Who are Crow People?

Alex Paul

The crow people are a Native American tribe that originally lived in the Yellowstone valley and along the Yellowstone River. Today, most of the tribe lives on the Crow Indian Reservation in south Montana. The crow people, also known as the Apsaalooke or Absaroka, have about 12,000 members today.

The Crow people traditionally hunted bison.
The Crow people traditionally hunted bison.

The first time the crow tribe came into contact with Europeans was around the middle of the 1700s. During this time the tribe met two French-speaking brothers who were exploring the region from Canada. These explorers likely are responsible for the English name of the tribe; when they returned home, they referred to the tribe as "gens de corbeaux," which is French for "People of the Crow."

The Crow lived in tents, or tipis, made of animal skins.
The Crow lived in tents, or tipis, made of animal skins.

The exact early origins of tribe are disputed. Some believe the crow people came from an area near the Mississippi River, while other historians believe the original tribal members came from Winnipeg. What is known for sure is that the tribe split at some point before moving to Dakota and then Montana.

Crow people made shelters using poles and the skin of bison. Compared to other Native American tribes, the tipis of the crow tribe were relatively large and included mattresses and seats, along with a fire. Although the tribe built large, elaborate tipis, they were traditionally a nomadic group. Many crow members still use these tipis today when traveling.

The crow tribe were known for the large number of horses they had under their control. It was estimated toward the start of the 20th century that the tribe had more than thirty thousand horses. This was more than any other tribe that lived in the central region of the United States. The horses were important for hunting bison, the traditional food eaten by the crow people, and for warfare.

Many of the modern day crow people live on a reservation with more than 2 million acres (about 8,000 square kilometers) of land. The reservation is home to about 7,000 inhabitants, although not all of these belong to the crow tribe. Members of the tribe are found in many other places across America as well, including Spokane, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; and Denver, Colorado. The tribal headquarters are located at the tribal capital of Crow Agency, Montana — a small town with a population of less than 2,000.

The majority of the Crow Nation are settled in south-central Montana.
The majority of the Crow Nation are settled in south-central Montana.

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