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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Crow ready to ride in D.C.
by SUSAN OLP - The Billings (MT) Gazette Staff
credits: photo by Bob Zellar - Billings (MT) Gazette Staff{credits}

Carl Venne, Crow tribal chairman, is one of 24 Crow riders who will take part in today's inaugural parade.

"I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us," Venne said Monday from Washington, D.C.

He and other members of the tribe arrived in the nation's Capitol Sunday night at about 10:30 p.m. They compose one of fewer than 100 entries accepted into the 56th inaugural parade out of the 1,382 organizations that applied to participate.

"My tribe is very happy to represent all Indians in America and also the state of Montana," Venne said Monday morning by phone. "We're very fortunate that they picked us."

The Crow Tribe already has a special link to President-elect Barack Obama. When the candidate made his May 19 visit to Crow Agency, the tribe adopted Obama and gave him the name "One who helps people throughout the land."

Robert "Corky" Old Horn, coordinator of the tribe's parade entry and executive assistant to Venne, said he is encouraged by the promises Obama made during that visit, "the only visit to an Indian nation he made," Old Horn said.

"President-elect Obama guaranteed that Indian views will be heard, and with the staff in the White House there will be a direct link to him," he said.

Old Horn also will ride in the parade as part of the Crow Nation of Montana Horse Mounted Unit. He and other riders gathered in Crow Agency earlier this month at the rodeo grounds to pose for a photo and to meet with a local veterinarian. The vet checked the health of all the horses that will take part in today's parade.

The horses were specially selected for the occasion, said Old Horn.

"Since this is going to be a parade with thousands of people watching, we are taking parade-broken horses," Old Horn said.

A float carrying 18 Crow women garbed in elk-tooth dresses will follow the riders.

The parade down Pennsylvania Avenue is scheduled to begin today at about 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Old Horn has known about the Crow's invitation to the parade since early last month.

"I was very elated to be notified, to be selected," Old Horn said, when he got the call on Dec. 5.

The riders originally planned to ride single-file along the route, but Old Horn said that when the group asked to add a float, it got the OK but was told that it had to fit in the original space allocated, so the riders will ride in pairs.

Participants in the Crow Tribe's entry also will include three other tribal officers and additional tribe members. Venne said U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Denny Rehberg may also join them on horseback in the parade.

Along with the 24 riders and 18 float participants, six horse handlers also went on the trip to help care for the animals.

The Crow Tribe is picking up the travel expenses for the group, Old Horn said, along with donations the tribe has received. Getting that many people and horses from Montana to Washington, D.C., has been quite an undertaking, he said.

People in chartered buses and horses in their trailers departed from Crow Agency on Friday, and stops were made along the way in Omaha, Neb., and Lexington, Ky. The horses are being housed at Prince George's Equestrian Center in Maryland.

For the most part, the travelers didn't encounter any problems, Venne said.

"We got into some bad weather around Indianapolis," he said. "The roads had some black ice. That slowed us up quite a bit."

Venne said on Monday that the group planned to take part in a bus tour of the city, and the tribe was scheduled to host a reception for all tribes paid for by energy businesses that have been working with the tribe. On Monday night, Venne said he and others planned to join in an all-tribes powwow, and then to attend an Indian ball tonight.

Background checks already have been performed on the members of the group, Old Horn said. This morning, a vet was expected to review the horses' papers, making sure that they are certified free of disease.

After the horses are certified, the riders will take them to the staging area under police escort.

Tribal officers received tickets to attend the swearing-in ceremony, Old Horn said. But with the likely congestion created by the crowds massing at the Capitol, it could make it difficult for them to get to the parade's staging area in time. So they likely will forego the ceremony.

As for riding a horse in the parade, Old Horn said it's the most natural thing in the world for members of the Crow Tribe.

"Some of us have been riding ever since we were youngsters."

Even babies have been known to fall asleep while their mothers carry them along on a horse, he said.

To view a photo gallery of the Crow Nation of Montana Horse Mounted Unit, click here.

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