Monday, April 15, 2019

Learning Admiration for the Crow Indians by Paty Jager

I've never been one to let one perspective influence how I made decisions or what I thought.  I like to learn all I can about something before I make judgement. But I'll have to say, all the research I did on the Nez Perce and Blackfoot Indian tribes to this point had me thinking bad things about the Crow.

Now as I delve into the history and information about the Crow, I understand why they were scouts for the Army against the other tribes. And I understand why the other tribes disrespected them for it.

My latest work in progress has a Crow hero. I could have picked Blackfoot or Cheyenne, but for some reason my mind kept circling to Crow. And I'm glad it did.

I started researching and learning about the Nez Perce and the Blackfoot Indians years ago when I came up with my historical Native American Spirit Trilogy set among the Nez Perce. They had battles with the Blackfoot and I understood their battles and their desire to stop battling this enemy. And as I wrote book three in the trilogy where the U.S. Army was chasing the Nez Perce and Crow scouts were helping the army to find the band that had warred with them, I thought, as did the Nez Perce, that it was unthinkable for one tribe of Indians to help the army.

Fast forward to the last couple of months. I've been researching for my hero in my upcoming Silver Dollar Saloon book: Freedom. Reading books like From the Heart of the Crow Country: The Crows Own Stories by Joseph Medicine Crow and Plenty-coups Chief of the Crows by Frank B. Linderman I'm understanding why they were helpful to the whites and how the government, as they had every chance they could, reneged on their promises.

As a researcher of several Native American tribes, I've found the same significance in dreams/visions in all the tribes. Each one has their own type of "vision quest" and how the dream is interpreted- as in whether they keep it to themselves, sing it to the whole band, or only tell the medicine men and elders who help them interpret the vision.

The Crow had several of their notable clansmen who had similar dreams about the Whites coming. Where the Crow had once been many in number and strong. Their being pushed westward and warring with other tribes being pushed westward along with the tribes they were encroaching on, their numbers were small in comparison to the tribes around them.

They raided the other tribes and stole horses as well as counted coups which was stealing a horse tied to an enemy's tipi, or touching them in battle without killing or getting harmed oneself. The more coups they accumulated helped them to become chiefs.They weren't blood-thirsty like some tribes. They were more passive like the Nez Perce, only battling when they had no other choice. Because in battles you lost warriors, and their numbers were small.

Being one of the smaller tribes and having been told of visions of the Whites who were coming,
Crow Scout
killing their food supplies, and taking land, they made friends with the first whites to come to their country. A treaty of friendship was signed in 1825 between the United States and the Crow tribe. When forts were built on their hunting grounds, they made friends with the army to keep their land. The first treaty in 1851 called the Fort Laramie Treaty gave them 35,531, 147 acres. It was all the land they had roamed for centuries. Then in 1868 when ranchers decided it was good grazing land, a new treaty reduced the land to 8,000,400 acres. 

When the army started hunting down bands of Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, and eventually the Nez Perce, the Crow offered warriors as scouts with an agreement they would not lose anymore land, would be compensated for the land that had already been taken, and their people would receive food.

In 1882 after the surrounding tribes had been detained by the army, their land was further reduced until by 1890 they were left with 2.5 million acres of land on the eastern edge of their territory. The only consultation... they were one of the few tribes given land that was once their hunting grounds.

The Crow are not a backstabbing tribe as I had thought all those years ago, they are a pragmatic tribe who saw siding with the U.S. Government as a way to save their people. They managed to save more of their culture and language than other tribes.

Oh, and those dreams I mentioned before...they told of the white man coming, the buffalo disappearing, the spotted buffalo or cattle coming, and a chickadee represented that they listen. Learn  how other tribes lost to the white man and learn how to escape such a defeat for their tribe.

My take-away from this? I will never make an assumption about anyone until I have done my research. 

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 39 novels, 6 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

photo source: Deposit photos and Wikipedia

No comments: