Saturday, August 21, 2010

8/21 Crow Fair and Little Bighorn, MT

We met Stan and Betty, and they led us in to Crow Fair. This is one of the largest pow wows in the plains, and it is held at Crow Agency. We enjoyed the parade, the regalia, the vendors, and the food.

The color guard led the parade, then veterans and soldiers, then the Queen and Princesses. Then came many (maybe a hundred?) people dressed in their very finest, with beautiful objects of family wealth decorating themselves and their horses. The photo shows a woman in the parade in her deerskin dress; an elktooth dress is draped over the back of the horse; a beaded cradleboard is on the side, along with parfleches and other items. It is a very proud display of family pieces. You can see Reed and Bret sitting in the back of the open van behind the horse, and there are teepee tops behind them. After the equestrians, there were wagons, trucks, and trailers. Many were draped with Pendleton blankets, quilts, and beaded items. Some held children wearing their finest, some held politicians looking for votes, some held drummers and dancers. It was 100 degrees out today, and there were comments about how this is about as hot as it gets. It certainly drained us. We were sitting along the parade route in relatively cool clothes; the parade folks were wearing wool, deerskin and blankets. I don't know how they were able to dance in the afternoon.

Little Bighorn National Monument is just two miles from Crow Agency. We went down there and heard the battlefield talk from the ranger. The boys both earned their Junior Ranger badges. We talked to the ranger who swore them in. It turns out that her sister was Crow Queen in the parade this morning. Due to the extreme heat and lack of any shade, we chose to drive the 5 mile road instead of take some of the winding walkways. The photo of the golden hills shows some white marble markers. They mark where soldiers fell. They were later reburied in the military cemetery near the visitor center. It was sad that Custer, a vain leader looking for his own glory, led his men into a disaster. The Lakota victory was well-celebrated, yet the battle marked the end of traditional life for most Native Americans on the plains.

It was a bittersweet day. We enjoyed our time at the fair and with our friends, but it was with a huge hole in our hearts. In 1992, my friend Faith invited me to Crow Fair. When we were planning this trip, I found out that Faith had cancer. Talking with Stan, a friend we had in common, he decided he'd come up from Oklahoma to go to Crow Fair with Faith and us. Heartbreakingly, she passed away sooner than expected. We paid a visit to the cemetery, thanking a friend for taking such pride in her culture, and feeling so sorry to have missed her.

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