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New exhibit at Museum of the Rockies showcases Crow culture, returns sacred objects to homelands

Posted at 12:54 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 18:55:21-04

BOZEMAN — The Museum of the Rockies has played host and permanent home to countless artifacts from around the world, ranging from contemporary children's books to 65 million-year-old dinosaur bones.

But on display at the museum now, may be the most special and meaningful exhibit yet.

“It’s a homecoming,” says Michael Fox, Historical Curator of the Museum of the Rockies.

What Fox is referring to is a thoughtfully-curated collection of historical and contemporary pieces belonging to the Apsaalooke Nation, or Crow Tribe, of Montana.

Nine Sanders is a curator, writer, historian and cultural consultant, originally from Crow Agency. She is the curator of the exhibit, Apsaalooke Women and Warriors, and did so at the request of the Chicago Field Museum.

“The objects within are meant to explain that worldview and cosmology, which is so diverse and multi-dimmentional that we wouldn’t be able to capture it all in one exhibition,” Sanders said.

The Museum of the Rockies, like all of Bozeman, is on the traditional homelands of the Apsaalooke, Tséstho’e, Amskapi Piikuni and Séliš peoples. The Museum refers to itself as a guest on the land.

The Apsaalooke Women and Warriors exhibit is a blend of the historical and contemporary, featuring cradleboards, regalia, bundles and regalia, as well as art, music and fashion from today’s top Crow artists.

Sanders says she worked with many members of the Crow community to cultivate the collection, which is meant to inspire the Crow people into pursuing artistic opportunities and preserve their history.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the exhibit–seven Crow war shields that have returned to their homelands after 120 years.

“Our sacred objects have agency and they leave us and return us on their own accord. So it would be understood that it is meant to be that these items came here, these war shields chose to come home,” Sanders said.

Sanders says the seven war shields were part of the original 77 war shields collected by Stephen C. Simms, an anthropologist, when he came to the Crow Nation around the year 1900. Many of the shields were traded to other museums, and others stayed at the Field Museum for a century.

“The return of the shields…for the Crow people, it’s a historic event. For the Museum of the Rockies, it’s a historic event.”

The Apsalooke Women and Warriors exhibit is on display at the Museum of the Rockies through December 31, 2022.