After the buffalo days : documents on the Crow Indians from the 1880's to the 1920's

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


The period in the history of the Crow Indians of Montana between the 1880’s and the 1920's for a long time concerned historians less than the period ending with the Custer Battle. In this thesis I have attempted' to present the important events as based on documentary evidence. Most of the documents referred to in this thesis were the letters received by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs filed in the National Archives at Washington, D.C. Reference was also made to Congressional Hearings in the Interior Department library and to Chief Plenty Coups Letter File and Note Book in the Plenty Coups Memorial. After reading between 1500 and 2000 letters concerning the Crow Reservation I concluded the basic mistake the Indian Office made was training the Crows to become farmers, herders, irrigators, carpenters, and blacksmiths. The Office of Indian Affairs never foresaw the day when a few educated Crows would attempt to manage the Reservation. Thus, when the political authority on the Reservation disintegrated, members of the Crow Business Committee were ill prepared for administrative work. The important Issues concerning the Crow Reservation from the point of view of the Government included leasing Tribal lands, granting right of ways to railroads, authorizing irrigation construction, and establishing schools. Leasing Crow land to stockmen drew much excitement and considerable brain work from the Indian Office. Leases, however, concerned the Crow Tribe less than the ceding of the western and northern portions of the Reservation. The railroads cutting through the Reservation brought economic advancement to the surrounding white people, but the Crows became dubious toward them. The Crow Irrigation Survey was significant in that it Was the first large scale employment of Crow Indians. Schools on the Crow Reservation were regarded by the Indian Office as indications of material progress and progress toward white man’s culture. World War I involved the Crow Indians in the world situation. In short, the period from the 1880’s to the 1920’s was the period of a major transition in Crow culture and also a forgotten portion in the life of Chief Plenty Coos.




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