The Crow get horses – American history

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Crow men

Crow men

In the 1600s AD, Crow people were still living in the Dakotas. But they caught smallpox and measles from their neighbors, the Mandan, and many Crow people died. So even though they had not yet met any Europeans, Crow people’s lives were still very much changed by European settlers. Crow people met Europeans for the first time in 1743. These were French fur traders. Around 1750, the Crow traded with the Apache and Comanche to their south to get their first horses.

By about 1800, white settlers pushed the Sioux and Mandan west. They forced the Crow to move still further west, out of the Dakotas into Montana and Wyoming. This is where Lewis and Clark saw the Crow in 1805. In Montana and Wyoming, Crow people gave up on farming (except for some small fields of tobacco). They took up hunting bison more and more. With their horses, they could kill a lot more bison. They started to live in very big tipis covered with bison hides. Crow families lived mainly on bison meat, but also ate deer and mountain sheep. They cooked bison fat with berries to make pemmican. Crow men spent a lot of time also fighting small wars with their horses and bows and arrows. They fought their neighbors, the Mandan, the Sioux and the Blackfoot to their north.

A Crow woman embroidering beads on to clothing (late 1800s)

A Crow woman embroidering beads on to clothing (late 1800s)

About 1850, the Crow people first were able to buy guns, as the railroad brought white settlers to the Great Plains for the first time. But Crow people soon found themselves in an impossible position. If they sheltered their horses in river valleys in the winter, then the bison were pushed onto the cold prairie and died. The northern Great Plains were too crowded, because white settlers had pushed too many people there: the Crow, the Blackfoot, the Cree, and the Sioux. The railroads scared the bison. And now white settlers wanted the Great Plains as well. They killed almost all the bison that were left.

A natural gas well on the Crow reservation

A natural gas well on the Crow reservation

The Crow tried to make friends with the white settlers. Many Crow people worked as guides and soldiers for the settlers and for the United States Army. Crow scouts helped the United States to capture Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. Crow soldiers fought with the United States against the Sioux. But when all the other native people were on reservations, the United States forced the Crow people onto a reservation too.

Today, the Crow still live in Montana, on a large reservation there. They mine coal and drill oil and gas wells for income. Many Crow people still own and use tipis when they are traveling.

Early Crow history

More about coal

More about the Nez Perce

Bibliography and further reading about Crow history:


Sioux people
Blackfoot people
Ute people
American History home

By |2018-04-08T11:21:54+00:00August 13th, 2017|History, Native American|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. The Crow get horses – American history. Study Guides, August 13, 2017. Web. December 13, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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