As the Crow Flies
The pristine plains
Having earned a bachelors degree in sociology at Linfield College in Oregon, Crow came to USC wanting to investigate the white mans impact on his tribes customs and beliefs. His thesis on The Effects of European Culture Upon the Economic, Social and Religious Life of the Crow Indians contained no references or footnotes, as there was almost no prior research on the topic. But he still had a wealth of sources to draw from: the tales of his people hed heard from a very young age. It was all in my head. In my description of cultural transition, I drew upon the experiences of my grandparents, my parents and my own, he says.
After completing his masters, Crow stayed on at USC, intent on earning his doctorate. By 1941, he had finished all the necessary coursework when he was called to duty during World War II. Crow was actual
Though the war prevented Crow from earning his Ph.D., his experience overseas bestowed upon him another, far rarer honor. There are four deeds in the Crow beliefs that earn one the status of war chief; Crow managed to carry out all four during battle in Europe, despite the fact that stealing an enemys horse (one required deed) did not translate easily to the realities of modern warfare. Now Im the only authentic plains war chief left, he says.
After the war, Crow married and settled back at the reservation. In 1948 he was elected the Crow Indian tribal historian, which reopened the academic research of his USC days. Though still concerned with issues of cultural transition, his overarching goal now was to ascertain Crow history as accurately as possible. I wanted to express and convey as much as possible the true story of the Crow Indians and other Indians as they themselves tried to relate it, he says. He interviewed more than 100 pre-reservation tribal elders who were alive at the time, cross-referencing his research against outside written materials. Crow supplemented his investigation by working as an appraiser at the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
After 40-plus years of research, Crow settled in to write his first book at the age of 72. In the Heart of Crow Country, The Crow Indians Own Stories is a collection of historical fact and anecdotes that gives a definitive and intimate account of the Crow people. The book received numerous accolades for its thorough recounting of Crow history.
Now 88 years old, Crow still assumes a heavy workload. He guest lectures at Little Big Horn College and speaks at high schools and colleges around the country. In 1999, he spoke at the United Nations. Ted Turner and his moneyed friends got together 3,000 spiritual leaders throughout the world to give our statesmen moral support in finding peace, Crow says. The proceedings got a bit tedious for Crow, however, so he grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a poetic speech about peace, which he proceeded to deliver. He received a standing ovation.
Crow is currently compiling his life story, and also plans three more books about the Crow Indians. He laments the boxes and boxes of stories that have accumulated over the years that he has yet to go through. Yet Crow allows himself a modicum of credit for his lifes work. As a member of the Crow tribe and as a professional researcher,
I think I am doing quite a nice job of telling the Crow Indian story in the proper way, he says.
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