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Crow Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Crow Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Crow Indian homepage for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Crow pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




   Crow Tribe

Where did the name "Crow" come from?
It is a slight mistranslation of the tribe's own name for themselves, Apsaalooke (pronounced opp-sah-loh-kay,) which means "children of the large-beaked bird." Sometimes you can see the same word spelled Absarokee or Absaroka. Today, Crow people usually use the English name "Crow" themselves.

Where do the Crows live?
The Crow Indians were far-ranging people, especially once they acquired horses. By the time the Americans met them they were living on the Great Plains in what is now Montana and Wyoming. Most Crow people still live in Montana today.

How is the Crow Indian nation organized?
The Crows live on a reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. The Crow Nation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Crows are also US citizens and must obey American law. In the past, the Crow tribe was ruled by a council of chiefs, who were chosen by clan leaders based on the war honors they had earned. Today, Crow tribal officers are elected by all the people.

What language do the Crows speak?
Nearly all Crow people speak English today, but many speak their native Crow language as well. If you'd like to know a few easy Crow words, "kaheé" (pronounced similar to "ka-hay") is a friendly greeting, and "ahó" means "thank you." You can read a Crow picture glossary here.

What was Crow culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Crow Nation. On their site you can find information about the Crow people in the past and today.

How do Crow Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Crow children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop game enjoyed by Plains Indian kids. A Crow mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with Native American cradleboard pictures.

What were Crow men and women's roles?
Crow women were in charge of the home. Besides cooking and cleaning, a Crow woman built her family's house and took it apart again whenever the tribe moved. Crow men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Sometimes a Crow woman, especially a widow, might ride into battle with the men or even become a chief, but this was rare. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Crow homes like in the past?
Like other Plains Indian tribes, the Crows lived in the tall, cone-shaped buffalo-hide houses known as tipis (or teepees). Since the Crow tribe moved frequently to follow the buffalo herds, a tipi had to be carefully designed to set up and break down quickly, like a modern tent. An entire Crow village could be packed up and ready to move on within an hour. Here are some pictures of tipis and other Native American houses.

Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Crows live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Crow clothing like? Did the Crows wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Crow women wore long deerskin dresses. Crow men wore breechcloths with leather leggings and buckskin shirts. Both men and women wore moccasins on their feet. A Crow lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills, beadwork, and elk teeth. Later, Crow people adapted European costume such as cloth dresses and vests, which they also decorated with beading and traditional ornaments. Here is a site about the symbolism of Plains Indian war shirts, and some photos and links about Indian clothing in general.

Crow Indian leaders sometimes wore the long Indian warbonnets that Plains Indians are famous for. Traditionally, Crow people only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Crow men sometimes made their hair even longer by weaving horsehair into it. Some Crow chiefs had hair so long it trailed on the ground. Crow men and women both wore their hair either loose or in two braids, but Crow men often styled the front of their hair into pompadours or other styles, and sometimes wrapped their braids in fur. Crow women didn't consider their hair as important as some Plains Indian women did. In the 1800's, many Crow women started to cut their hair to shoulder length, but Crow men continued to grow theirs as long as possible. Here is a website with pictures of American Indian hair. The Crows also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, some Crow people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Crow transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Crow Indians weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built rafts. Originally the Crows would use dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. Here is an article with pictures of Plains Indian travois. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Crows could travel quicker and further.

What was Crow food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Crows were primarily hunting people. Crow men hunted deer, elk, and especially buffalo. Some Crow bands raised corn in their village gardens, but others grew only tobacco there. Sometimes Crow Indians traded for corn from more agricultural tribes such as the Mandans. Crow women also gathered herbs, fruits, and other plants to add to their diet. Here is a website with more information about American Indian food.

What were Crow weapons and tools like in the past?
Crow warriors used powerful bows and arrows, war clubs, spears, and hide shields. Here is a website with American Indian weapon pictures and information.

What other American Indians did the Crow tribe interact with?
The Crows traded regularly with other tribes of the Great Plains and the Western Plateau. Some of their favorite trading partners included the Mandan and Flathead Salish tribes. These tribes often communicated using the Plains Sign Language.

The Crow also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him), stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat. So the Crow sometimes were enemies of neighboring tribes like the Sioux, Shoshones, and Blackfeet, and other times they were allies. The Europeans who first met them were surprised by how often the Crow tribe fought with their neighbors, yet how easily they made peace with each other when they were done fighting.

What are Crow arts and crafts like?
Crow artists are famous for their quill embroidery, beadwork, and carving arts. Here is an article with a photo gallery of different Crow and other Plains Indian beadwork.

What kinds of stories do the Crows tell?
There are lots of traditional Crow legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Crow Indian culture. Here is one story about the creation of the earth. Here's a website where you can read more about Crow mythology.

What about Crow religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Crow rituals or this site about Native American beliefs in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
From the Heart of the Crow Country is a good collection of tribal history told by a Crow elder. Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief is the autobiography of a Crow Indian chief, and Grandmother's Grandchild is the family story of a famous Crow medicine woman and her granddaughter. All three of these books provide great insight into the history and culture of the Crow tribe. Two good sources of information for younger kids are The Crow and Crow American Indians. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Crow Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Crows

Crow Indian Tribe
An overview of the Crow Native American tribe, their language and history.

Crow Language Resources
Crow language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Crow Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Crow tribe past and present.

Crow Words
Crow Indian vocabulary lists.



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