Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Crow are a Siouan-speaking people of the northern Great Plains whose descendants are a federally recognized nation with a reservation in south-central Montana. Originally sedentary farmers along the Missouri River, the Crow became nomadic hunters with their acquisition of the horse in the early 1730s. This changed during the latter half of the nineteenth century with the intrusion of non-Indian settlers, the near extinction of the buffalo, and confinement to a reservation, transitioning once more into a sedentary pattern based on farming and ranching, with participation in the wider cash economy. The Crow retain thirteen matrilineal clans, organized into six phratries, and into three regional groups or bands composed of all the clans. Egalitarian and non-stratified, the Crow recognized “chiefs” who performed coups—exceptional feats of war. Asserting their sovereignty after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Crow adopted their own constitution in 1948, establishing a council of all adult tribe members, with four elected officers and various governing committees; tribal police and courts are under the jurisdiction of the council.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Plains and Plateau


United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Culture collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where needed.

The NQ10 Crow Collection is concerned with the Siouan-speaking Crow peoples of southern Montana and northern Wyoming of the United States of America. Time focus of the documents spans from the 1730s when Crow acquired the horse to the early 2000s. During this time, the Crow had undergone changes from nomadic, equestrian buffalo hunters to settled agriculturalists with their own “tribal” government.

The basic source in the collection is a book by anthropologist Robert H. Lowie (1935) who worked among the Crow at various periods between 1907 and 1931. Drawing on information from interviews with elderly informants, this book provides detailed description of Crow society and culture both historically and contemporaneously. The information in this source is complemented by Lowie’s other works in the collection that focus on specific themes including material culture (1922 “The material culture …”), the sun dance (1921), military societies (1913), religion and ceremonials (1922 “The religion …” , 1924), art (1922 “Crow Indian art”), and acculturation and life history of individuals (1964).

The collection also includes documents by three non-anthropologists who recorded their own intimate knowledge of Crow culture and society as observed at different times. The trader Edwin Denig, who lived on the Upper Missouri between 1833 and 1856, wrote detailed observations on the Crow way of life in that period (1961). William Wildschut, a businessman who lived among the Crow in the early twentieth century, described Crow beadwork (1959) and medicine bundles (1960). Crow chief Max Big Man gave an eye witness account of a Crow beaver dance and adoption ceremony conducted in 1926 (1979).

The remaining documents in the collection fill in information on various aspects of Crow culture and society including a sketch of early history (Morgan 1959), tribal politics and relations with the Federal Government (Hoxie 1991, 1995), culture contact and acculturation (Voget 1948, 1980, 1987), magic and divination rites (McAllester 1941; Voget 1995), survival of cultural ethos (Väyrynen 2011), storytelling (Frey 1983). Two documents in the collection are good secondary sources that provide a general over-view of the traditional culture (Murdock 1934; Voget 2001).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Aassahke -- “fathers” or “clan uncles” -- Use Kinship Terminology ( 601 ) with Kin Relationships ( 602 ) and Clans ( 618 )

American Fur Company -- Use Foreign Trade ( 439 )

Ashammaleaxia -- clan -- Use Clans ( 618 ) with Kin Relationships ( 602 )

Baaxpee -- spiritual powers believed to be acquired through vision quest -- Use Animism ( 774 ) with Prayers And Sacrifices ( 782 ) and/or Revelation And Divination ( 787 )

Beaver dance -- Use Organized Ceremonial ( 796 )

Burial society -- Use Organized Ceremonial ( 796 ) with Sodalities ( 575 )

Commissioner of Indian Affairs -- Use Research And Development ( 654 ) with Cultural Identity And Pride ( 186 )

Crow Agency Boarding School -- Use Research And Development ( 654 ) with Education System ( 871 ) and/or Acculturation And Culture Contact ( 177 )

Crow Allotment Act -- Use Research And Development ( 654 ) with Real Property ( 423 )

Crow giveaways -- Use Gift Giving ( 431 ) with Exchange Transactions ( 437 ) and/or Organized Ceremonial ( 796 )

Crow military societies -- Use Military Organization ( 701 ) with Sodalities ( 575 )

Gambling -- Use Gambling ( 525 )

Medicine bundles -- Use Sacred Objects And Places ( 778 ) with Shamans And Psychotherapists ( 756 )

Medicine fathers -- Use Shamans And Psychotherapists ( 756 ) with Revelation And Divination ( 787 )

Medicine tobacco -- Use Therapeutic Drugs ( 276 ) with Revelation And Divination ( 787 )

Relocation to reservations -- Use Research And Development ( 654 ) with Settlement Patterns ( 361 )

Sun dance -- Use Organized Ceremonial ( 796 ) with Community Structure ( 621 )

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

Close Box