Published on August 2, 2011 by Amy
The Crow Fair dates back to 1904 and takes place every year on the third weekend in August in an area south of Billings, Montana.
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A government Indian Affairs agent named S.C. Reynolds who was stationed in Crow Agency, Montana wanted to to persuade the Crow Indians to settle down in one area and support themselves by farming. Up until this time, the Crows were a nomadic tribe that wandered from place to place. Since County Fairs were very popular in the United States (especially the Midwest) at this time. Reynolds decided to organize an agricultural fair were Crow farmers could exhibit their livestock and produce. The women could show off their crafts and other domestic skills. Reynolds managed to sidestep the federal government’s ban on tribal dancing, singing and ceremonies.
The event was a real success! Soon, it also included parades, a rodeo, horse races, foot races and reenactments of famous Crow battles. This fair gave the Crow Indians an opportunity to keep their cultural traditions alive. It also became a real popular tourist attraction for Crow Agency (located just a few miles from the site of Custer’s Last Stand).
The fair has been held every year since 1904 as I said above, except during World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939 – 1945) and during the Great Depression of the 1930′s.
Crow Indians are not the only ones to attend. Native American Indians of all tribes start setting up their tepees a week or so before the event. It’s not uncommon to see 1,500 or more tepees lining the shores of the Little Bighorn River.
The fair begins with the Grand Entry (see below). This is an elaborate procession led by an honor guard of Native American war veterans and features Crow Indians on horseback in traditional dress, drumming groups and representatives of the various dance groups who compete at the powwow. The dancing takes place in a large open-air dance arbor (see below), which is the central point of the fair. The drum groups also compete for prizes, with both the drummers and dancers being dressed in their traditional and elaborate Native American costumes. These often include bells, feathered headdresses, beaded buckskin shirts and dresses.
Hundreds of Native American cowboys also compete in the all-Indian Championship Rodeo.
Approximately 4,000 Crow Indians live on the Montana reservation, but during the Crow Fair celebration they are joined by more than 50,000 tourists each day from all over the world!