The cultural celebration known as Crow Fair is known to be North America’s largest encampment for a traditional powwow gathering. Early in the history of America, Chief Plenty Coups of the mighty Apsaalooke, or Crow Nation was given a vision of how his people would preserve their sacred way of life within a changing world. With a reputation as a great warrior and a thoughtful leader, Chief Plenty Coups made the decision to fight against enemy tribes with the Americans during the last part of the Indian Wars. He fought for the future. He fought for peace. He wanted to build a bridge for the survival of his people. In the end the American government decided the fate of all Native People. Although the Crow Tribe did not escape unscathed, they were able to preserve much of their culture and their land. Today the Crow Nation is one of the rare tribes who have maintained their original language. The wisdom of Chief Plenty Coups spans across generations and across cultures.
Years later, in accordance with this vision, a summer gathering takes place amidst the windy prairies of the Great Plains of North America. The purpose of the gathering was to honor and showcase tribal agricultural goods and artistry, similar to a county fair. Other tribes were invited to participate. From that time forward, the Crow Tribal Nation has honored their ancestors by continuing this timeless tradition. Today, the Crow Nation celebrates with a global community as visitors and participants from around the world gather each summer.
Crow Fair is also known as the “Teepee Capitol of The World” and is hosted on the Crow Indian Reservation located in southeastern Montana. The majority of campers are Crow Indian families but many are returning guests visiting from places such as Canada, South America, Germany, France, and Great Britain. Although the gathering celebrates Native Tribal tradition, Crow Fair is where many cultures merge for the common purpose of honoring and celebrating diversity.
Crow Fair hosts a variety of activities and events. The circular powwow arena, or arbor, is where competitions are held for categories such as drumming, singing, and dance. The Crow Tribal Nation welcomes friends and competitors from Native American Tribes across America and Canada. Native American regalia are proudly worn by the dancers and showcase stunning traditional beadwork and design. In the evening, under the big sky, skilled dancers from many tribal nations circle the open air arbor. The rhythmic sounds of singing and drumming echo through the grasslands, sure to be met by whispers of a sacred past.
The healing circle of life becomes apparent as this coming together of nations at Crow Fair unites cultures that first met during the early days of American exploration and colonization. Many of the explorers, fur traders, pioneers, and United States Calvary members originated from the same countries represented by visitors today at Crow Fair. It is not hard to imagine that the descendants of those who made first contact centuries ago now meet in harmony and agreement today on the same sacred land.
What began long ago as a vision from one of the last great chiefs, and then later as a family reunion of tribal clans has turned out to be a gathering of tens of thousands from around the world. The vision of Chief Plenty Coups for a bridge between cultures becomes manifest as nations join, making Crow Fair a gateway to healing and unity. Prayers of gratitude are sent to the Great Spirit for forgiveness of the past, honoring the present, and connecting the future.