Crow Fair 101 is Rockin. Alvie and his Announcing Crew enjoying Young Spirit’s Good Music. Enjoy the 101st

Posted by Crow Fair 101 on Friday, August 16, 2019
The Young Spirit Singers at the 101st annual Crow Fair. Photo: Crow Fair 101

Clara Caufield: That time this Cheyenne grandma got lost at Crow Fair

Lost at the Crow Fair

For over 100 years, the third week in August has marked the annual Crow Fair celebration. The event was originated by the BIA -- intended to be like a county fair, enabling the Crows to display garden produce, livestock and crafts.

At that time, the government intended to make Indians into farmers. It worked with a few, but overall not.

Thus, it did not take the Crows long to “Indunize” the event, adding a powwow, dancing, horse racing (especially the Crow Derby), a rodeo and now, the ever popular Indian relay racing.

The event, at Crow Agency centers around the "campground." While every Tribe hosts an annual inter-tribal pow wow, welcoming visitors from across Indian Country, Crow Fair, in my opinion, is unique in many ways.

First and foremost is the encampment. They call it the “Tipi Capital of the World” with good reason. The camp stretches for more than a mile, one-way and is a half-mile wide.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of tipis and tents in that area, each camp a highly coveted space passed down through the years, some, such as my in-laws, the ‘Yellow Tail Camp’, now in the third generation (nearly a hundred years) at the same spot. Other families, having grown in numbers have expanded, establishing new camps.

Yet, don’t mess around with their traditional family camping spots, perhaps more important to them than allotments, their granted bit of tribal land.

This year, for the first in several, I accompanied another Sheridan friend, (a teacher who devoted 35 years to the Crow) to Crow Fair. We arrived early, joining a camp at one end, just in time for the "Parade."

My friend decided to stay at camp to visit, while I waded down to the Parade. The Parade is marvelous: “The Crows love to Parade,” said my good friend, Jay Harris.

And they do so – gloriously, everyone clad in traditional regalia, even the horses decorated with lavish beadwork. Ever charming are the little ones, tiny Shetlands ridden by tiny riders, some carefully led by Grandpas or older brothers. There is the "royalty" -- Indian princesses of every denomination, representing each of the six districts and many other Pow-Wows. Their traditional garbs are splendid and the Parade stretches out for over a mile, the men sometimes breaking into Crow song and chant. This is truly unique and remarkable.

I found Crow/Cheyenne friends with which to spectate. And then, came a pickup float, inhabited by my granddaughters, both clad in lovely Crow garb. “Grandma, hop on! Parade with us,” they yelled. So, I did, a slightly weird looking participant, decorated by silver and a braid, not totally embarrassing to them, winding up on the opposite side of the camp, at least a mile from where I started. Mistake.

“I’ll hop off here,” recognizing the Vic Singer Camp, where eventually another adopted Crow grandson, Rusty LaFrance and his sister Biance would show up, as did his Grandma, a good friend. Of course, you must eat at every Camp, the Crows ever gracious hosts. It was wonderful to see them all, but after an hour, I had to get back to the other camp. Another mistake.

I have been to Crow Fair many times, but not on foot, wearing cowboy boots. It is a long stretch and after a while, all the camps look alike.

During the trek which wound up taking a few hours, I discovered camps of other good friends, required to eat at each one, but no one seemed to know my destination, giving directions such as “Go down a quarter-mile, look to the creek and bushes. That might be it.”


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