Irrigation on the Crow Reservation / tribal and community benefits of the proposed Hardin Unit, Big Horn County, Montana

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


The purpose of this thesis was to take a look at the complex problems related to irrigation on the Crow reservation that need to be considered when making plans for the 42,600 acre Hardin Unit development made possible by the Yellowtail Dam. Two-thirds of the acreage is within the reservation. One of the main problems on the reservation is the complex ownership pattern of land due to the original allotment process and the heirship and trust status problems it has caused. This could be simplified through an expanded tribal land purchase program and the encouragement for Indian owner-operators through extensive changes in education, credit, employment, and attitudes. Greater tribal involvement in the Indian administration process would provide both employment and improve tribal organization. Those individuals who are interested in and able to operate farms and ranches should be given easier access to credit. The theses includes a very brief history of the tribe and its customs, a more detailed history of the allotment program and the multitude of problems it has brought through inheritance and the lack of interest majority of the Crow have in working the land themselves which has led to large scale leasing. Many of the Indians who owned their allotments in fee patent, sold them to non-Indians who usually bought those key tracts that contained springs and streams for stock water. This provided the non-Indian owner with control of the surrounding lands which could only be leased to the owner of the key tracts. By 1961 this had led to a situation where non-Indians used 90% of the grazing land and 94% of the cropland within the reservation. Discusses some of the abuses commonly present in the leasing process.




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