Visit to Crow Country: Day 1

Northern Cheyenne Craft Center

Since we had some time before we were scheduled to set up at the tribal building, we stopped at the newly re-opened Northern Cheyenne Craft Center near the intersection in the middle of Lame Deer. We met the manager, Clarice Walks Along, and had quite the visit.

She was excited about the Center and showed us the art there. My eye was especially drawn to a cradle on the wall and it turned out that she had made it and used it for all of her children and now it had been used for some of her grandchildren as well.

We had quite the visit and I certainly encourage anyone going through Lame Deer to stop at the Craft Center and have a visit with Clarice and see the art on display. Clarice was especially excited that she was getting some work from the younger people.

Interesting note: When I asked her about the Cheyenne language, she told me that her people had to use Cheyenne words for unfamiliar things that were not originally part of their culture. For instance, she said, the Cheyenne word for “backrest” ( those strung willow rods propped up on a tripod that tipi-dwelling tribes used for seating ) has now come to also mean “wall” in the sense that we as Euroamericans know it.

We set up in the tribal building and saw some old friends and made some new ones. Dorothy Jackman sold us a bit of beadwork and told us about her life as an over-the-road truckdriver. She said that her job was “just like a paid vacation” because of all the traveling she was able to do.

We bought some earth paint and when we went outside to pour it into plastic bags to weigh, I was shown the correct way to handle it, and told not to forget it. I think that I will always be remembering that instruction.

On the road
Leaving Lame Deer in the early afternoon, we went over another divide and kept heading west. The country to the north of the highway going towards Busby is some of the most remote on that particular reservation. It’s fairly roadless and the hills have fewer trees on them and are colored with red-yellow stripes. Every time I pass them, I feel like I want to saddle up and go exploring that area.

We passed Muddy Creek with the Sacred Hat tipi right in the adjacent housing cluster. It’s so amazing and comforting at the same time to have all that tribal history unfolding before one’s eyes.

Historical note: Just past Busby, you can turn south and drive a little distance and be at the preserved site of the Battle of the Rosebud, where General Crook engaged the Lakota and Cheyenne people right before the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Cheyennes call this “ the fight where the girl saved her brother”.

When the Indian warriors were forced to begin pulling back, the wounded Cheyenne chief Comes in Sight was stranded on the battlefield. Suddenly, his sister, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, came thundering down on horseback from a nearby hill where the women were watching the fight. She scooped up her brother and carried him to safety, at which point the Cheyennes rallied and drove General Crook’s men back to decisively win the engagement. Eyewitness accounts of the battle describe all the noise and confusion, mixed with dust and wild rose petals shaken off the bushes and all blowing around.

Crow Agency
The temperature of the day continued to be warm and the sky was only slightly overcast, with a beautiful cloudscape, as we approached Crow Agency. As usual, we stopped at River Crow Trading Post and said hey to Jill Hugs, who with her mother, Theodine, owns and operates the store. Jill has a fully stocked assortment of beads and the beaded art on the wall is amazing. As if you don’t know by now, I am partial to Crow beadwork – all that color! – and River Crow has color in abundance.

Interesting note: When you get to Crow, you really hear the language. To BE Crow is to SPEAK Crow, and even little kids are speaking it.

On the road, again
From Crow Agency, we went south on I-90 to Lodge Grass. The interstate goes right along the Little Bighorn River, and at times you are on a level with the river, and then suddenly the road climbs up and over a big hill, so that you get an almost aerial view of the river valley. We took the old road back north from Lodge Grass, that hugs the river, and nearly every house had one or two bundles of tipi poles leaning in nearby trees.

We got back onto the interstate to drive to Billings, and that drive from Hardin to Billings absolutely defines Montana’s other name: Big Sky Country. From whatever point you are at, you feel like you are at an apex and the horizon dips down all around you so that you are IN the sky.

Billings, MT
After checking into our hotel in downtown Billings, I RACED over to Lou Taubert’s, which is about the best Western store on earth.

The Taubert family began retailing in the West in 1916, and the original store is in Casper, Wyoming. The store in Billings is the only other location, and for a look at retailing at it’s best, give it a visit. There is snap shirt in there with your name on it, I’ll guarantee it.

They have clothing, furniture, tack . . . it’s so great to be in a shop and see everything so well-presented. I only had forty minutes to look around and I made the most of it.

Interesting note: Downtown Billings is vibrant and really urban. It is the biggest city in Montana and the old business district is extensive and colorful.

We ate an East Indian meal that night that was wonderful, but our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we each had to “walk it off” because the portions were so big. Whew.

Read more about our Crow Country adventures
Visit to Crow Country (intro)
Visit to Crow Country: Day 2
Visit to Crow Country: Day 3