(This is the introduction to Shane Doyle (Crow) and Megkian Doyle’s teaching unit, “Living within the Four Base Tipi Poles of the Apsáalooke Homeland.”)
The Apsáalooke homeland is located in the heart of the Northern Plains, in a place well known today as “Big Sky Country”. The Corps of Discovery traveled along the northern edge of this homeland on their journey westward, and traversed through the heart of it when William Clark’s group returned to the east by canoeing down the Yellowstone River. Despite their time spent in the Apsáalooke homeland, and their intent on meeting members of the “Crow” Tribe, as well as the fact that 24 of their horses disappeared during the night of July 22nd, 1806, no direct contact was made with any member of the tribe.
This educational journey into the homeland of the Apsáalooke people will be divided into four segments, to represent the four directions and a full circle of understanding:
I. Medicine Wheel Country
The beginning of this study focuses on the ancient cultural history of the Northern Great Plains. The region has been continually occupied for more than 12,000 years, with over two dozen different tribes maintaining culturally significant ties to the area. A multi-cultural review of the history of the Medicine Wheel Country will be outlined for students. This geographic overview will include an analysis of maps and other forms of multi-media that provide information and context for both tribal oral histories of the region, as well as the most significant archaeological discoveries there. With no domesticated animals and no adequate climatic conditions for reliable crop agriculture, the tribal people who shared in this area thrived as hunters and gatherers of abundant wild plants.
II. Awaxaawakússawishe—Mountain of the Future
The second phase of this exploration utilizes multi-media to access tribal oral histories, which are also supported by archaeological data, to retrace how the Apsáalooke people came to occupy their homeland hundreds of years ago. Learning about the history and significance of this Apsáalooke Migration Story will help crystallize for students how the identity of the Apsáalooke tribe is inseparable from their homeland, and in particular the Big Horn Mountains and other ranges along the Elk (Yellowstone) River corridor.
III. Apsáalooke Life, 1805—2014
The third part of this story picks up in 1805, the year before William Clark’s Corps of Discovery group enters into the heart of the “Crow Country”. The students will learn about the experiences of Antoine LaRoche, as he spent the summer of 1805 with a group of over 1000 Apsáalooke people traveling over 1400 miles on horseback during a 4-month period. The twohundred years since William Clark carved his name into “Pompey’s Pillar” (Mountain Lion’s Lodge), have brought untold upheavals to the land and people of the Yellowstone region, yet the Apsáalooke people continue to survive and forge their nation into the future. The sources of the familial strength and communal perseverance of the Apsáalooke people are highlighted and placed into a historical context that also considers the long-term impact of historical trauma.
IV. Apsáalooke People in 2014 and Beyond
This study comes full circle with a fourth and final topic of consideration: The Apsáalooke people who still live as members of their tribal communities within the four base poles of the tribal homeland, and have found success through living lives of integrity and beauty. Through the lens of modern “Crow” people, students learn to appreciate the special legacy that all modern Montanans have inherited. No matter what our skin color or what cultural background we carry with us, everyone who loves and lives in Big Sky Country understands that the enduring spirit of the land is what heals and propels us into our future.