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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 24, 2002 - Issue 68


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Crow Fair a Family Affair

by Becky Shay of the Billings Gazette staff
credits: Photo of Newton Old Crow by James Woodcock of the Billings Gazette
Photo of Newton Old Crow by James Woodcock of the Billings GazetteCROW AGENCY, MT - Ruben Little Head Jr. slept through his first Crow Fair Powwow intertribal dance.

The 8-month-old nestled into his dad's shoulder Friday afternoon as Ruben Little Head Sr. made the rounds in the dance.

"This is his first year and that's why I danced with him the first intertribal," Little Head said. "Even though he's asleep, it's culture and he's out there."

So was little Ruben's brother, 4-year-old Xavier, who is a fancy dancer.

"This little guy is going to be a traditional dancer like his dad," Little Head said cuddling the baby.

Little Head paused next to a drum group to soak in the music and the baby's eyes flew open for a moment. Content with the music, he tucked his chin back into place and wrinkled his pudgy cheek into the satin vest of his dad's regalia.

Nothing compares to the feeling of attending Crow Fair, Little Head said.

"It's these drums," he said. Little Head noted the drummers come from all over the state, then pointed to the whirls of bright colors as the dancers moved through another intertribal dance. "This drum, right now, is making all of them dance."

Little Head and his family, who are Northern Cheyenne, have attended Crow Fair for the last two years, reviving a tradition from his childhood. Little Head attends Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., and with just a few weeks until the start of the school year, it can be difficult to come home for Crow Fair, he said. The trip is worth it because the event is one of the largest Indian celebrations in Montana and it's close enough to his hometown Lame Deer for the family to dance and see each other.

That sense of family is what Crow Fair is all about, said Lawryn Arleen Flat Lip who is Miss Crow Nation 2002. It's a time for families to come together, dance together and share, she said. It's about being "part of who we are and where we come from. I'm proud to be Crow," she said.

Julia "Seja" Plain Bull, the Miss Crow Nation runner-up, said Crow Fair is about having fun and camping out.

"It's about coming together as a family, having a fun time and leaving all our problems at home," Plain Bull said.

That was a thought echoed by Sandra Grant Two Leggins.

"I've been coming all my life - that's 57 years!" she said and threw her head back to laugh with such exuberance glints of silver fillings showed in her back teeth. "It's basically the same every year: Lots of fun."

Two Leggins was encouraged to dance as a little girl by her grandfather, who lived to 102 years, and a favorite aunt. All the nieces would spend time with the aunt who saved dresses so she could outfit the girls for powwows. Two Leggins' dad, her daughter and grandchildren were dancing at Crow Fair this year.

"When you dance, you get that real good feeling inside," she said.

Two Leggins' family includes Crow, Gros Ventre, Cree and Sioux blood.

"We're all a mixture now," she said and joked, "We're not prejudiced!"

That's why everyone is welcome at Crow Fair. And, that's a perfect reason for anyone to join in an inter-tribal dance, she said.

"Anybody can go out there and dance. Once they start feeling that beat of the drum, they get into it. You go with the flow."

Crow Indian Reservation, MT Map
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