Crow Chief Plenty Coups learned that he had won a land dispute
with the federal government, he stood up in a Washington, D.C.,
courtroom, grabbed his coup stick and proudly sang a victory song.
a story that Robert Yellowtail Sr., a Crow who argued Plenty Coups'
case, liked to share with his daughter, Winona Plenty Hoops.
himself a legend among the Crow, learned English as a young man.
He graduated from an Indian boarding school in California and was
just completing law school when he felt the need to return to his
family on the Crow Reservation.
Plenty Coups' request, Yellowtail accompanied the Crow chief to
Washington, D.C., in 1917, where he eloquently defended the tribe's
treaty rights against Sen. Tom Walsh, D-Mont., who wanted to open
the reservation to white settlers.
Coups and his companions often prayed over sacred medicine bundles
during the long trip to Washington, D.C., Plenty Hoops said Thursday
at Montana State University-Billings.
Hoops and four other tribal elders shared stories about Plenty Coups
and other aspects of Crow culture during a two-day symposium that
of the elders' discussion dealt with sacred medicine bundles that
have played an integral part of Crow culture for generations.
Hoops, a member of the Crow tribe's sacred Tobacco Society, described
a medicine bundle used for keeping sacred seeds.
First Maker gave seeds to a boy who was fasting, and we've had them
from then on," Plenty Hoops said.
sacred seeds have shown us the four seasons," Plenty Hoops
said, explaining how the seeds sprouted during a spring planting
that she made several years ago.
made me feel so good because they have so much power. We are very
fortunate that the First Maker gave us the seeds. The Crow people
are the chosen people."
Medicine Crow said he may have been one of the last people to see
Plenty Coups alive shortly before the legendary chief died in 1932.
always liked to parade. He even paraded with his friend Buffalo
Bill Cody," said Medicine Crow, who was instrumental in the
formation of the Plenty Coups State Park, which includes the Plenty
symposium, held at MSU-Billings and Plenty Coups State Park, helped
raise awareness of the federal Native American Graves Protection
and Repatriation Act. NAGPRA has been used to reclaim Indian artifacts
from museums, to bring home human remains and sacred objects purchased
or stolen from American Indians, or given away in earlier generations.
symposium was presented by the Friends of Chief Plenty Coups Advisory
Council and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks,
through a grant from the National Park Service.
Coups State Park, which is managed by Fish Wildlife and Parks, has
developed procedures and guidelines for handling sacred objects
under NAGPRA. Tribal elders are routinely consulted as part of the
process for how artifacts are handled, stored, preserved and displayed.
Habermann, regional parks director for Fish Wildlife and Parks,
said Plenty Coups gave and received many gifts over his lifetime,
and the museum has several hundred items that belonged to him, as
well as a similar number of documents from his life.
Old Coyote Sr. said NAGPRA has helped reunite Indians with artifacts
that had been sold or donated to museums or private individuals
over the years.
Coyote said the care of Crow artifacts is especially important today
because Crow society has changed dramatically since the days of
Plenty Coups was alive, people understood the Crow way and they
were willing to accept the Crow way," Old Coyote said.
the white people came, they said your ways are wrong, and many of
the medicine bundles were given away or burned."
"Our belief systems are as varied as the rest of the world,"
Old Coyote said.