Crow Tribe

…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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