I am trying to piece together information on a fight between the Crows and Lakota at a place called Crow Buttes in northwestern South Dakota (not to be confused with the more well-known Crow Butte in northwestern Nebraska!).
Crow Buttes was the scene of a peculiar battle between Lakota and Crow in the summer of 1822. Lakota warriors attacked and destroyed a Crow camp, forcing the women, children and the old to flee to nearby Band Creek, north of the buttes. The Crow warriors meanwhile raced for the buttes to obtain a better vantage point and to distract the Lakota from the non-combatants. The choice turned out a bad one, as the Crows were without water in the blazing sun and were trapped on the buttes by the encircling Lakota. The story is unclear whether the Crows escaped or not, but apparently the Lakota contracted some sort of disease from the Crows and died in the nearby canyon to the northwest, afterward aptly named Canyon of Skulls.
I have been unable to find any references to this battle other than an old road sign. Does anyone have more facts, eg. which bands, persons involved, etc. Any details are welcome and much appreciated.
Yes I have, that is where I usually start my research, but unfortunately this encounter is not mentioned in any of the winter counts, including Good, Lone Dog, American Horse, No Ears, White Bull, Big Missouri, High Dog, Swift Dog, Jaw, Cloud Shield, Flame, Rosebud, Long Soldier, Swam, Major Bush, Swift Bear, Red Horse Owner, Vestal, Praus, Powell, etc. etc.
wow. that sign is dubious at best. ''Raped the squaws" ?? There was no rape until after Sand Creek for the most part. And ''squaws'' is a white man term and derogatory at best. Surprised that sign has not been taken down.
Yes, very dubious. And I read the account of the Battle of Crow Butte that took place in Nebraska. Oddly the two stories have a lot of similarities. Also odd that such a large (one assumes from the story) party of Crows were camped so deep in Sioux territory, but I suppose it's possible.
Nice to see someone else protesting the word 'squaw'. I try, but I never get far
So far this has been my only reference on this battle and seems to be a very old sign (who in their right mind would still use the word 'squaw'). That's also why I'm so keen on getting information from other sources. I'll post more once I get confirmation from the Butte Co. Historical Society.
Re. location of a Crow village this far east: as this happened in 1822, this is plausible.
Re. location of a Crow village this far east: as this happened in 1822, this is plausible.
I thought the Crow were based in the Yellowstone/Rocky Mt. area during this time period. Hyde says they were "pushed by the Tetons to remove westward into the country beyond the Powder River by 1800". And "during the period 1800-1825 the Oglalas were hunting each summer in the plains east of the Black Hills".
A Crow war party would believable, but this one is said to include women, children and elders. It just doesn't seem likely to me.
By then Crow territory centered north of the Big Horn Mountains in southern Montana, and during this time their eastern boundary was considered the Powder River country. In subsequent decades their eastern boundary was pushed farther west by the advancing Lakota, to Tongue River and beyond.
So I agree it is unlikely that a Crow village would be located here, about 100 miles east of Powder River, by then considered Lakota territory. A Crow war-party camp would make more sense, maybe they brought women with them.
Again, we're speculating on one single "source", so all the more reason I would like to hear from Butte Co. Historical Society where they got their information from. I have yet to receive a reply to my email, but I'll post it here when I do.
Post by emilylevine on Oct 10, 2009 23:38:11 GMT -5
Two items: 1. "Crow Indians. An Algonquin tribe of Indians residing in Montana, but who prior to 1822 occupied the valley of the Little Missouri River in northwestern South Dakota. In a great battle fought at 'The hills where the Crows were killed,' in that year, the Sioux defeated the Crow with awful massacre and drove them from the region." --Doane Robinson. Encyclopedia of South Dakota, 1925. p. 149 2. "Long before the white people came to the area, there was a great battle between the Dakota and Crow Indians on the hill now called Crow Butte, located in Harding county. Many relics of that fight were found around the base of the hill and its name is a translation of the Dakota Paha Kangiokute." Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. The Dakota Heritage: A Compilation of Indian Place Names in South Dakota. 1973. p.29. [also called Dakota's Heritage]
Not much, but a few additional tidbits. jinlian: anything about this from the Crow side of things that you know of?
An aside: If I remember right, Josephine Waggoner had a relative who died while journeying west with her band. They were near Crow Butte so she was "buried" on top of the butte (scaffold). Her dogs wouldn't leave the spot, so they shot them to leave them with her.
I must confess that, before reading this thread, I heard only of the battle of Crow Buttes in Nebraska and, as far as I know (but my knowledge is far from being exhaustive), there are no Apsaalooke oral accounts of this encounter. Anyway, some thoughts:
1) The battle's location and circumstances aren't that unrealistic at all; we are speaking of the early 1820s and in that period, before the great smallpox epidemic of 1837, there were still regular contacts between the Mountain Crows and the Hidatsa/Awatixa villages on the Knife River (ND) and their routes followed the Powder and the Little Missouri's courses. The presence of a Crow group in northwestern South Dakota around 1820 isn't then that unlikely. The "disease" which afflicted the group could have been contracted in the Hidatsa villages and Crow party could have been slowed down or strayed away from its usual route by the epidemic, but this is a mere hypothesis.
2) I was re-reading the American Horse (Oglala) winter count and, for the year 1820-21 (note that winter counts records doesn't always match exactly with our time-record) AH has:
The Dakotas attacked a Crow village. - The Dakotas assaulted and took a Crow village of a hundred lodges. They killed many and took many prisoners.
It's remarkable also that, in AH's winter count, for the 1815-16 we have " a peace with the Crows at Pine Bluff", which shows also how the Crow-Lakota relationship at the time took place in a broader geographical range.
Hope this can be but a little helpful - intertribal warfare is something hard to investigate indeed and unfortunately, oral reports have been almost totally neglected in previous decades. If I come across other reports, I'll post them here.
"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."
Post by emilylevine on Oct 11, 2009 10:25:22 GMT -5
jinlian, great thoughts. I knew you could help out here.
Looking through the winter counts that I have copies of I have found some interesting entries: 1. "The British Museum Winter Count" [often attributed to Blue Thunder (Yanktonai)], but Howard says that although it is similar in content, he doesn't believe it is Blue Thunder's:
[picture of a crow (bird) outside the top of a tipi] "Kangi ot'a t'api. lit. Crows many they-died. For this winter the pictograph is a tipi with a dying crow fluttering near its top. The counts of the Blue Thunder group and No Two Horns note the same event for this year. Blue Thunder: 'Going to camp that time on Cherry Creek place. Many crow birds flew around tipis and died, lean and starved. So cold they fell dead out of the skies.' Blue Thunder Variants I, II and III 'Camped on Cherry Creek. Lots of Crows died there.' No Two Horns 'Cold. The crows tried to look into the lodges for a place to stay.' [Howard goes on to give the familiar location of Cherry Creek on the Cheyenne River res and then notes similar events listed for other years on other counts]. "The British Museum Winter Count," James H. Howard, in Occasional Paper No 4, Britsih Museum, 1979. See also Howard, 1960, "Dakota Winter Counts as a Source of Plains Indian History," in Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 173, Anthropological Papers, No. 61.
2. "Iron Shell's Winter Count": "Crow Indian killed inside a tipi (1820). The enemy Crow was killed killed within the Sioux camp." from The Sioux, Royal B. Hassrick, appendix A.
These are just a few examples. I'm sure there's more. It seems too big of a coincidence that in the same year that crow birds died while hanging around a camp, a Crow Indian was killed in a Sioux camp----and there was a fight where Lakota killed Crows at their camp. There has got to be some misinterpreting. (Also, while crows are really smart birds, I've never heard of them trying to get in someone's house to stay warm.) Usually in winter counts when someone is killed, the word "kte" is used, unlike here where we have "ot'a", to die inside of. But of course, the original winter counts were only the pictures, so someone could have written the Lakota a little differently. It could also imply that the Crows died in their village or in their lodges when the Lakota attacked them.
It could be that there was a creek called Cherry Creek by the Lakota out there in Harding county. A quick look now on maps doesn't show one, but there are lots of creeks around Crow Butte with obvious white man names that may very well have replaced a creek once called Cherry. So maybe we have lots of misinterpretations of winter counts. I don't know. Just some thoughts.