THE ABSALOKA THEIR JOURNEY TO THE "BIG HORN" AND BEGINNINGS OF AN EDUCATION
Translations: for tribes and time and place.
The "Biluge" (one of the names the Crows have for themselves-translated "like us") story begins in dim distant
("ba-eshta-she-lay", "Absaloka" (Children of the Raven split names: Mountain and River Crows.)
past. Their spoken language is Siouxan, classify the linguists, one of the most dispersed about the present United States when finally study was made of extant Indian languages. The "dispersed" means that they may havebeen a part of the earliest groups that came over the Aleutian Island bridge thousands of years ago.
In their legendary times they were located in the Eastern Woodlands, and their culture was much like that of Algonquin and Iroquois woodland people-indeed their legends have similarity. Bond School buildings in background of picture.
When Eurpopean settlements pushed any survivors west (many had died from diseases), they were pushed domino effect by the numerous Sioux into the Missouri River Basin of North Dakota, and the material aspects of their culture changed because of the different environment-they learned from their neighbor dwellers in that area,
the Arikara of Caddo linguistic stock, and the mysterious Mandansof Siouxan. Sometimes erroneously called Gros Ventre (true GrosVentre were further north and west, now in north-central Montana),heir ancient name is Hidatsa. All three tribes lived in vertical-logfenced villages of large round earthen dwellings, all farmers, withoccasional hunting and trading with other Indian tribes. Before the coming of the horse, the "Biluges" left the Hidatsa,and legends from both tribes tell that the separation was the result of the power struggle between two brothers, and the immediate cause the communal meat allocation during a time of scarce food-the straw that broke, etc.". The Hidatsa remained in their earthen ound houses on the Missouri, and the "Biluge" moved gradually over many years, using dog travois for travel, becoming hunters only
First, tradition tells, they moved into what we now call Canada,which they decided was much too cold. Then, to the south they came to a dry warmer area with a great lake of salty water. Movingon, they reached rolling hills with lush growth and much game, butuncomfortable summer heat. Finally they moved to the north again and chose the Yellowstone and Big Horn River areas.
Then a great change came as horses were captured by Indians inn what we now call "Southwest U.S." When horses came to the"Biluge" (and their legend tells of the marvel of the coming now14 generations ago) they could move further and faster than they had before. As other Plains fringe people moved into the area, now also mounted on horses, the Plains Culture began and flourished.Other groups named "Biluge" "Absaloka" (Children of the Raven)
There were a number of black pioneers.
In 1875 the Reservation was diminished for homesteading in the Yellowstone Valley for "ba-eshta-she-lay", and most Absalokas were moved further south to a new agency at Absarokee, Montana(some Indian women married to white men in the Yellowstone area could stay on these lands as homesteaders). More sickness-oldpocked-faced ones of the 1930's (the survivors) would return thereto cry for their lost ones of earlier days. School was again Bond School
Pretty Shield, a medicine woman, in interview with Frank Linderman, when she was a grandmother in 1930, said:
"Sickness came, strange sickness that nobody knew about,
when there was no meat...My heart fell down when I began to
see dead buffalo scattered all over our beautiful country, killed
and skinned and left to rot 100's of them. . . in Judith Basin
the whole country smelled of rotting meat. . .We believed for
a long time that the buffalo would again come, but they did
not. We grew hungry and sick and afraid, all in one. Our hunters
rode far-found nothing. After this the hunters' hearts were no
good any more. If the Great White Chief in Washington had
not given us food we should have been wiped out, without
even a chance to fight for ourselves.
He also quoted Plenty Coups:
"When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell
to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After this
nothing happened. There was little singing anywhere."
But Mr. Linderman also summarizes that Plenty Coups saw
clearly that a readjustment of his people was necessary, and spent
the rest of his life promoting that readjustment. He went to
Washington, D.C. many times, (once as "Chief of all Chiefs" to lay
a wreath on the grave of World War I Unknown Soldier), he advised
his people, especially the youth, he himself had a little trading post
at Pryor, and encouraged young men to go to World War I.
(Indians were not made citizens until 1924!)
The Absalokas were hungry, stunned and shamed. And they
were desperate that their children would survive. Slowly they listened
jo the advice for adjustment from such people as their Chief Plenty
Coups and Major Pease, the former Agent, who continued to live
with or visit the Crows the rest of his life. The move to the "flat-
topped mountain area" was in 1884. By 1886 the government had
fc>juilt a boarding school at the Agency, and forty-one six and seven
year old children were brought to the school. The closeness of family
life, and fear of new things slowed the process. But Agent William-
sdn put much effort and coercion (including use of Indian police)
into getting children into schools.
A second school, a private one, was built near the Big Horn
Pryer, seven miles south of Custer Railroad Station, that same year.
In January of 1887 a few children and older boys came to this school,
follwed by a few more and a few more.
This was the Montana
Industrial School for Indians (only Absalokas/Crows attended), spon-
sored by the American Unitarian Association.16 They arrived in a
needy time. Called Bond School.
From this point all refer to this tribe will be "Crow.