds which were among the largest owned by Plains Indians; in 1914 they had approximately thirty to forty thousand head. By 1921 the number of mounts had dwindled to just one thousand. Like other plains people the horse was central to the Crow economy and were a highly valuable trade item and were frequently stolen from other tribes to gain wealth and prestige as a warrior. The horse allowed the Crow to become powerful and skilled mounted warriors, being able to perform daring maneuvers during battle including hanging underneath a galloping horse and shooting arrows by holding onto its mane. They also had many dogs; one source counted five to six hundred. Dogs were used as guards and pack animals to carry belongings and pull travois. The introduction of horses into Crow society allowed them to pull heavier loads faster, greatly reducing the number of dogs used as pack animals.


Painting of Holds The Enemy, a Crow warrior with split horn headdress and beaded wool leggings by E.A Burbank
Hó-ra-tó-a, a Crow warrior with headdress, bison robe, and hair reaching the ground. Painted by George Catlin, Fort Union1832.

The Crow wore clothing distinguished by gender. Women wore dresses made of deer and buffalo hide, decorated with elk teeth or shells. They covered their legs with leggings during winter and their feet with moccasins. Crow women wore their hair in two braids. Male clothing usually consisted of a shirt, trimmed leggings with a belt, a long breechcloth, and moccasins. Robes made from the furred hide of a bison were often worn in winter. Leggings were either made of animal hide which the Crow made for themselves or made of wool which were highly valued trade items made specifically for Indians in Europe. Their hair was worn long, in some cases reaching the ground.[91] The Crow are famous for often wearing their hair in a pompadour which was often colored white with paint. Crow men were notable for wearing two hair pipes made from beads on both sides of their hair. Men often wore their hair in two braids wrapped in the fur of beavers or otters. Bear grease was used to give shine to hair. Stuffed birds were often worn in the hair of warriors and medicine men. Like other plains Indians the Crow wore feathers from eagles, crows, owls, and other birds in their hair for symbolic reasons. The Crow wore a variety of headdresses including the famous eagle feather headdress, bison scalp headdress with horns and beaded rim, and split horn headdress. The split horn headdress is made from a single bison horn split in half and polished into two nearly identical horns which were attached to a leather cap and decorated with feathers and beadwork. Traditional clothing worn by the Crow is still worn today with varying degrees of regularity.

The Crow People are well known for their intercut beadwork. They adorned basically every aspect of their lives with these beads, giving special attention to ceremonial and ornamental items. Their clothing, horses, cradles, ornamental and ceremonial gear, in addition to leather cases of all shapes, sizes and uses were decorated in beadwork.[92] They gave reverence to the animals they ate by using as much of it as they could. The leather for their clothing, robes and pouches were created from the skin of buffalo, deer and elk. The work was done by the tribeswomen, with some being considered experts and were often sought by the younger, less experienced women for design and symbolic advice.[93] The Crow are an innovative people and are credited with developing their own style of stitch-work for adhering beads. This stitch, which is now called the overlay, is still also known as the "Crow Stitch".[92] In their beadwork, geometric shapes were primarily used with triangles, diamonds and hour-glass structures being the most prevalent. A wide range of colors were utilized by the Crow, but blues and various shades of pink were the most dominantly used. To intensify or to draw out a certain color or shape, they would surround that figure or color in a white outline.[92]

The colors chosen were not just merely used to be aesthetically pleasing, but rather had a deeper symbolic meaning. Pinks represented the various shades of the rising sun with yellow being the East the origin of the sun's arrival.[92] Blues are symbolic of the sky; red represented the setting sun or the West; green symbolizing mother earth, black the slaying of an enemy[93] and white representing clouds, rain or sleet.[92] Although most colors had a common symbolism, each piece's symbolic significance was fairly subjective to its creator, especially when in reference to the individual shapes. One person's triangle might symbolize a teepee, a spear head to a different individual or a range of mountains to yet another. Regardless of the individual significance of each piece, the Crow People give reverence to the land and sky with the symbolic references found in the various colors and shapes found on their ornamental gear and even clothing.[92]

Some of the clothing that the Crow People decorated with beads included robes, vests, pants, shirts, moccasins and various forms of celebratory and ceremonial gear. In addition to creating a connection with the land, from which they are a part, the various shapes and colors reflected one's standing and achievements. For example, if a warrior were to slay, wound or disarm an enemy, he would return with a blackened face.[93] The black color would then be incorporated in the clothing of that man, most likely in his war attire. A beaded robe, which was often given to a bride to be, could take over a year to produce and was usually created by the bride's mother-in-law or another female relative-in-law. These robes were often characterized by a series of parallel horizontal lines, usually consisting of light blue. The lines represented the young women's new role as a wife and mother; also the new bride was encouraged to wear the robe at the next ceremonial gathering to symbolize her addition and welcoming to a new family.[92] In modern times the Crow still often decorate their clothing with intricate bead designs for powwow and everyday clothing.

Gender and kinship system[edit]

The Crow had a matrilineal system. After marriage, the couple was matrilocal (the husband moved to the wife's mother's house upon marriage). Women held a significant role within the tribe.

Crow kinship is a system used to describe and define family members. Identified by Lewis Henry Morgan in his 1871 work Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, the Crow system is one of the six major types which he described: Eskimo, Hawaiian, Iroquois, Crow, Omaha, and Sudanese.[citation needed]

The Crow historically had a status for male-bodied two-spirits, termed baté/badé,[94] such as Osh-Tisch.[95][96]



The Crow Indian Reservation in south-central Montana is a large reservation covering approximately 2,300,000 acres (9,300 km2) of land area, the fifth-largest Indian reservation in the United States. The reservation is primarily in Big Horn and Yellowstone counties with ceded lands in Rosebud, Carbon, and Treasure counties. The Crow Indian Reservation's eastern border is the 107th meridian line, except along the border line of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

The southern border is from the 107th meridian line west to the east bank of the Big Horn River. The line travels downstream to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and west to the Pryor Mountains and north-easterly to Billings. The northern border travels east and through Hardin, Montana, to the 107th meridian line. The 2000 census reported a total population of 6,894 on reservation lands. Its largest community is Crow Agency.


Prior to the 2001 Constitution, the Crow Tribe of Montana was governed by its 1948 constitution. The former constitution organized the tribe as a general council (tribal council). The general council held the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of the government and included all enrolled, adult members of the Crow Tribe, provided that women were 18 years or older and men were 21 or older. The general council was a direct democracy, comparable to that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

The Crow Tribe of Montana established a three-branch government at a 2001 council meeting with its 2001 constitution. The general council remains the governing body of the tribe; however, the powers were distributed to three separate branches within the government. In theory, the general council is still the governing body of the Crow Tribe, yet in reality the general council has not convened since the establishment of the 2001 constitution.

The executive branch has four officials. These officials are known as the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary, and Vice-Secretary. The Executive Branch officials are also the officials within the Crow Tribal General Council, which has not met since 15 July 2001.

The current administration of the Crow Tribe Executive Branch is as follows:

  • Chairman: Frank White Clay
  • Vice-Chairman: Lawrence DeCrane
  • Secretary: Levi Black Eagle
  • Vice-Secretary: Channis Whiteman.[97]

The Legislative Branch consists of three members from each district on the Crow Indian Reservation. The Crow Indian Reservation is divided into six districts known as The Valley of the Chiefs, Reno, Black Lodge, Mighty Few, Big Horn, and Pryor Districts. The Valley of the Chiefs District is the largest district by population.

The Judicial Branch consists of all courts established by the Crow Law and Order Code and in accordance with the 2001 Constitution. The Judicial Branch has jurisdiction over all matters defined in the Crow Law and Order Code. The Judicial Branch attempts to be a separate and distinct branch of government from the Legislative and Executive Branches of Crow Tribal Government. The Judicial Branch consists of an elected Chief Judge and two Associate Judges. The Crow Court of Appeals, similar to State Court of Appeals, receives all appeals from the lower courts. The Chief Judge of the Crow Tribe is Julie Yarlott.

Constitution controversy[edit]

According to the 1948 Constitution, Resolution 63-01 (Please note; in a letter of communication from Phileo Nash, then Commissioner of Indian Affairs, to the B.I.A. Area Director, as stated in the letter and confirmed that 63-01 is an Ordinance in said letter) all constitutional amendments must be voted on by secret ballot or referendum vote. In 2001, major actions were taken by the former Chairperson Birdinground without complying with those requirements. The quarterly council meeting on 15 July 2001 passed all resolutions by voice vote, including the measure to repeal the current constitution and approve a new constitution.

Critics contend the new constitution is contrary to the spirit of the Crow Tribe, as it provides authority for the US Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to approve Crow legislation and decisions. The Crow people have guarded their sovereignty and Treaty Rights. The alleged New Constitution was not voted on to add it to the agenda of the Tribal Council. The former constitution mandated that constitutional changes be conducted by referendum vote, using the secret ballot election method and criteria. In addition, a constitutional change can only be conducted in a specially called election, which was never approved by council action for the 2001 Constitution. The agenda was not voted on or accepted at the council.

The only vote taken at the council was whether to conduct the voting by voice vote or walking through the line. Critics say the Chairman ignored and suppressed attempts to discuss the Constitution. This council and constitutional change was never ratified by any subsequent council action. The Tribal Secretary, who was removed from office by the BirdinGround Administration, was the leader of the opposition. All activity occurred without his signature.

When the opposition challenged, citing the violation of the Constitutional Process and the Right to Vote, the Birdinground Administration sought the approval of the United States Department of the Interior (USDOI), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The latter stated it could not interfere in an internal tribal affair The federal court also ruled that the constitutional change was an internal tribal matter.[citation needed]


Further information: Crow Tribal Administration

Crow Tribal Chairperson Carl Venne and Barack Obama on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montanaon 19 May 2008. Obama was the first presidential candidate to visit the Crow Tribe.

The seat of government and capital of the Crow Indian Reservation is Crow Agency, Montana.

The Crow Tribe historically elected a chairperson of tribal council biennially; however, in 2001, the term of office was extended to four years. The previous chairperson was Carl Venne. The chairperson serves as chief executive officer, speaker of the council, and majority leader of the Crow Tribal Council. The constitutional changes of 2001 created a three-branch government. The chairperson serves as the head of the executive branch, which includes the offices of vice-chairperson, secretary, vice-secretary, and the tribal offices and departments of the Crow Tribal Administration. Notable chairs include Clara Nomee, Edison Real Bird, and Robert "Robie" Yellowtail.

On 19 May 2008, Hartford and Mary Black Eagle of the Crow Tribe adopted US Senator (later President) Barack Obama into the tribe on the date of the first visit of a US presidential candidate to the nation.[98] Crow representatives also took part in President Obama's inaugural parade. In 2009 Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow was one of 16 people awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

During the United States federal government shutdown of 2013, the Crow Tribe furloughed 316 employees and suspended programs providing health care, bus services and improvements to irrigation.[99]

In 2020, the Tribal Chairman AJ Not Afraid Jr. endorsed President Donald Trump's reelection, along with endorsing Republicans Steve Dainesfor the Senate, Greg Gianfortefor Governor and Matt Rosendalefor the U.S. House.[100]

Notable Crow people[edit]

Delegation of important Crow chiefs, 1880. From left to right: Old Crow, Medicine Crow, Long Elk, Plenty Coups, and Pretty Eagle.
  • Eldena Bear Don’t Walk (Crow/Salish/Kutenai, b. ca. 1973), lawyer, judge, politician, first woman to serve as the Chief Justice of the Crow Nation
  • Bull Chief (ca. 1825—unknown), war chief (pipe carrier), who fought against Lakota, Nez Percé, Shoshone, and Piegan Blackfoot warriors, he also resisted white settlement of Crow territory
  • Curly (or Curley) (also known as Ashishishe/Shishi'esh, ca. 1856–1923), Indian Scout and warrior
  • Goes Ahead or Ba'suck'osh (also Walks Among the Stars, 1851–1919), Indian Scout and warrior, husband of Pretty Shield
  • Hairy Moccasin or Esh-sup-pee-me-shish (ca. 1854–1922), Crow Indian Scout and warrior
  • Half Yellow Face or Ischu Shi Dish (ca. 1830 – ca. 1879), Crow Indian Scout and warrior, war leader (pipe carrier) and leader of the six Crow Scouts who assisted General George A. Custer
  • Issaatxalúash, also Two Leggings (mid-1840s – 1923); bacheeítche (local group leader) of River Crow, war leader (pipe carrier), during the first years of the reservation era
  • Donald Laverdure, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the US Department of the Interior
  • Joe Medicine Crow, also PédhitšhÎ-wahpášh (1913–2016), the last war chief (pipe carrier) of the Crow Tribe, educator, historian, author, and official anthropologist
  • Janine Pease, an American Indian educator and advocate and the first woman of Crow lineage to earn a doctorate degree
  • Wendy Red Star, visual artist
  • Pretty Shield (ca. 1856–1944), medicine woman, wife of Goes Ahead, a scouts at the Battle of the Little Bighorn
  • Shows as He Goes, war chief
  • Pauline Small or Strikes Twice In One Summer (1924–2005), first woman to serve in Crow Tribal Council
  • Frank Shively (ca. 1877–unknown), football coach
  • Supaman, also Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, rapper and fancy dancer
  • Alexander B. Upshaw (ca. 1874 - 1909), interpreter and assistant to photographer and writer Edward S. Curtis in researching, documenting and writing on North American Indian people and cultures.
  • Noah Watts, also Bulaagawish (Old Bull), actor and musician, best known for his role as Ratonhnhaké:ton, the main character of Assassin's Creed III
  • Bethany Yellowtail (Crow/Northern Cheyenne), fashion designer based in Los Angeles
  • Robert Yellowtail (1889–1988), leader of Crow Tribe, first Native American to hold position of Agency Superintendent
  • White Man Runs Him (ca. 1858–1929); Crow Indian Scout and warrior, step-grandfather of Joe Medicine Crow
  • White Swan, also Mee-nah-tsee-us (White Goose, ca. 1850–1904), Indian Scout and warrior, cousin of Curly.
  • Plenty Coups Crow chief who cooperated with the government against other more hostile tribes, ensuring the Crow kept much of their traditional lands.
  • Pretty Eagle Fellow war chief of Plenty Coups, who worked with him to ensure the tribes cooperation with the federal government.

See also[edit]


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  91. ^Letter No. 8George Catlin "...most of them were over six feet high and very many of these have cultivated their natural hair to such an almost incredible length, that it sweeps the ground as they walk; there are frequent instances of this kind among them, and in some cases, a foot or more it will drag on the grass as they walk, giving exceeding grace and beauty their movements. They usually oil their Hair with a profusion of bear grease every morning"
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  96. ^Scott Lauria Morgensen, Spaces Between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization (ISBN 1452932727, 2011), pages 39-40, quotes Crow historian Joe Medicine Crow speaking about the treatment of badés and Osh-Tisch by a US government agent.
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  • The Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1983, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-7909-4
  • The World of the Crow Indians: As Driftwood Lodges, Rodney Frey, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8061-2076-2
  • Stories That Make the World: Oral Literature of the Indian Peoples of the Inland Northwest. As Told by Lawrence Aripa, Tom Yellowtail and Other Elders. Rodney Frey, edited. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8061-3131-4
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  • From The Heart of the Crow Country: The Crow Indians' Own Stories, Joseph Medicine Crow, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2000, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-8263-X
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  • The Handsome People: A History of the Crow Indians and the Whites, Charles Bradley, Council for Indian Education, 1991, paperback, ISBN 0-89992-130-2
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  • Religion of the Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, The Trustees, 1922, hardcover, ASIN B00086IFQM
  • The Crow Sun Dance, Robert Lowie, 1914, hardcover, ASIN B0008CBIOW
  • Minor Ceremonies of the Crow Indians, Robert H. Lowie, American Museum Press, 1924, hardcover, ASIN B00086D3NC
  • Crow Indian Art, Robert H. Lowie, The Trustees, 1922, ASIN B00086D6RK
  • The Crow Language, Robert H. Lowie, University of California press, 1941, hardcover, ASIN B0007EKBDU
  • The Way of the Warrior: Stories of the Crow People, Henry Old Coyote and Barney Old Coyote, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2003, ISBN 0-8032-3572-0
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  • Plenty-Coups: Chief of the Crows, Frank B. Linderman, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1962, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-5121-1
  • Pretty-shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows, Frank B. Linderman, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1974, paperback, ISBN 0-8032-8025-4
  • They Call Me Agnes: A Crow Narrative Based on the Life of Agnes Yellowtail Deernose, Fred W. Voget and Mary K. Mee, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1995, hardcover, ISBN 0-8061-2695-7
  • Yellowtail, Crow Medicine Man and Sun Dance Chief: An Autobiography, Michael Oren Fitzgerald, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1991, hardcover, ISBN 0-8061-2602-7
  • Grandmother's Grandchild: My Crow Indian Life, Alma Hogan Snell, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2000, hardcover, ISBN 0-8032-4277-8
  • Memoirs of a White Crow Indian, Thomas H. Leforge, The Century Co., 1928, hardcover, ASIN B00086PAP6
  • Radical Hope. Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, Jonathan Lear, Harvard University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-674-02329-3

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Crow symbolism, meaning, and spirit animal

Crow meaning and symbolism include adaptability, cleverness and intelligence,  teamwork and reciprocity, transformation, and psychic abilities. Crows live on every continent except Antarctica. (And their close bird cousins, jays, exist in South America.) So, crow symbolism, meanings, and mythology exist in many cultures around the world. In addition, the crow spirit animal is a sacred power animal to those who feel a kinship with these highly intelligent birds. In this post, you’ll learn about crow symbols and meanings and what they might mean in your life. Plus, you’ll learn about crow spirit animal, crow mythology, and more.

Table of Contents

Crows in the Snow

What do crows symbolize?

Crow symbolism varies from culture to culture, but here are some commonly shared crow meanings, with details on each below:

  • Cleverness
  • Intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork and Reciprocity
  • Transformation
  • Psychic Abilities

Difference Between Crows and Ravens

Before we kick things off, I thought it would be important to distinguish between crows and ravens. These two birds look very much alike and are often seen together, but they’re different, nonetheless. To begin, these two birds, along with their cousins – rooks, jackdaws, jays, nutcrackers, magpies, treepies, and choughs – are all from the same family of birds called Corvidae. They are also referred to as corvids.

Crows and ravens are two species of corvids. Ravens are generally larger than crows and tend to travel in as a pair with their mate. While crows are smaller and like to congregate in big groups.

Tail Feathers

If you see these birds in flight, a crow’s tail will look like a fan, because all of the tail feathers are about the same length. Ravens, on the other hand, have longer middle tail feathers, so their tails look more like a wedge when they are in flight.


The two birds also make different sounds. Crows make a cawing sound, while ravens make a deeper croaking sound.

Crows and ravens share some similar meanings in cultural mythology. However, there are also some differences. If you are curious about raven symbols and meanings and the raven spirit animal, you can read that post here.

Detailed Crow Symbols and Meanings

Two Crows

Crow Symbolism: Intelligence and Cleverness

While the crow may not have the exotic flair of the flamingo or the colorfulness of the hummingbird, underneath the onyx depths of those shiny black feathers is a bird brain beyond compare.

Crows demolish the insult that calling someone a “bird brain” mean’s they’re not very clever. In fact, crows are considered to be among the most intelligent animals on the planet, along with primates, elephants, and cetaceans.

What makes crows so smart? For one, their brains possess a high numbers of neurons. Those extra neurons are found in the crows’ forebrains, the area of the brain the governs complex cognitive functions.

Crows also exhibit behaviors that are demonstrative of high intelligence, such as making tools, having strong memories (as in the ability to recognize human faces), and using non-verbal forms of communication.

The Crow and the Pitcher

The Crow and the Pitcher

There’s a popular Aesop’s fable called “The Crow and the Pitcher” about a crow in the desert who’s thirsty. He comes upon a pitcher of water, but his beak is not long enough to access the water in the pitcher. He realizes that if he tips the pitcher over, he might lose all of the water in it. So, he decides to innovate and starts putting pebbles in the pitcher of water. Eventually, the pebbles displace the water at the bottom of the pitcher, pushing the liquid up to a level where he can drink.

Enviable Problem-Solving Skills

The spirit of the crow should remind us all to leverage our wits so solve our problems. It’s easy to get emotional when we face challenges in life. The crow reminds us to step back, take a deep breath, cock our heads, and look at the challenge from a different perspective.

Crow Symbolism: Adaptability

Crow eating out of a dog dish

While many of us see crows on a regular basis, it’s important that we not take these clever creatures for granted. After all, they have shown an uncanny ability to survive in the human-dominated world, so they must be doing something right. The crow is the embodiment of adaptability and embracing change.

If a crow crosses your path, it could be sign that you have the ability to handle yourself in any situation – even if you don’t always feel that way. Don’t let sudden upheavals in your life or other people’s drama’s ruffle your feathers. The crow spirit animal helps you to adapt and to soar above the fray, find a safe place to perch, and watch it all unfold.

Be flexible and open to new situations.

Undoubtedly, one of the keys to crows’ survival in environments that are challenging for other animals is that, like coyotes and raccoons, crows are omnivores. Crows will eat anything – from other birds to fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, mice, fish, frogs, carrion, and dog treats. (If you go to dog parks, undoubtedly you’ve seen crows hanging around looking for spare treats.)

This too shall pass.

If the crow was a Sufi poet, he would say to you, “This too shall pass.” The crow reminds you that the one thing we can all be certain about is that things change. Resisting change is like living in a state of denial.

The crow spirit reminds you to be flexible instead of rigid. Be open to new experiences, whether they’re as simple as a culinary experience, trying to learn a new skill, or inviting new people into your life. Sometimes change that you fear or dread can turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to you.

Teamwork and Reciprocity

Flock of crows

While ravens tend to stick with their significant other, crows like to gather in large groups, sometimes in the hundreds or even thousands of birds. The term a “murder of crows” is often used to describe these large groupings, possibly because these clever and social birds seem like they’re plotting something when they’re all together.

It’s not by coincidence that Alfred Hitchcock chose large groups of crows to be his main perpetrators in the classic film The Birds. However, in reality, crows are social and playful birds who use over 250 different calls when they’re communicating with each other.

Crows collaborate with each other to drive other birds, such as hawks and owls, away from their territory. In addition, they’re known to seek out other crows to notify them about good food sources.

Loyalty and Lifetime Mates

Yet even though they are highly social and flock together in large groups, crows are monogamous and mate for life.

One of my favorite stories about crows that demonstrates their understanding of teamwork and the concept of give and take is the BBC video “Gift Giving Crows.”

In this documentary, a group of crows regularly bring gifts to a little girl who feeds them:

When the crow is your power animal, you are most likely a person who values relationships. You understand that relationships are the greatest “currency” in life. As the saying goes – It’s not what you know but who you know.

Crows also embody the Japanese proverb that goes, “All of us are smarter than one of us.


The crow spirit reminds you to nurture your relationships – with your family, your friends, your colleagues, and above all – your significant other.

If you are very independent and/or single, and a crow crosses your path, it could be a sign that one of your soul mates is seeking you. While soul mates can be romantic partners, they can also be close friends, business partners, and family members. The crow spirit animal reminds that you that we are not meant to go it alone.

Crow Meaning: Transformation

Crow in Flight

Throughout the world, the crow has been seen as an intermediary between the material and spirit worlds. As carrion-eating birds, they are often present in times of death, which is the likely reason they are associated with dying. Death is a frightening concept to many of us. And hence, crows are often see as “scary” birds. However, death is actually a transformation instead of an ending.

This depiction of crows as scary, which has been passed down from generation to generation, is why they are so closely associate with Halloween, graveyards, and the like. In fact, in Swedish folklore, crows were thought to be the ghosts of murdered people who didn’t have a Christian burial. And in Germany, they were thought to contain the souls of the damned.

The Cycle of Life

However, this negative association of crows is misleading. As carrion-eating birds, crows are an intrinsic part of a healthy ecosystem and the continuum of the cycle of life. For this reason, crows are powerful symbols of transformation.

When you see a crow, think about your life and the positive changes that you would like to set into motion. For every challenge you face, consider it an opportunity to evolve as a human being and as a soul. The crow can be a helpful symbol that serves as a catalyst for positive change in your life.

Psychic Abilities

Moon Crow by Deep Coloured Water

Like the owl and the raven, the crow also symbolizes psychic abilities.  The crow is said to be able to see the past, the present, and the future. If the crow is your power animal, you most likely possess special insights into situations where others may not. It’s important to always use those gifts as a force for good in the world.

Crow Spirit Animal

Crow spirit animal

Your spirit animal serves as a guide in your life, bringing you teachings and messages from your spirit guides to help you as you navigate your life path here on Earth and throughout your soul’s journey.

In Native American cultures, your spirit animal chooses you during a vision quest, a meditation, or another powerful experience that impacts the course of your life. You may already know that the crow is one of your spirit guides. Or perhaps a crow has suddenly made themselves known to you in a way that riveted your attention. Either way, it’s important to learn all you can about these deeply intelligent birds. This will help you to feel your interconnectedness with the Universe more deeply and expand your level of consciousness.

If you are curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s spirit animal quiz and read the detailed spirit animal guide.

Crow Power Animal

Raven spirit animal

As the name implies, a power animal can inspire you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, mediate on the attributes that the power animal represents. For example, you can summon the crow power animal when you:

  • Are facing a problem in your life and you can’t seem to come to a resolution. The crow power animal reminds you to not get overly emotion and to you use your wits!
  • Feel alone and want to attract your soul mate or a team of people who can help to enrich your life.
  • Want to hone your intuition and expand your psychic abilities.

Crow Totem

In Native American cultures, animal totems hold the protective powers of the animal they represent. Thus, the crow totem is a helpful symbol sharpening your wits and using your brain power to solve problems and make life better. In addition, the crow totem is a good luck symbol for attracting supportive, like-minded people in your life and for gaining deeper intuitive insights.

Crow Symbolism in Cultural Mythology

Crows appear in the mythology and folklore of many cultures. What is interesting is that in cultures where people were primarily nomadic and relied on hunting and gathering, crows were seen as positive symbols. However, in cultures that were more agrarian, crows were seen more negatively, possibly because they were disruptive to crops. Here are some of the stories and meanings applied to crows in different cultures:

Native American Crow Meanings

Spirit of the Black Crow

Every Native American tribe has their own unique traditions and beliefs, but one thing they all have in common is a deep reverence for animals and the natural world. While crow meanings and legends vary from tribe to tribe, crows are generally seen as powerful beings who are worthy of respect in every tribe.

For example, many plains tribes, including the Pawnee, Lakota, and Sioux, as well as other tribes, wear crow feathers when they do the Ghost Dance. The ghost dance is a spiritual dance of protection and resistance against oppression that is shared by many tribes.

Tlingit and Haida People

The Tlingit People, who hail from the Pacific Northwest, believe the crow helped the Creator to organize the structure of the world and that he possesses the power to free the sun.

The Haida People, also from the Pacific Northwest, said the crow could steal the sun from the sky and give it to the Earth’s people.

There are other legends, which I’ll describe below, that are similar to this concept of the crow accessing the heat of the sun.

The tribes of the Northwest also viewed the crow as a trickster because he possessed great powers related to creation and could influence outcomes.

The Rainbow Crow

Rainbow Crow

One of my favorite Native American stories is the Rainbow Crow, which is told by the Lenape People, who are from the area that is now the state of Delaware. Indeed, this is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever heard.

When the land grew cold…

A long time ago, when the Snow Spirit appeared, the land made all of the animals very cold. Snow continued to fall on the lands and soon it started to cover the animals, first the mouse, then the rabbit, the deer, and so on. All of the animals held a council meeting to decide who would ask the Creator, who lived in the Heaven far above the Sun, to make the Earth warm again.

Together the animals went one by one as they tried to decide which animal should make the journey. However, with each animal they considered, they realized there would be one problem or another. For instance, they ruled out the owl for fear she might get lost in the light of day. And they ruled out the coyote for fear he might play too many tricks, such as chasing the wind or swallowing the clouds, which would delay his journey.

A Beautiful, Colorful Bird

Finally, a beautiful, colorful bird with a soothing song volunteered to fly to the Creator. This bird was the Rainbow Crow. The animals decided the Rainbow Crow was the perfect animal to fly to the Creator and ask for warmth.

The Rainbow Crow flew and flew and when he got to the heavenly place where the Creator lived, he begged the Creator for warmth for the Earth. Impressed by the crow, the Creator relented and touched a long branch to the Sun, which caught fire. He then put it in the Rainbow Crow’s break.

The Descent Back to Earth

As the Rainbow Crow made his descent back to Earth, the branch continued to burn. The flame grew in the wind, and the branch became shorter. Eventually, the fire singed the Rainbow Crow’s feathers and blackened them with soot. And the smoke from the fire caused his voice to grow hoarse.

When the Rainbow Crow finally got to Earth, he delivered the heat to the animals. Now exhausted, he flew up to a tree and perched on a branch. While the Rainbow Crow was relieved he could warm the other animals, he was disheartened because he thought he was no longer beautiful and could no longer sing. He was now just the Crow.

Taking pity on him, the Creator told the Crow that he would forever be protected from men. His strong wings would give him the means to fly away and his sharp intellect could outwit wicked men who wanted to harm him. The Creator also told the Crow to look at his feathers in the sunlight. There he would be see millions of tiny rainbows.

Crow Clans

Native American tribes have a clan system that is organized around family groups, which are based on the maternal line. Clans serve as a system of community organization, division of labor, and, some historians surmise, they helped to keep gene pools healthy by preventing close relatives from marrying.

Clans also have animals that are associated with them, such as the bear, wolf, or hummingbird, and a number of Native American tribes have crow clans. Tribes with crow clans include the Chippewa, Hopi, Menominee, Caddo, Tlingit, and Pueblo.

The Crow Nation

The Crow People are an entire Native American tribe who hail from the area that is now the Yellowstone River Valley, which extends from Wyoming to Montana and North Dakota. In their own language, the Crow People are Absaroka, which means “children of the large-beaked bird.”

It’s unclear why the Crow People associate themselves with this particular bird vs. another animal. However, what is clear is that they named their people for a bird, possibly a magpie or jay, which was native in their area long ago, and which is most likely extinct today. However, this bird is of the same family as modern day crows, which is Corvidae.

Crow Medicine

Vintage photo of Crow Native Americans

Because crows are associated with the Creator and thus the conception of the Universe, they are considered by many tribes to be the holders of Universal Wisdom and Universal Laws. This means they have knowledge and insights about the physical earthly plane, as well as the spiritual world. It also means they possess the capability to change these laws, and thus effect outcomes.

Because of this wisdom and these special powers, the Native Americans associate crows with healing. This is the root of crow medicine. The crow spirit animal can be summoned when you need a miracle – when you feel the odds are against you, but you can still find the faith to believe in a positive outcome.

Australian Aboriginal Crow Meanings

The Aboriginal People of Australia also revere the crow. Interestingly, as in Native American legends and others you’ll read about below, the Aborigines have stories about the crow possessing the power to access fire. The crow is also considered a clever trickster in Aboriginal culture.

There is one Aboriginal crow legend told by the Wurundjeri People. In this story, there are seven sisters. These sisters could be seen in the constellation Pleiades.

In the winter, food was scarce and the people did not have fire. So, they were forced to eat only raw food. As a result, many of the people got sick. However, the seven sisters were well-fed. So, Waa, the crow began to observe them.

He noticed that the sisters used sticks to dig for honey ants to eat. When Waa looked more closely, he saw that that sticks were glowing red with fire, so the sisters were able to cook the food they ate.

Now Waa knew that the seven sisters were fearful of snakes. So, he found some baby snakes and placed them in a log and sealed it up. Waa then told the sisters that honey ants were in the log.

The sisters used their digging sticks to open the log. But when they did, the snakes sprang out and the sisters jumped, dropping their sticks. Waa then swooped in and grabbed the sticks and flew off. However, when he did, the sticks charred his feathers and blackened them with soot.

Crows in Greek Mythology

The god Apollo and his crow.

Apollo and Crows

In ancient Greece, the crow was sacred to the god Apollo. According to one myth, Apollo had a white crow whom he left with his lover Coronis. In truth, Apollo wanted his crow to keep an eye on her. As luck would have it, Coronis fell in love with a man named Ischys.

The crow told Apollo of the affair between Coronis and Ischys. Enraged, Apollo first directed his anger at the crow because he had expected the crow to peck out the eyes of Ischys. Apollo was so enraged that he threw a fiery curse at Coronis, which singed the crow and turned his feathers black.

Here and Crows

The Greeks also associated crows with the goddess Hera. Not only were crows known to be monogamous, they were also seen on battlefields. Thus, it was fitting that the Greeks paired them with their goddess of war and marriage.


At one time the goddess Athena was also associated with crows. However, she found them to be too mischievous and cunning. So, instead she chose the solemn owl to be her companion.


The Romans took part in a spiritual practice called augury, which interpreted omens by the behavior or birds. In fact, the term is based on the word “auspices,” which comes from Latin word auspicium, which means “one who looks at birds.” Thus, the Romans watched the behavior of crows closely. In particular, they believed that the direction that crows flew had symbolic meaning.

Crow Symbolism in the Bible

Crows appear in the Bible frequently. In the story the Great Flood, after 40 days, Noah sends a crow (or raven or, more likely, an ancestor of modern-day corvids) to find dry land after the flood. The crow does not return, so Noah assumes that suitable dry land has not been found, as the crow is able of eating carrion from the sea.

After the crow, Noah sends a dove to see if there is dry land. At first the dove returns and Noah thinks there is still probably no suitable land on which to dock the ark. But a week later, when he sends the dove out again, she returns with a freshly plucked olive branch, and Noah realizes that the Earth is finally habitable again. However, the crow is forever considered to be selfish for not flying back and telling Noah the state of things.

Crows are given a bad rap in other parts of the Bible as well, notably when they are depicted as unclean because they eat carrion. This irrational fear was undoubtedly one of the reasons why crows came to be associated with the occult and death.

Crow Meanings in Celtic Mythology

Celtic Goddess Morrigan with crows

For the Celts, crows were sacred. They were associated with the god Lugh, who was a warrior deity, a craftsman, and a protector.

The Celts also associated crows with the goddess Morrigan, who was believed to shapeshift into a crow. As the goddess of war and death, Morrigan was said to fly over battlefields while screeching to encourage her warriors and strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.

Crows in Norse Mythology

According to Scandinavian folklore, the god Odin had two companions, Hugi and Munnin, which translates to Thought and Memory. Hugi and Munnin were crows (or ravens) who flew over the Earth and brought tales of the world back to Odin.

Crow Meaning in Asian Cultures

Weaving maiden with crows

Crows didn’t fare very well in Chinese mythology. As with many other cultures, the Chinese associated crows with the sun and fire. In one story, the Earth originally had 10 suns, which were embodied by 10 crows. One day, all 10 of the suns decided to rise at once, and they began to scorch the Earth. So, the gods sent their most experience archer, Houyi, who shots down all of the crow suns except one.

One Chinese fairy tale that portrays crows positively, however. The story explains why there are some days you can see crows in the sky and other days that you don’t. In the story of the Weaving Maiden, you don’t see crows in the sky when they are busy forming a magical bridge that allows the Weaving Maiden to meet her lover.

The Japanese view crows as messengers from the spirit world. They also see them as positive symbols of transformation and rebirth.

Crows in Hinduism

Crows are viewed positively in Hindu culture. Because they have powerful memories, they are seen as messengers from one’s ancestors. Some believe that crows carry the souls of the recently deceased. Because of this, when Hindu practitioners perform the act of Shraaddha (giving thanks) during the period of Pitru Paksha, which is a period of honoring one’s ancestors, they will often feed the crows.

Crows are also associated with Hindu gods and goddesses, including the Sani, who rules the planet Saturn. Sani is a hot-tempered but highly intelligent deity. And the mother goddess Dhumavati, who is portrayed as a crone, or old woman, is associated with crows and is sometimes depicted as riding on a crow.

Crow Symbols in Buddhism

Buddhist monk and crows

In Tibetan Buddhism, the crow is associated with the deity Mahakala, which means the Great Black One.” Mahakala is viewed as a protector, particularly of wisdom.

In one Buddhist story, a 15th century monk named Ngawang Drakpa traveled to what is now the Gyalrong district of eastern Tibet. His intention was to build a monastery there, but he was having trouble deciding on the location. As he was pondering, a crow flew down and grabbed the scarf from around his neck. The monk followed the crow to a juniper tree, where the crow placed the scarf on one of the branches. The monk saw this as an auspicious sign that this was the right place for the monastery.

Crow Dream Meanings

Crow Dream

Dreams are personal to every dreamer, so I never try to apply specific meanings to every dream about crows. However, when analyzing your dream, it’s important is to consider the emotions you felt in the dream, whether it was wonder, fear, anger, or some other emotion. Your feelings will help you to understand the nature of a matter that you should address in your conscious state.

In addition, consider your own personal feelings about crows. To some, crows are disturbing, while to others, they are fascinating. From there, you can layer in some of the commonly shared meanings and symbols applied to crows and see it anything resonates. For example, crows as symbols of transformation could mean that a change is about to happen in your life, or a sign that you are in a process of self-transformation.

Crow Tattoo

Crow Tattoo

A crow tattoo is a powerful symbol that shows you are in tune with your intuitive powers. It can also meant value cleverness and like to indulge your sense of curiosity. Tattoos are personal to each individual. However, better understanding crow symbolism and mythology can hopefully imbue your tattoo with deeper meaning.

Organizations that Protect Crows

While you might consider crows to be plentiful, especially if you live in an urban setting, like the vast majority of wild animals on our planet, crows face threats. In fact, two species of crows are on the Endangered Species List: the Hawaiian crow and the Mariana crow. If you care about crows and other birds, please do what you can to help protect them. Here are some organizations that look out for crows and other birds:

Audubon Society

Defenders of Wildlife

The Alalā Project

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

Institute for Wildlife Studies


Native American Crow Mythology

Indian languages*Native American Indian cultures*American Indian totems

Many people are under the mistaken impression that crows were viewed as harbingers of death in Native American cultures, but in fact, that is not true at all. We do not know of any Native American tribe in which crows were seen as omens of death.

Sponsored Links

Indeed, just the opposite, seeing a crow was (and still is!) considered good luck by many tribes. It is true that crows will eat carrion, but so do many other animals not typically associated with the dead such as bald eagles, bears, etc. In Native American folklore, the intelligence of crows is usually portrayed as their most important feature. In some tribes, the crow is conflated with the raven, a larger cousin of the crow that shares many of the same characteristics. In other tribes, Crow and Raven are distinct mythological characters.

Crows are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Crow Clans include the Chippewa (whose Crow Clan and its totem are called Aandeg), the Hopi (whose Crow Clan is called Angwusngyam or Ungwish-wungwa), the Menominee, the Caddo, the Tlingit, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

Native American Crow Gods and Spirits

Crow Mother (Hopi)

Native American Legends About Crows

*Rainbow Crow Legend*Mànàka'has, the Rainbow Crow:
    Lenni Lenape myths about Crow bringing fire to the people.
How The Crow Came To Be Black*A Crow Story:
    Plains Indian legends about Crow's feathers becoming black due to an alliance with the buffalo.
*The Magic Pots:
    Chippewa Indian story about disobedient children who were turned into crows.
*When the Animals Left Lenapé Land:
    Lenape Indian legend about giants and crows that taught the people a lesson about respecting animals.
The Creation of the World:
    Gros Ventre myth featuring Crow as the only original animal to survive the Great Flood.

Recommended Books of Crow Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

*The Growing Rock: A Native American Tale:
    Picture book based on a Miwok legend about Crow learning to think before making decisions.
Rainbow Crow:
    Picture book illustrating a Crow myth about the origin of fire.
Ravensong: A Natural And Fabulous History Of Ravens And Crows:
    Fascinating book exploring both the natural history of ravens and crows, and their role in Native American mythology.
Birds of Algonquin Legend:
    Interesting collection of legends about Indian crows and other birds in Algonquian tribes.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of animal spirits, including a chapter on Native American crows.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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Tribe symbols crow

Crow Symbol

Meaning of the Crow Symbol
Native American Indians were a deeply spiritual people and they communicated their history, thoughts, ideas and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Crow symbol. Native American symbols are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena and animal designs. The meaning of the Crow symbol signifies wisdom. According to Native American legends and myths some tribes believed that the Crow had the power to talk and was therefore considered to be one of the wisest of birds. The sacred bird of the famous Ghost Dance was the crow. The Ghost Dance Religion used it as a symbol of the past when the crow had acted as a pathfinder for hunting parties. The feathers of the crow adorned their clothes and each dancer was to wear one eagle feather or one crow feather in their hair, The Sioux believed that when the great, final flood came to earth that the crow feathers would lift the ghost dancers from the ground to the safety of the heavens. For additional information refer to Power Animals.

Sioux Ghost Dance

Sioux Ghost Dance

The Crow Symbol - Meaning
There were so many tribes of Native American Indians it is only possible to generalise the most common meaning of the Crow symbol or pattern. Native Indian symbols are still used as Tattoos and were used for a variety of reasons and depicted on numerous objects such as tepees, totem poles, musical instruments, clothes and War Paint. Indian Tribes also used their own Colors for Symbols and designs depending on the natural resources available to make Native American paint. For additional information please refer to the Meanings of Bird Symbols.

Black Crow

Apache Hide Painting

Native American Indians - Crow Symbol
Native American Indians had a highly complex culture, especially those who lived on the Great Plains.

Their religion was dominated by rituals and belief in a spiritual connection with nature and these beliefs were reflected in the various symbols they used such as the Crow symbol.

The clothes, tepees and all of his belongings was decorated with art and included symbols depicting his achievements, acts of heroism, his various spirit guides or the most important events in his life. Every symbol used by an American Native Indian had meaning which can be accessed from Symbols and Meanings.

Crow Symbol


  • The Crow symbol of Native Americans
  • Meaning, symbolism and interpretation of the Crow symbol
  • Interesting facts and info for kids and schools
  • Pictures, meanings, patterns and designs of symbols
  • Native American Crow symbol meaning

Pictures and Videos of Native Americans
Crow. Discover the vast selection of pictures which relate to the History of Native Americans and illustrate many symbols used by American Indians. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes that can be used as a really useful educational history resource for kids and children of all ages. We have included pictures and videos to accompany the main topic of this section - Crow. The videos enable fast access to the images, paintings and pictures together with information and many historical facts. All of the articles and pages can be accessed via the Native Indian Tribes Index - a great educational resource for kids.

Awaxaawippíia: The Crow Nation’s Sacred Ties

…To have us left out all these years, and then for him to come here, it shows respect, and it makes us optimistic.–Old Coyote, his response to the visit from [then] Presidential Candidate  Barak Obama–May 19, 2008

Crow Indians in front of tipi

Crow Flag


The Crow, also known as Absaroka or Apsaalooke, are a tribe of American Indians who originally lived in the Yellowstone River Valley. They now reside on a reservation south of Billings, Montana. The name was of the tribe was mistranslated by the early interpreters as meaning ” people of the crows.” The name literally means “children of the large-beaked bird” a name given to them by the neighboring Hidatsa Indians.

The Crow’s main source of food was bison, but they also hunted sheep, deer and other game. They were a nomadic people, and had more horses than any other plains tribe.Women held a significant role within the tribe. The Crow were matrilineal, so the husband moved into the wife’s house upon marriage.

The Crow Today

Crow Relay Race

Today about 75 percent of the Crow tribe’s approximately 10,000 or more enrolled members live on or near the reservation. Eighty-five percent speak Crow as their first language. Prior to the 2001 Constitution, the Crow nation was governed by a Tribal Council. Now, the Crow have established a three-branch government at a 2001 council meeting. The Crow still maintain a Tribal Council.

The tribal nations have a government-to-government relationship with the United States. The Crow Tribe signed treaties with the U.S. Government in 1825, 1851, and 1868, defining its relationship with the United States, establishing its boundaries, and recognizing the Tribe’s rights as a sovereign government.
The tribal government, as a sovereign entity, maintains jurisdiction within the external boundaries of the reservation over all lands rights-of-way, waterways, watercourses and streams, as allowed or limited by Supreme Court case law.

For years the vast coal deposits under the eastern portion of the reservation were untapped. One mine is now in operation and provides royalty income and employment for the tribal members. The Crow maintain a large buffalo herd, which also generates income. The St. Labre Indian School offers preschool through high school education for Crow children.

While he was a presidential candidate, President Barack Obama was officially adopted into the Crow Nation. This occurred when he visited the reservation during his campaign for the presidency of the United States. This was the first time a presidential candidate had visited a tribal reservation. President Obama has reached out to help the Native American Indians in this country. The following is an excerpt from the Washington Post newspaper describing President Obama’s visit to the Crow reservation during his campaign for president.

“…Drums pounded and the crowd cheered as Obama was escorted to the podium by his “new parents,” Hartford and Mary Black Eagle, in the manner of a groom being walked down the aisle.

Obama beamed. His adoptive parents gave Obama hugs as he stepped onto a riser to speak.”

I want to thank my new parents,” he said. “The nicest parents you could ever want to know. I like my new name. Barack Black Eagle. That is a good name!”

For all the symbolism — members of the tribe wore colorful traditional clothing and feathered head-dresses — Obama addressed some issues of serious concern not only to the 12,100-member Crow Nation but to many Native American tribes around the country.

Obama told those gathered that he intended to acknowledge the “tragic history” of Native Americans over the past three centuries.

They “never asked for much, only what was promised by the treaty obligations of their forebears,” he said, promising to honor those treaties.
The visit also had political value for Obama. The members of the Crow Nation vote as “a close-knit bloc,” Old Coyote said. “Now that Senator Obama is part of the family, that is where we will go…Washington Post

Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion

1. What is the true meaning of the Crow Indians’ name?

2. Provide possible reasons why the Crow waited so long before utilizing the coal deposits on the reservation.

3. Why do you think President Obama chose the Crow tribe to visit?

4. What made the Crow Nation adopt President Obama?

5. What was the name that the Crow people gave President Obama?

6. What are some things that the Crow Indians said that they wanted?

Click HERE for Complete Lesson Plan with Answer Key

Crow Myth: Coyote Creates the Earth

Long ago there was no earth, only water. Coyote was floating around on a small raft. After awhile he met the ducks. They were the only other creatures there. “My brothers,” he said, “there is no one else around. It is no good to be alone like this. You must get some earth so I can make things right.”

He turned to the mallard and said, “Dive beneath this water and try to bring up some earth.” The mallard dived under the water. When he came up Coyote said, “What sort of luck did you have?”

“I have brought some dirt,” he replied. And he had a little dirt between his webbed feet. Coyote took the mud and said “I will make this into the earth.” Looking at the ducks swimming around he said, “You will live in the ponds and streams. There you can multiply and build your nests.”

Coyote took the dirt in his hands and he started in the east. “I will make the earth large so we have plenty of room.” As he traveled along he spread the dirt around , going toward the west. Coyote and the ducks went for a walk. On the ground they saw some shining objects. When they got closer they saw that they were medicine stones, which would be good for healing powers. Coyote said, “There shall be stones like this everywhere.”

When they had gone on some ways, they saw a person standing near a hill. “Look” said Coyote, “there is a human being. He is one of the stars, but now he is down here standing on the ground. Let’s go look at him.”When they got closer, the star-person changed himself into a plant. There were no other plants around at that time. It was the first.

Coyote said, “From now on all people will have to take care of plants which will grow in the spring, and sleep when the snows cover the ground. It is the stars up above that have come down like this. They will take care of the people.”

After this, Coyote made mountains, hills, and trees. He saw there were no fish in the creek, so he put some there. This is the way he started the whole thing.


Crow website

St. Labre Indian School

Washington Post

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