93rd Annual Crow Fair Celebration Under the Big Sky
The Crow Fair is described on its website as a “a giant family reunion under the Big Sky,” and that means the family of people who camp for the gathering take in the big sky from their temporary homes, teepees. The Crow Agency, Montana grows into what is considered the largest modern-day American Indian encampment in the nation for those epic five days and nights.
This is the 93rd year of the renowned Crow Fair from Aug. 18-22.
Events span over five days when the rodeo and horse races start on Thursday, and then the parade and the inter-tribal pow wow are Friday through Sunday each day, along with more rodeo and racing action. A quieter day on Monday sets the final parade dance ceremony that concludes at the pow wow grounds.
Preparations have been busy this year to get the grounds ready for the Chichaxxaasuua, the Crow Fair. Because the skies opened up in May with record rainfall, flood cleanup has been ongoing ever since. But as the time drew to a couple weeks before the fair, tribal members said the grounds were looking good for this gathering that is so important for all generations.
“Our pow wow ground was under three feet of water,” said Crow Fair General Manager Austin Little Light. The fairground is on the banks of the Little Bighorn River. One way the overflow was cleared out was with water pumps from the forestry department, he said. That and a lot of volunteer help.
“I assembled my drum group and crew together and we did our job to maintain it. There was damage, but we’ve tried our best to keep it like it never got hit,” Little Light said.
The Crow Fair Board has been organizing the event that can draw an estimated 40,000-50,000 people.
“It’s well-known for being the teepee capital of the world, over 1,500 teepees in a giant campground,” said Little Light.
Cedric Black Eagle, chairman of the Crow Tribe, the Apsáalooke Nation, extends “a heartfelt welcome to all our visitors and friends from near and far. By visiting our homeland you have now become a friend,” he states on the tribe’s site.
“Over 100 years ago Crow Indian leaders organized a gathering of the six Crow Reservation Districts to perform the arts and display the culture and invited other tribes to participate,” Black Eagle said. “Bringing together Native people of the Great Plains during the early days was not an easy task, and so today we honor our ancestors by continuing the tradition of that ‘giant family reunion under the Big Sky.’”
More than 10,000 Crow people come together to live in the encampment. Crow families move their households, including horses, to camp. The culture is alive here—85 percent of the tribal people speak Crow as their first language.
The daily morning parade at 10 a.m. is a procession of the Apsáalooke/Crow people and their horses in full regalia. There is a total of $35,000 in prizes in contest divisions including contests for regalia, such as the War Bonnet, War Shirt, Reservation Hat and Western Hat for the men; and Buckskin Dress, Elk Tooth Dress, and Old-Time Saddle for the women, along with others for teens and juniors, said Crow Fair Parade Manager Nicole Real Bird-Cummins.
The Crow Fair Rodeo in the Edison Real Bird Memorial Complex is a Northern Plains Indian Rodeo Association Region Rodeo sanctioned by the INFR (Indian National Finals Rodeo) Association. The multi-day rodeo culminates in the Championship Round on Sunday starting at 1 p.m. Horse races in the Memorial Complex are another big draw, with all sorts of contests and different age divisions.
Grand Entry for the Crow Fair Pow Wow is 7 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Northern Host Drum is Northern Cree, and Southern Host Drum is Young Bird. Invited Drums are Tha Boyz, from Minneapolis; and Midnight Express, from St. Paul, Minn. Two announcers from Crow Agency - Burton Pretty on Top and Leroy Not Afraid - will be joined by announcers Jason Good Striker from Canada and Vince Behl from Minnesota.
The Crow Fair is “a celebration of our way of life,” Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Dale Old Horn, described to ICTMN in a separate interview in April, 2011. “The celebration of our way of life is predicated on the very visible expression of our native beliefs in our ceremonies and rituals that are prevalent at Crow Fair. Perpetuation of native culture by practice is paramount.”
More about the schedule and all the activities can be found on their website.