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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 10, 2002 - Issue 67


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Crow Camp Merges Past, Future

by Carrie Moran McCleary for the Billings Gazette
credits: Carrie Moran McCleary photo
FORT SMITH - When fire threatened to cancel the c for 130 students on the Crow Reservation, camp director Lanny Real Bird didn't flinch.

Real Bird, along with other administrators, teachers and elders dedicated to preserving the tribe's traditions, had worked too long to give up.

So they moved the important two-week camp from the Big Horn Mountains to Fort Smith and the camp began as planned.

Plans began in March when Real Bird met with Crow Tribal Housing Authority officials to discuss prevention issues in the Crow community.

Later, Real Bird met with Crow Tribe Health Board Chairman Carl Venne. Together, they realized many of the institutions and programs in the Crow community could work together to create an all encompassing youth camp.

"We then attempted to focus on the objectives of these agencies and fit them into an overall plan." Real Bird said. They came up with four tracks: culture and language; careers; math and science; health education and fitness. In the past, most Crow summer youth camps have focused only on fitness, sobriety, or culture.

The camp's counselors are almost all educators from the reservation. They took part in a week-long program, spending half their time in the Big Horn Mountains and half in classrooms at Little Big Horn College. At the college, educators from a variety of disciplines created a culture-based curriculum for use in classrooms across the reservation.

Their curriculum is getting a trial run at the camp where fifth- through eighth-graders have no qualms about comments to the facilitators they are getting to know so well.

All of the campers are staying in teepees erected near the Fort Smith school, on land offered by the National Park Service. The agreement is just one of many Real Bird and Venne fostered.

"This is all in the spirit of cooperation and caring for the kids," Venne said. "We were fortunate the administration at LBHC had the foresight to put this together and to take the lead on this. It shows they are not just interested in higher education, but with all education on the reservation."

Highlights for the Warrior campers include fishing, hiking, hunting, historical tours of sacred and battle sites on the reservation, a ropes course, rafting, nightly cultural presentations by tribal elders, and nightly drumming.

Each morning campers awake to the traditional sound of a Crow camp crier. Tribal elder Dallas Bird Hat performs these duties. At sundown, Bird Hat helps campers sing the Crow Tribe's flag song, the tribe's national anthem.

The Apsa'alooke Camp crew, a rotating eight -member team, performs chores varying from hauling wood, shuttling kids, building sweats, and doling out an occasional disciplinary action. These are the duties men in Crow military societies performed in Crow camps about 100 years ago.

"We want to give them the tools they need to maintain their culture, as well as gain prominence in modern-day society," said Scott Russell, LBHC school-to-work program coordinator. "We're trying to use these activities to develop pride in our youth. There is going to be a change (in the campers) from when they got here and when they leave."

This week the Warrior campers will spend time horseback riding and working on their Crow language skills.

Institutions offering granting money, staff, support, and equipment include: the Crow Tribe, LBHC, Crow/Northern Cheyenne Indian Hospital, National Park Service, Rural Science Initiative, LBHC CDKC School to Work, The National Guard, and School District 1 &17-H.

Fort Smith, MT Map
Maps by Travel

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