Friday, 29 June 2012

Tales of a Crow Historian

While one person sees a shopping mall, another person may see the open fields on which it was built - or even a mythic landscape. 
Take the case of the Crow Tribe living at Billings, Montana. I recently discovered a poignant article by journalist Lorna Thackeray in the Billings Gazette (09-02-2012), interviewing the Crow historian Elias Goes Ahead. He tells us about important places in the history of his people, places now swallowed up by 140 years of colonisation and built development.
Plenty Coups, the last of the great Crow chiefs, lived his final years south of Billings in Pryor... "Ten years later, his father, Medicine Bird, was killed by Piegan Indians," he continued. "This took place down South Billings Boulevard at the end of the bridge, just to the right.". These spots are unmarked, as are most of the places named in his stories, but they linger in Crow memory.  
[Extract from Billings Gazette]

Among the Crow heroes was Chief Four Dances. "Four Dances went fasting," Goes Ahead said. "He had four fasting sites." One was near Airport Road and another was west of the airport. One was in the current Four Dances Recreation Area and the fourth was near Highway 87 as it goes into Emerald Hills, he said. At Four Dances, he was adopted by the great-horned owl ...
Near Airport Road. Image courtesy Google Maps
These stories open up a new perspective on the landscape of the city and its suburban hinterland. They invite us to look through the westernised life-world, with its roads, houses, shopping malls and factories, into that of an elder people. The politics are poignant.
Before Billings was the Magic City or the Sugar City or Montana's Trailhead, it was Crow Country...
Taking for a moment the Crow perspective, what words might we use to describe the present urbanised landscape? 


Winter tales: Crow historian retells stories of area's past - (accessed June 2012)

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