Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Devan Kicknosway of Havre, Mont. dances at the Crow Fair powwow in August 2017. Crow Fair, which will be held for the 100th time this August, draws more than 50,000 participants from across the United States and surrounding continents.

Cultural milestone

Speakers set to help bring in 100th Crow Fair celebration
Little Big Horn College recently held their first of seven talks on the history of Crow Fair in honor of the celebration’s 100th showing, scheduled this August. Presentations are being organized by the Crow Agency college’s Library Committee.
“I think it’s a great day for the Crow people to have reached this milestone,” Library Director Tim Bernardis said of the event. “Hopefully, it continues for another 100 years or ad infinitum.”
Crow Fair originated in 1904, when Major S.G. Reynolds, then an Indian agent for the Crow Tribe, began the event as a means for the tribe to showcase and trade livestock and other farming products. It included a cattle and livestock show, and a competition to see who could grow the best product.
During this time, the government had forbidden expressions of Native culture, such as dancing, war paint and other such activities. This changed when the Crow people reached an agreement with Agent Reynolds who, as a representative of the United States government, allowed them to revitalize their cultural activities at Crow Fair.
The Round Hall in Crow Agency was built as a site for the event in 1932. It later would become the centerpiece of Crow Fair and a major reference point for the campgrounds. Camp locations were based on one’s hometown.
Crow Fair was put on hold for several occasions, most notably World War II, but the celebration has remained largely consistent across the Crow Reservation.
Presenter Jerome White Hip, who served as general manager of Crow Fair from 1995-97, began dancing around 6-8 years old. He remembered being awarded $5 for his efforts in the 1950s or ‘60s, which he considered “a lot of money” at the time.
The “black history” of Crow Fair, he said, occurred from 1957-62, when there were two separate events held by the River Crows and the Mountain Crows – historically, two camps who traveled separately. 
During this time, the Crow Tribe was split in two. Lodge Grass would have one Crow Fair for one side and the current location – Crow Agency – would have it for the other. Soon, both events were moved to the same location.
However, they began holding separate Crow Fairs weeks apart until they joined together once again.
White Hip’s next subject was the Crow Fair Parade Dance; in his opinion, it was an honor simply to participate in the event. The parade is something he practices to this day with his family.
To White Hip, if you walk in the parade or have a family member represent you, it means your family can make it to the next Crow Fair.
“I’ve paraded with my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren,” he said. “Because of that reason, I want them to parade because I want them to go to the next Crow Fair.”
White Hip said, originally, he was hesitant to manage Crow Fair in the late ‘90s, but “you don’t say no to the old people; you listen to them.”
He knew he would be keeping track of more than 50,000 visitors, not just those from around local area, but some from as far away as Europe and Asia.
Crow Fair’s international influence continues even now, bringing people from around the world in to Crow Agency – if even for a day – to watch, learn and partake in the culture of the Crow Tribe.
This Thursday at noon, powwow emcee Dale Old Horn will give a talk on the history of Crow Fair dancing and the powwow in the college’s Library Programs Room. The talk is free and open to the public.
Once future talks are ready, times will be made available in the Big Horn County News community calendar.