What are Crow Native Americans?

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  • Written By: S. Ashraf
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  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Crow Native Americans are members of an Indian tribe indigenous to the United States. After slowly migrating westward from the Missouri Valley in reaction to colonial expansion and contact with Europeans, Crow Native Americans now occupy a reservation located in the south-central part of Montana. There are more than 10,000 enrolled members of the tribe.

Most Crow tribe members speak English, but they also share a common Missouri Valley Siouan language. More than 80 percent of them still speak this language, and it is required that tribal business be conducted in it. The Crow language is the most widely spoken non-English language in Montana.

About 70 percent of all Crow Native Americans live on a reservation of approximately 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares), with the remaining members residing in nearby communities. This is the fifth-largest Indian reservation in the U.S. and is located mainly in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties in south-central Montana near Billings. Passing through the reservation are the Bighorn, Wolf and Pryor mountain ranges and the Big Horn and Little Big Horn rivers. The reservation has six main towns, with Crow Agency being the largest, at about 1,600 people, as well as being the seat of government for the tribe.


Several treaties with the United States established the Crow as a sovereign nation within the boundaries of the reservation. For many years, the system of government that Crow Native Americans used was a direct democracy, something like that of ancient Athens, which reflected their past as a nomadic tribe. In 2001, a new constitution was approved, and the Crow changed their governance system. Under the new constitution, there are three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. A system of separation of powers with checks and balances among the branches was established.

Some Native American tribes have prospered because of legalized gambling or the sale of natural resources, but the Crow have not. Crow Native Americans are economically disadvantaged, with more than 40 percent living below the poverty line as of 2010. There is a shortage of housing that has adequate plumbing, insulation and electricity.

Crow Native Americans support themselves mainly by ranching, farming and some mining. Some work for the tribal government. Tourism also generates income for the tribe. The Little Bighorn National Monument, the site of General George Custer’s last stand, is located on the reservation. Each August, the tribe hosts Crow Fair, which is widely regarded as the largest and best Indian celebration on the northern plains.


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Post 4

I find the Crow people to be a very noble people and it saddens me to see that the tribe is in such dire shape.

The Crow nation is so big and with 40 percent of the people living under the poverty line this means that hundreds of thousands of members of their tribe are suffering and something needs to be done in order to ensure that their tribe and way of life will continue.

I never hear about the Crow people petitioning the government as drastically or as emphatically as other tribes and this is just probably how their people are. However, their leaders need to ask for more in order to help their own people.

Post 3

@cardsfan27 - I feel you are correct, but that might not be the policy of the tribe as they do not wish to garner as much from the government as other tribes.

What I find very surprising is that the tribe actually resists gambling and building casinos despite being in such dire shape as a people.

It seems to me that the leaders of the tribe need to do something in order to sustain growth and for their tribe to thrive and survive.

I find it admirable that they will not sell out their beliefs and values in order to obtain monetary gain, but there comes a point when one needs to look and see what is best for the tribe and a situation may arise some day where they cannot be so low key and be forced to ask for more.

Post 2

@matthewc23 - Well, there could be any number of reasons why the Crow people do not receive a lot of press or exposure.

For one, I have always thought the Crow to be a low key type of tribe that is looking to keep to themselves and with their old ways and not put themselves in front of the cameras like a lot of other tribes do to receive attention.

Looking at how the tribe is today, however, the elders and leaders of the tribe might want to think about becoming more active as their people are suffering and they may need to act out in order to preserve their self interest as well as try to survive in these modern times as a tribe.

Post 1

I have to say that the Crow Indian tribe is a tribe I have always heard of as a kid, but never have been taught much about them or really know much about their culture.

I wonder if it could be their location in the upper Great Plains that leads people to not know a whole lot about them and the reason why they do not get a lot of press or maybe it could be that they are over-shadowed by other tribes throughout history.

It seems to me that with a tribe so big, like the Crow, they would receive a lot of attention. They have definitely been recognized by the federal government and seem to have a clear governmental structure in place that is more understandable than a lot of other tribe.

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