Crow History

Transcribed by Kari, a super volunteer added these stories..

He can tell the warrior was Crow by the long flowing hair depicted in the petroglyph. "The most common way tribes are identified is hairstyle, " he explained.

In battle, Crow warriors either wore their long hair loose or in a knot on top. Braids would have been too easy for an enemy to grab. Three Shoshone he boasted of killing were identified by circles representing heads. The heads were bisected by a squiggle signifying a single braid, McCleary said. The two sioux he killed were symbolized by heads sprouting short disheveled hair.

Above two Sioux heads and two of the Shoshone heads are what appear to be French-type tomahawks preferred by the Crow, McCleary said. The chief apparently used a spear to dispatch the third Shoshone.

McCleary said the artist was identifying himself as a chief with two war bonnets he carved near his own mounted figure. That he had performed the four deeds necessary to attain status as chief is also evidenced in the rock. An 'X' shows that he has counted coups, striking his enemy with a coups stick. A rifle mounted near his back says that he has taken an enemy weapon. The rope around the neck of his horse boasts that he has captured an enemy horse. A second rider following him signifies that he led a successful war party. The petreglyph illustrates his pursuit of two Sioux warriors, his coups stick striking them on the head.

In addition to his other accomplishment, the chief was an artist, McCleary said. His abstract portrait of the horse is especially fine. Like most Crow art it conveys motion, he said. Sioux and Cheyenne art is more detailed and more static. Blackfeet art is very different and much more conservative, sometimes using stick figures to tell a story.

There is more to learn from the Crow figures rendered so long ago. The presence of a gun and horses likely dates the carvings to the mid-19th century. McCleary said the warrior probably visited the area sometime in the 1830's or 1840's (source, Billings Gazetter, approx.2001.



McCleary has studied Crow rock art for years, relying on the help of Crow elders including Barney Old Coyote, John Pretty On Top and the late Tyrone Ten Bear. He's built on the work of such experts as Stu Conner and Larry Lorendorf of Billings.

Many of the sites he's examined were recorded by earlier rock art experts or were known to members of the tribe. In finding new sites, he would study those identified by the Crow and learn how they were interpreted by the elders. Then he would look for other sites that seemed similar. With the help of Crow elders, he's learned to decipher some of it. "It was their shorthand," he said. "If they knew what the components meant, they could actually read it."

Sandstone cliffs and outcrops characteristic of the Yellowstone Valley provided the perfect tablet for warrior artists, McCleary said. It could easily be scraped to a smooth surface and was soft enough to advertise deeds to friends and warning to interlopers who might want to invade the Crow homeland. "It gives you a sense of  place. Obviously, Yellowstone Valley was the center of their world,"  he said.

Most of the art in the valley is biographical and most of it boasts of war deeds. That makes a certain amount of sense, he noted, because the fighting took place in the low county and the spiritual aspects of Crow life were more likely to be found in sacred high places. The biographical art is a declaration. It says they were warriors, and they were successful, and this is what will happen to you if you come onto our land.

But the malleability of the sandstone also makes it vulnerable to time and weather. Most of the petroglyphs and pictographs that remain are not much more that 100 to 150 years old. Those of greater age are in sheltered areas of south-facing slopes, he said. Pictograph Caves south of Billings protected some of the earliest evidence of Crow habitation. (source: Billings Gazette, 07/24/2000

(transcribed by Cari, thanks so much)


Three Missoula based women-all with strong ties to Montana-have produced "Contrary Warriors", a proud but bittersweet film about the Crow Tribe. Montanans have a chance to see it this evening at Petro Theatre on the Eastern Montanan College campus. The tickets are reasonably priced and any profits will go back into the non-profit Rattlesnake Productions, Inc, a Montana based enterprise dedicated to producing film and text rooted in the region.

The film takes its name from the Crazy Dogs, one of the original Crow warrior societies. These men declared themselves "Contrary Warriors" pledging to risk death in battle. The feel of risk, of gambling, of taking the challenge is a motivating force in the film.

The film also conveys a toughness, a feeling of heart along with grace and humor under pressure. According to Pamela Roberts, one of the producers, "We felt we had something to contribute. We saw something in Crow life that we felt others would identify with and respond to." An admiration and respect for Crow life is apparent in talking to the producers. Roberts grew up on the reservation, her father spoke Ctow and she went to the dances and other social activities. With her own maturity came an understanding of and appreciation for Crow ways. "This all gave me in-roads and trust," she said.

The film chronicles Crow history through the life and times of Robert Yellowtail, 97-year old tribal leader and the focus of the film. The struggle to retain the language, land and traditions is conveyed through him as the major symbol. In "Warriors" Yellowtail learns the white man's ways in order to play the games and regain what was taken from his people. The elder's eloquence as a young man would prove him well as he grew older. He is still respected and "loves a good fight,"  says his wife, Dorothy. But he is always remembered for saving the Crow reservation during a series of hearings in Washington, circa 1910, and helping bridge the gap between white and Indian worlds.

"It's a weaving of past into the present," says Connie Poten, another of the producers, explaining that government policies 100 years old still shape the lives of contemporary Crow people. The unemployment, the poverty and the despair are juxtaposed to the celebrations, joys and dreams, she says. "It's not what I would call a happy film, but there is hope within the realism," she says. To do otherwise would be a disservice to her craft and the Crow people, she feels.

Poten came west in 1970 to work on a dude ranch in the Big Horns. After college, she retuned to the west in 1976 and helped with research and writing for the "Hearthland", which with the actors Conchata Ferrell and Rip Torn in the leading roles was destined for awards and much recognition.

"The two of us got together in 1983," says Roberts, referring to herself and Poten, "actually in 1982 when we saw Yellowtail receive an award from the Department of Interior." The third member of the production team, Beth Ferris, had been filming in west sice 1975. In fact she wrote the screenplay for "Heartland" as well as co-produced it, and had her hand in both the production and writing of "Warrior."

Other emerging artists play a part in the film. Actor Peter Coyote narrates it and Todd Boekelheide scored it. (Viewers may remember his contributions of sound and mixing in "Amedeus" and "The Right Stuff".) And many other names grace the credits-photographers, editors and consultants well respected in their fields. Poten says, "The film will be presented free to the Crow people and residents of Big Horn County."
(Billings Gazette,1983)
[bighorn] [Residents] [Wyola] [1930 Census] [Biographies] [Lodge Grass] [1930 Census 2] [Rodeo Queen] [Hardin] [Hardin 2] [Pryor] [cowboys] [Bios] [Crow Fair] [Obits1] [Crow Agency] [Gen. Scott] [WW2] [Census 1870] [1930] [WW2 (2)] [Obits 1] [PAGE2 Census] [Deaths, Custer] [Cemeteries] [Long Hair'] [Fetterman Fight] [Custer Battlefield] [Custer data] [Custer Battle] [Custer Bios] [Internments] [Ft. Custer and Ft. Keogh] [MT Fort PARKER] [1870 Census] [Dipping Vat] [Fort Smith] [A-H obits] [First Familes] [Volume 1] [Missonaries] [Crow History] [Art,culture]



[bighorn] [Residents] [Wyola] [1930 Census] [Biographies] [Lodge Grass] [1930 Census 2] [Rodeo Queen] [Hardin] [Hardin 2] [Pryor] [cowboys] [Bios] [Crow Fair] [Obits1] [Crow Agency] [Gen. Scott] [WW2] [Census 1870] [1930] [WW2 (2)] [Obits 1] [PAGE2 Census] [Deaths, Custer] [Cemeteries] [Long Hair'] [Fetterman Fight] [Custer Battlefield] [Custer data] [Custer Battle] [Custer Bios] [Internments] [Ft. Custer and Ft. Keogh] [MT Fort PARKER] [1870 Census] [Dipping Vat] [Fort Smith] [A-H obits] [First Familes] [Volume 1] [Missonaries] [Crow History] [Art,culture]






Jo Ann if questions


Welcome to Big Horn County, TRAILS TO THE PAST.