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Crow Tribe

Crow Tribe

The Crow tribe is a specific band of Sioux Plains Native Americans. Much like their Plains Native relatives, they share a common language and culture but are distinct enough and control a particular territory to be considered separate from the Sioux.

Crow Tribe Location

Having split from their ancestral Sioux bands, the Crow migrated up the Yellowstone River to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, controlling territory in what is present-day southern Montana and northern Wyoming.

The Crow that settled north of the Yellowstone River toward the Musselshell River is known as the Mountain Crow because of their high terrain. The Crow who settled to the south along the Big Horn, Powder, and Wind Rivers valleys are known as the River Crow. The current Crow reservation is in south-central Montana.

Crow Tribe Treaty of Fort Laramie Map StudySmarterFig. 1 Treaty of Fort Laramie Map

Crow Tribe History

The Crow Native name is "Absaroka," Sioux for "Bird People." Early in their history, the Crow split from the Sioux band Hidatsa near the Upper Missouri River because of a dispute over buffalo. After this split and migration farther west, the Crow divided into the two distinct bands of Mountain Crow and River Crow.

Much like their other Plains Native American brethren, after the introduction of the horse, the Crow chose the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Indians. Both groups gave up the village life of their Hidatsa relatives. The Crow stopped farming for food, growing only tobacco. They lived in tipis and followed herds of buffalo.

Crow Tribe Crow Tribe Tipi StudySmarterFig. 2 Crow Tribe Tipi

The Crow, like many Plains Native Americans, participated in the Sun Dance and Vision Quest. They had their particular societies and rituals.

The Adaptation to the Horse

The significant change created by the introduction of the horse transformed semi-nomadic societies into fully nomadic ones that could follow and hunt large herds of buffalo and other plains animals consistently and efficiently. First brought to North America by the Spanish in the 1500s, the horse gained widespread use by the Plains Native Americans by the 1700s.

Crow Tribe Crow Indians on Horses StudySmarterFig. 3 Crow Indians on Horses

Tribes that used horses were no longer dependent on farming near rivers. Hunters could now cover a much larger area and with the ability to carry all that they needed with them, including the portable tipis. Not all tribes completely abandoned their permanent villages, but hunters could leave their villages for more extended periods with horses.

Many tribes adopted the new nomadic lifestyle, migrating to the plains and moving entire families. Many peoples were beginning to be pushed off their ancestral lands by the European movement west, forcing them into the nomadic lifestyle with weapons from Europeans acquired through the fur trade.

The Importance of the Buffalo

Before acquiring horses, tribes used many methods of hunting buffalo, such as sneaking up on them or forcing a stampede over cliffs. They could ride with the galloping herds on horseback, using bows, arrows, lances, or rifles to pick off specific animals. The Plains Natives more readily adopted rifles in the 1800s with breech-loading rifles.

Buffalo meat was the staple food of the Crow. It was eaten raw in small pieces or roasted. The Absaroka could also make Buffalo meat into jerky by drying it to prepare for use on the trail. Native Americans also used the buffalo's tongue, liver, kidneys, bone marrow, and intestines.

Buffalo provides materials for numerous other applications by the Crow. For example, tipi coverings, shields, blankets, clothing, thread, rope, tools from bones, rattles for ceremonial purposes, and uses for hooves, skulls, horns, and buffalo feces as fuel. Women mastered the art of preparing hides for varied services, creating rawhide, leathers, and numerous items that these raw materials could craft.

Crow Tribe Hunter's Life Illustration StudySmarterFig. 4 Hunter's Life Illustration

The use of the Tipi as a Shelter

There are few more iconic images than the Plains Native American tipi. The Crow People would sew as few as six and up to thirty buffalo skins together to make a tipi covering. Although men provided the hides through their hunts, cutting pine trees for poles, the women erect the shelter.

Tipis are practical. They have various openings and hides for ventilation. When thoroughly sealed with other pelts for insulation and a fire inside, they could be warm in the winter. Plains Native Americans thought of tipis as more than just homes. They considered their sacred places, with the floor symbolizing the earth and the walls of the sky. Inside and outside coverings were painted with symbolic designs, many showing the colored figures, spirit beings, ancestors, family histories, and honors from warfare.

Crow Tribe History: Warfare

The Crow were longtime enemies of other tribes in the northern Great Plains, such as their relatives, the Sioux and Blackfeet - often fighting over horses, buffalo, and fame. Like other Plains tribes, the Crow practiced counting coups to touch their enemies and show bravery.

During the Indian Wars in the west, the Crow earned a reputation for allying with the United States, fighting alongside the U.S. Army on several occasions. They served as scouts and fought, especially in the 1870s, against the Sioux. However, by 1888, their territory had been taken over by miners and settlers and treated like the other Plains tribes; the Crow settled on a government-protected reservation.

Crow Tribe Culture

The Crow had elaborate rules for the behavior of adults and children. For example, fathers would host feasts to make speeches about their children's future success. It was also the father's role to teach their sons how to hunt, survive in the wilderness, and fight. On returning from his first battle, members of this father's clan would greet a boy and sing songs of prayers and praise; this is called an "aassahke."

Mothers would care for rearing their daughters, preparing them for roles as mothers and providers in the camps, such as preparing food and making clothing.

Secret Societies

Some Plains Native American paintings identify warriors as belonging to a particular military society. Each society had its insignia, costumes, songs, dances, and code of behavior. Some societies were age-restricted and open. Others were exclusive, and one could join only when invited. Most societies excluded women, and a few tribes had women-only associations.

Crow Tribe Tobacco Society of the Crow Tribe StudySmarterFig. 5 Tobacco Society of the Crow Tribe

The Crow people are known for their unique society called the Crow Tobacco Society, which celebrated and had rituals for their one crop.

Absaroka Religion and Spirituality

The Vision Quest

Visions, in dreams and those created in a semi-wakeful state, play an essential part in the religious and spiritual life of Plains Native Americans. Visions have significance for individuals and possibly for an entire tribe. The quest for visions usually occurred around critical events, such as a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood or in preparation for war. After some ritual display of body decoration or physical demands, the vision usually came in the form of an animal. After the experience, a shaman would help interpret the vision.

The Sun Dance

The quest for visions also played a part in a ceremony common among many Plains Native Americans, the Sun Dance. The name "sun dance" comes from the Sioux Tribe. The purpose of the dance was to come into contact with the spirit world to promote prosperity in keeping buffalo plentiful, bring victory in battle, settle disputes, and heal the sick. The various rituals for the dance are numerous and complex. Many dances involved drumming, singing, and dancing. In some tribal traditions associated with the dance, there was some form of pain or mutilation, such as men having skewers implanted in their chests and dancing backward until they were ripped out.

Crow Tribal Clothing and Appearance

The Crow traditional clothing is also known for its vibrant appearance. Their hair sometimes reached to the ground with intricately interwoven strands. Their elegantly crafted clothing is dyed bright colors with elaborate quillwork patterns, forming geometric designs. They crafted beautiful blankets, pouches, saddles, and bridals.

Crow Tribe Little Crow By Frank Blackwell Mayer StudySmarterFig. 6 Little Crow By Frank Blackwell Mayer

Absaroka (The Crow people) - Key takeaways

  • Having split from their ancestral Sioux bands, the Crow migrated up the Yellowstone River to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, controlling territory in what is present-day southern Montana and northern Wyoming.

  • The significant change created by the introduction of the horse transformed semi-nomadic societies into fully nomadic ones that could follow and hunt large herds of buffalo and other plains animals consistently and efficiently.

  • The Crow were longtime enemies of other tribes in the northern Great Plains, such as their relatives, the Sioux and Blackfeet - often fighting over horses, buffalo, and fame. Like other Plains tribes, the Crow practiced counting coups to touch their enemies and show bravery.

  • During the Indian Wars in the west, the Crow earned a reputation for allying with the United States, fighting alongside the U.S. Army on several occasions.

  • The Crow tribe is also known for its vibrant appearance. Their hair sometimes reached to the ground with intricately interwoven strands. Their elegantly crafted clothing is dyed bright colors with elaborate quillwork patterns, forming geometric designs. They crafted beautiful blankets, pouches, saddles, and bridals.

Frequently Asked Questions about Crow Tribe

The Crow that settled north of the Yellowstone River toward the Musselshell River is known as the Mountain Crow because of their high terrain. The Crow who settled to the south along the valleys of the Big Horn, Powder, and Wind Rivers are known as the River Crow. The current Crow reservation is in south-central Montana.  

The Crow is known as plains native Americans who excelled at horse riding and hunting. The Crow were known for their fierce fighting and warfare as well as raids on other indigenous tribes. 

The Crow Native name is "Absaroka," Sioux for “Bird People.” Early in their history, the Crow split from the Sioux band Hidatsa near the Upper Missouri River because of a dispute over buffalo. After this split and migration farther west, the Crow divided into the two distinct bands of Mountain Crow and River Crow. 


Both groups gave up the village life of their Hidatsa relatives. The Crow stopped farming for food, growing only tobacco. Much like their other Plains Native American brethren, after the introduction of the horse, the Crow chose the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Indians. They lived in tipis and followed herds of buffalo. 


The Crow who settled to the south along the valleys of the Big Horn, Powder, and Wind Rivers are known as the River Crow. The current Crow reservation is in south-central Montana.  

The Crow spoke a dialect of the Siouan language and are a part of the Sioux Language family group. 

Final Crow Tribe Quiz

Question

What would be considered the most important animal to the Crow?

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Answer

The Buffalo 

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Question

Which of the following Sioux tribes did the Crow split from?

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Answer

Hidatsa 

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Question

Which of the following rituals is unique to the Crow from other Plains tribes?


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Answer

The Aassahke 

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Question

What was introduced to the Great Plains by the Europeans that forever changed the culture of the Crow and other Tribes?

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Answer

The horse

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Question

Which of the following best describes the relationship between the Crow and the U.S. Army?


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Answer

The Crow would ally themselves with the U.S. Army against the Sioux.

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Question

Why did the Crow separate themselves from the Sioux?


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Answer

The Crow split after a dispute over buffalo in their territory.

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Question

Which of the following is not a distinction of the Crow?


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Answer

The use of the ceremonial pipe

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Question

In Crow society who was responsible for the maintenance of the village or camp?


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Answer

Women

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Question

What did the Crow call the ritual performed for a boy after his first battle?


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Answer

The Aassahke

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Question

Which of the following was an adaptation of the Crow following the introduction of the Horse?


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Answer

All of the following

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