Hand color tinted photo of Iron Bull & wife, Crow Native American Indians, 1873
The Crow, also called the Absaroka or Apsáalooke, are a tribe of Native Americans who historically lived in the Yellowstone River valley and now live on a reservation south of Billings, Montana. The tribal headquarters are located at Crow Agency, Montana.
The name of the tribe, Apsáalooke, had been mistranslated by early interpreters as “people of the crows.” It actually meant “children of the large bird,” a name given to them by their neighboring tribe, the Hidatsa. The bird, perhaps now extinct, was defined as a fork-tailed bird resembling the blue jay or magpie. They first encountered Europeans in 1743, two Frenchmen (the La Verendryes brothers from Canada), near the present-day town of Hardin, Montana. These explorers called the Apsáalooke beaux hommes, “handsome men.” The Crow termed Europeans as baashchíile, “person with yellow eyes.”
Some have placed the early home of the Crow-Hidatsa ancestral tribe as being around the head waters of the Mississippi River in either northern Minnesota or Wisconsin; others place them in Winnipeg area of Manitoba. Later they moved to the Devil’s Lake region of North Dakota before the Crow split from the Hidatsa and moved westward. Once established in Montana and Wyoming, the tribe was eventually divided in two divisions, the Mountain Crow and River Crow.
The Crow Indian Reservation in south-central Montana is a large reservation covering 9,307.269 acres (14,542.61 sq mi or 37,665.21 km²) of land area, the fifth-largest Indian reservation in the United States. The reservation is primarily in Big Horn and Yellowstone counties with ceded lands in Rosebud, Carbon, and Treasure Counties. The Crow Indian Reservation’s eastern border is the 107th meridian line, except along the border line of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. The southern border is from the 107th meridian line west to the east bank of the Big Horn River. The line travels downstream to Big Horn National Recreation Area and west to the Pryor Mountains and north-easterly to Billings, Montana. The northern border travels east and near Hardin, Montana, to the 107th meridian line. The 2000 census reported a total population of 6,894 on reservation lands. Its largest community is Crow Agency.