Crow (trans., through French
gens des corbeaux, of their own name, Absároke,
crow, sparrow hawk, or bird people). A Siouan tribe forming part of the
Hidatsa group, their separation from the Hidatsa having taken place, as
Matthews (1894) believed, within the last 200 years. Hayden, following
their tradition, placed it about 1776. According to this story it was the
result of a factional dispute between two chiefs who were desperate men
and nearly equal in the number of their followers. They were then residing
on Missouri river, and one of the two bands which afterward became the
Crows withdrew and migrated to the vicinity of the Rocky mountains,
through which region they continued to rove until gathered on
reservations. Since their separation from the Hidatsa their history has
been similar to that of most tribes of the plains, one of perpetual war
with the surrounding tribes, their chief enemies being the Siksika and the
Dakota. At the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804) they dwelt
chiefly on Bighorn river; Brown (1817) located them on the Yellowstone and
the east side of the Rocky mountains; Drake (1834) on the south branch of
the Yellowstone, in lat. 46º long. 105º.
Hayden (1862) wrote: "The country usually inhabited by the Crows is in and
near the Rocky mountains, along the sources of Powder, Wind, and Bighorn
rivers, on the south side of the Yellowstone, as far as Laramie fork on
the Platte river. They are also often found on the west and north side of
that river, as far as the source of the Musselshell and as low down as the
mouth of the Yellowstone."
According to Maximilian (1843) the tipis of the Crows
were exactly like those of the Sioux, set up without any regular order,
and on the poles, instead of scalps were small pieces of colored cloth,
chiefly red, floating like streamers in the wind. The camp he visited
swarmed with wolf like dogs. They were a wandering tribe of hunters,
making no plantations except a few small patches of tobacco. They lived at
that time in some 400 tents and are said to have possessed between 9,000
and 10,000 horses. Maximilian considered them the proudest of Indians,
despising the whites; "they do not, however, kill them, but often plunder
them." In stature and dress they corresponded with the Hidatsa, and were
proud of their long hair. The women have been described as skilful in
various kinds of work, and their shirts and dresses of bighorn leather, as
well as there buffalo robes, embroidered and ornamented with dyed
porcupine quills, as particularly handsome. The men made their weapons
very well and with much taste, especially their large bows, covered with
horn of the elk or bighorn and often with rattlesnake skin. The Crows have
been described as extremely superstitious, very dissolute, and much given
to unnatural practices; they are skilful horsemen, throwing themselves on
one side in their attacks, as is done by many Asiatic tribes. Their dead
were usually placed on stages elevated on poles in the prairie.
The population was estimated by Lewis and Clark (1804)
at 350 lodges and 3,500 individuals; in 1829 and 1834, at 4,500;
Maximilian (1843) counted 400 tipis; Hayden (1862) said there were
formerly about 800 lodges or families, in 1862 reduced to 460 lodges.
Their number in 1890 was 2,287; in 1904, 1,826.
The Crows have been officially classified as Mountain
Crows and River Crows, the former so called because of their custom of
hunting and roaming near the mountains away from Missouri river, the
latter from the fact that they left the mountain section about 1859 and
occupied the country along the river. There was no ethnic, linguistic, or
other difference between them. The Mountain Crows numbered 2,700 in 1871
and the River Crows 1,400 (Pease in Ind. Aff. Rep., 420, 1871).
Present aggregate population, 1,826.
See Hayden, Ethnog. and Philol. Mo.
Valley, 1862; Maximilian, Trav., 1843; Dorsey in 11th and 15th Reps. B. A.
E., 1894, 1897; McGee in 15th Rep. B. A. E., 1897; Simms, Traditions of
the Crows, 1903.
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of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations
Index of Tribes or Nations