Crow Celebration

Recorded Live 1971, Crow Agency, Montana

Canyon Records
This coming Crow Fair is August 18-22, 2011. 94th Annual Crow Fair. Crow Agency, MT.
Albert Gos-Ventre or 406-638-3778,
or 406-638-3719, Fax: 406-638-3880.
Canyon Record C-6089
It is the third week-end in August in south-eastern Montana.
A light high on a pole casts moving shadows through the great brush arbor, where dancers in beads and buckskins, war bonnets and roaches, moccasins, and shawls, move in unison to the insistent rhythm of the drums.
A tenor voice takes up the chant. Baritones and high sopranos join. The song is in the ancient language of the Crow people, and you go back in time more than a hundred years. It is easy to imagine that the flickering light is from a central fire, and that these are the braves and maidens who danced near the Little Big Horn before the coming of the white man.
It is Crow Fair time at Crow Agency, Montana, the "tepee Capitol of the World." Hundreds of tepees have been raised, just as they were in the old days. Now there are tents, too, and even campers - but the light catches the white cones of the tepees.
A horse whinnies - and you know he is one of many. He'll be ridden in the colorful parade through the campgrounds tomorrow morning, and in the afternoon, some Indian top hand will be aboard him as he competes in calf roping or steer wrestling.
The Crow Indian Celebration and Rodeo was once mostly an exhibition of prize vegetables and handicrafts. Now it is a real Indian celebration. The parade through the campground each morning is the first event of the day. Then comes the rodeo and racing program in front of the Crow Tribe's big new grandstand. There are quarter horse races and thoroughbred races, climaxed by the Crow Derby. The Indian relay races on horseback always have the fascinated interest of the of the crowd.
Dances last late into the night. Music is by Crow drum orchestras and singers, as well as by members of visiting tribes.
There are dancing contests for both children and adults. The Crows don't compete. They leave the opportunity to win prizes to their guests. These guests come from throughout the United States, representatives usually of some 40 tribes; Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Navajo, Cherokee and others from Southwest; Sioux, Cree, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Assiniboine, Kootenai, Salish, Gros Venture, Blackfeet and Shoshone from reservations nearby. There have been Blood Indians from Canada and Menominees from Wisconsin. There are always many more.
Monday is a very special day at the Crow Celebration.
The rodeo is over and the champions have been named. The best dancers have been recognized. The races - and the bets of their backer - have been won and lost. This is a day of recognition, prayer and thanksgiving.
The Crows and their visitors don their finest Indian dress and gather where they hear the beat of the drums. Four young Crows have been selected for honor of leading the parade dance - chosen for their accomplishments and their service to the Tribe during the last year.
Everybody dances all the way around the camp grounds, paying tribute to the eagle who soars over nearby canyons and crags and to that Great Spirit (by whatever name he is know to each tribe) who guides all Indian people.
There are four stops. The leaders conduct giveaways for their clan aunts and uncles and for special friends. Their relatives bring cigarettes and cool drinks for the dancers. At last all reach the brush arbor, where the earth has been beaten firm by the moccasins on the four previous nights. Dancing continues - war dances, fast and slow; forty-nines, all kinds of Indian dancing.
The dancers may be children barely older than toddlers - they may be among the oldest people in the Tribe, or any age between. Each knows when to begin and when to stop, each moves in perfect rhythm to the music. Each has a costume unique to himself but representative of his Tribe.
This is Indian music, Indian dancing, Indian culture at its pleasantest and best!

Play song


Performed by


Native Words



Song 1 Host Drum: Crow - Castle Rock Singers; Montana (Henry Rides Horse, leader) Crow
Song 2 Northern Cheyenne Singers; Ashland, Montana (Clifford Bighead, leader) Cheyenne
Song 3 Assiniboine Sioux Singers: Harlem Montana (Charles Gray, leader) Sioux
Song 4 Parker-Cree Singers; Rocky Boy's Reservation, Montana (Videl Stump, leader) Cree
Song 5 Mesquakie Bear Singers; Tama, Iowa (Charles Pushetonequa, Sr., leader) Mesquakie
Song 6 Cardston Blood Singers; Cardston, Alberta, Canada (Edward Little Bear, leader)
Song 7 Wind River Arapaho/Shoshone Singers; Wind River Reservation, Wyoming (Felix Groesbeck & Duane Tillman & Singers) Arapaho/Shoshone
Song 8 Mandaree Singers; Mandaree, North Dakota Sioux
Song 9 Yakima Nation Singers; Toppenish, Washington (Gilbert Onepennee, leader) Yakima
Song 10 Kiowa Gourd Singers; Oklahoma (Vincent Bointy, leader) Kiowa