The Crow Indian Reservation in south-central Montana is a large reservation covering approximately 2,300,000 acres of land area, the fifth-largest Indian reservation in the United States. The reservation is primarily in Big Horn and Yellowstone counties with ceded lands in Rosebud, Carbon, and Treasure Counties. Mountains, residual uplands, and alluvial bottoms form the topography of the Crow Reservation. The three principle mountain ranges are the Wolf Mountains to the east and the Big Horn and Pryor Mountains to the southwest. Rolling upward plains slope downward to the north and east from the mountains. The plains constitute the bulk of the reservation and vary in altitude from 3,000 to 4,500 feet. The alluvial bottomlands are located along the Bighorn River, Little Bighorn River, and Pryor Creek drainage systems.
The Crow Nation, or Crow Tribe of Indians, established a three-branch government at a 2001 Council Meeting. The General Council remains the governing body of the tribe; however, the powers were distributed to a three-branch government. The seat of government and capital of the Crow Indian Reservation is Crow Agency, Montana, and the population of the reservation is approximately 7,000 persons, and total tribal members number 12,000..
The Executive Branch has four officials. These officials are known as the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary, and Vice-Secretary. The Executive Branch officials are also the officials within the Crow Tribal General Council, which has not met since July 15, 2001. These officials established the 2001 Constitution.
The Legislative Branch consists of three members from each district on the Crow Indian Reservation. The Crow Indian Reservation is divided into six districts known as The Valley of the Chiefs, Reno, Black Lodge, Mighty Few, Big Horn, and Pryor Districts. The Valley of the Chiefs District is the largest district by population.
The Judicial Branch consists of all courts established by the Crow Law and Order Code and in accordance with the 2001 Constitution. The Judicial Branch has jurisdiction over all matters defined in the Crow Law and Order Code. The Judicial Branch consists of an elected Chief Judge and two Associate Judges. The Crow Court of Appeals, similar to State Court of Appeals, receives all appeals from the lower courts.
The Crow people have a proud, rich and historical culture that deeply reveres their land, their language, their history and their elders. They are skilled horsemen and for centuries have been expert hunters. Many of the Crow women are skilled artists and create exceptional beadwork.
Eighty-five percent of the members who live on the Reservation speak Crow as their first language. The Apsáalooke/Crow people are known for the strength of their Crow writing system and clan system. Students in schools on the Reservation learn Crow language and history daily, with aspects of the Crow culture integrated into the curriculum.
One of the nation’s richest deposits of strippable low sulfur coal lies along the eastern sector of the reservation. One active coal mine, the Sarpy, and several oil and gas fields are yielding important economic resources for the Crow Tribe.
Key events that occur on the Crow Reservation annually are the Crow Fair and Rodeo, Crow Native Days, and the re-enactment of Custer’s Last Stand. Part of Native Days is an activity called the Ultimate Warrior Challenge, in which three-member teams compete in canoeing, running, and relay horse racing. A powwow and a parade are also part of this event, which takes place on the anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and instills pride in Crow culture and history. The Crow Fair has occurred annually since 1918 and is considered the largest modern day American Indian encampment in the world. The fairgrounds are dubbed the “Teepee Capital of the World” because of the 1,200 to 1,500 teepees in the encampment for the weeklong celebration. Highlights include powwows that showcase elaborate garments, dance styles, and Native music, drumming contests, and an All-Indian Rodeo, showcasing the best Indian-Cowboys in the West. The influx of tourists who learn about Crow culture and heritage at this gathering boosts the local economy significantly.