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Crow Tribe looks to educate younger generation on centuries of land loss

Crow Tribe looks to educate younger generation on centuries of land loss
Posted at 7:19 PM, Apr 17, 2024

CROW AGENCY — Treaties from 1825 on have continued to change the blueprint of the Crow land, shrinking it through the years.

Now, Crow Tribal members, attorneys, historians and others are coming together to share their stories at the Little Big Horn College's "Two Centuries of Land Loss and Economic Strangulation of the Crow People, 1825-2024" held this week.

Crow Tribe looks to educate younger generation on centuries of land loss

“Every time we sat with the U.S. government, we lost land," said Darrin Old Coyote, a Crow Indian and former tribal chairman. "From owning half of Wyoming and half of Montana, (to) about 130 million acres to today, 2.2 million acres.”

The Real Bird family experienced firsthand fighting the government alongside their brother, Richard Real Bird, who was a tribal chairman at the time.

“We wanted nothing but what was best for the Crow Indians,” said Ken Real Bird. “It was almost like war against the United States.”

Richard Real Bird filed multiple lawsuits against the U.S. government. In the first case, Charles Cervantes was his lawyer. They litigated the case for three years after initially receiving the funds they wanted from the U.S. for the Crow Fair, but when Real Bird was defeated in an election, Cervantes's contract was terminated and the case didn't continue.

Crow Tribe looks to educate younger generation on centuries of land loss

When Cervantes heard that Real Bird had filed another lawsuit against the government years after the first case, he was shocked.

“I said, 'Richard, You filed a second lawsuit against the U.S. government? They’re going to come after you big time.' I mean, I had already spent, eight, ten years in Washington. I know what they do. He said, 'I gotta do it anyway. I gotta protect and preserve the land the homeland of the Crow people,'” Cervantes said.

Within 30 days of filing the second lawsuit, Richard Real Bird's office was raided and he was eventually convicted of fraud and embezzlement.

This put a pause to the fight. One that is based on hundreds of years of land loss.

Crow Tribe looks to educate younger generation on centuries of land loss

“Land loss started with the treaties of the 19th century to early allotments on the reservation in the late 19th century, some early allotments in the 20th century. Then the Crow Act of 1920, all of those diminished Crow land holdings,” said history professor from the University of Virginia, Christian McMillen.

The Real Bird family, McMillen, Old Coyote and more will be at the Little Big Horn College on Thursday, April 18 in the Cultural Learning Lodge to share their stories from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and all are welcome to the free event.

“For years we’ve just kind of been passing the buck to the next generation and I believe this generation can really change things around,” Old Coyote said.