2. The Mountain of the Future

(This is the Lesson Plan 2 for Shane Doyle (Crow) and Megkian Doyle’s curriculum unit, “Living within the Four Base Tipi Poles of the Apsáalooke Homeland.”)

One 50-minute class period

  • secondary

By Shane Doyle

By Kristine Johnson. (Modern Apsáalooke rider on the banks of the Little Big Horn River during the Real Bird Reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.)

By Kristine Johnson. (Modern Apsáalooke rider on the banks of the Little Big Horn River during the Real Bird Reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.)



CCSS Literacy RH 10-6

Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

CCSS Literacy RH 10-9

Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

CCSS Literacy WHST 10-7

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS Literacy SL 10-1

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS Literacy SL 10-1d

Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.



Students will be able to

  • Make discriminating choices when creating categories for place names based on their characteristics.
  • Make connections between naming categories and naming traditions of the Crow and of Lewis and Clark.
  • Draw inferences regarding the value of place names within a culture.
  • Understand and value two differing perspectives on this area 1.) the land as a homeland (stewardship) and 2.) the land as a place to be conquered (domination).



  • How do place naming traditions vary between the Crow and Lewis and Clark?
  • What do naming practices teach us about our relationship to the land?
  • What is the difference in perspective when Montana is considered a homeland vs. an immigration opportunity?
  • What do place names teach us about what we value?
  • How do places become meaningful to us and is there any connection between the place name and this meaning?



Suggested Formative Assessment of Learning Outcomes

  • Name categorization activity
  • Gallatin name discussion
  • Big Horn story discussion

Culminating Performance Assessment of Learning Outcomes

Place names research project.




The Crow Migration story, established through oral histories and supported by some archaeology, places the Crow people in their current homeland sometime in the 1600s. The story below is recounted by one of the most revered historians of the tribe who is currently more than 100 years old. (Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow is also featured in one of the lessons under Famous Apsáalooke People of 2014. In this lesson students learn valuable lessons on leadership and developing as a leader through Dr. Medicine Crow’s life story.)




When did the Crow people begin giving names to the land that would later be encountered by Lewis and Clark?



  • Place names table and worksheet
  • 1 piece of poster board for each student group
  • glue sticks
  • Big Horn story (included below)
  • computer access for research



  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Kinesthetic
  • Tactile



Today we are going to take a microscope to the names of places around us and really examine connotations related to these names. We are going to try to answer some questions like: What are characteristics of the names given to places by the Apsáalooke people? What do these patterns of naming suggest about the culture, its values, and its ways of transmitting those values?

I am going to give you a sheet of paper with a list of about 60 place names for different places that are now primarily in present-day Montana and that were places encountered by the Apsáalooke people and by Lewis and Clark as well. In small groups we will cut apart this list and then I would like you to work together to create some categories for these names. When you read them, what do you notice about them? Are they descriptive in a particular way and can that way be used as a category? Try to divide the names up into at least 3 categories, but not more than 6 categories. Once you have decided on your categories, write the category titles on your piece of poster board. Then using your glue sticks place each name into the category in which you think it belongs. We will display your boards once you have completed this activity.

Once students have finished their boards and placed them up for display, allow them some time to look at the different boards. Then bring the students together for a discussion. What are the similarities between board categories? Are there differences in how the names were categorized?



Pass out a copy of the place names table (included below) for each student. This table depicts the original name of a place in the Apsáalooke language. Next an English translation of the Apsáalooke name is provided. The third row lists the contemporary names for these places, many of which were bestowed by Lewis and Clark or other non- Indian explorers. Examine this table. When you know the source of the names, does it suggest anything about naming traditions and/or cultural values of the Apsáalooke and of the non-Indian namers? How might these differences translate into differing perspectives about the land? These ideas are significant because they will play a significant role in how history plays out for these two groups after the completion of Lewis and Clark’s expedition.



Let’s take a few minutes to look at the name “Gallatin”. In Montana, specifically around the Bozeman area, there are a lot of places bearing the name “Gallatin”. (List some or do a web search with the class – Gallatin River, Gallatin-Gateway, Gallatin College, Gallatin Hall, Gallatin Valley, Gallatin International Air Port, Gallatin Canyon, etc.) Albert Gallatin was a Swiss immigrant who came to America in 1780s where he lived in Pennsylvania. He was elected to the United States Senate, but was later removed because he had not yet been a citizen of the United States for the minimum 9 years that were required. Two years later he was elected to the House of Representatives and in 1805 Meriwether Lewis wanted to honor his service in the House by naming one of the headwaters of the Missouri River after him. Hence the Gallatin River. Albert Gallatin never saw the river that was named after him.

Before the arrival of Lewis and Clark, this same river was named the Chokecherry River. Archaeological evidence shows us that chokecherries have been a major food source for the Apsáalooke and other Native tribes for hundreds and maybe even thousands of years. Chokecherries also play a very significant role in Apsáalooke culture. The arrival of chokecherries each summer signals the time for the annual Crow Fair. Chokecherry wood is used for making tools for digging because of its qualities of strength and flexibility. The bark could be used to cleanse sores and burns and make tea. The berries themselves were dried and used in pemmican to provide year-long sustenance for the people. Often if they had nothing else, they still had these dried berries. In her memoir, Alma Snell recounts how during the traumatic reservation period, the Apsáalooke could not travel to find food and were very poor. She often ate dried patties of chokecherries her grandmother, Pretty Shield, had made for a meal. The picking of chokecherries was also a significant cultural activity for the community. During this time children picked berries alongside grandmas and aunties and they were told many important stories and life lessons during this time. Even today, chokecherries have a respected position in traditional feeds honoring important deeds, new babies, political meetings, major accomplishments, etc. and they are usually served as a pudding or soup.

In examining the names given to this river and the backstory for each of these names, what values are carried through history with them? Why did the name Gallatin River usurp the name Chokecherry River? Are there any conditions under which the river’s name might be returned to Chokecherry River? Would changing the name of the river change the way we think about it? How do these names reflect two different perspectives on the land at that time, one where it is a homeland, and one where it is a frontier to be conquered?

The next article is about the story behind the naming of the Big Horn Mountains and the name Big Horn or Little Big Horn for other places, similar to the expanded use of the name Gallatin in the last example. The Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, MT on the Apsáalooke Reservation uses this traditional story as its reason for the name choice.


Long before Little Big Horn College existed and far into their past, the Apsáalooke people named their mountains the Big Horn Mountains in honor of the seven rams who saved Iisaxpuatahchee. These mountains were the source of the Big Horn River. In 1968 the U.S. government built a dam on this river and named it Yellowtail Dam. The government built the dam even though many Crow people opposed it. One of its biggest opponents was Robbie Yellowtail. The government chose to name the dam the Yellowtail Dam in his honor in spite of the fact that he opposed both the dam and the name. The waters contained by this dam filled up the deep Big Horn Canyon. At this time it was proposed that the name of the lake made by the dam be Yellowtail Lake, but because of the importance of the story of the naming of the Big Horn Mountains and the Big Horn River, the Apsáalooke people would not permit the name to be anything other than Big Horn Lake.

In examining the names given to this dam and the lake and the backstory for each of these names, what values are carried through history with them? Why did the name Yellowtail Dam usurp the name Big Horn Dam? Would changing the name of the dam change the way we think about it? How do these names reflect two different perspectives on the land at that time, one where it is a homeland, and one where it is a frontier to be conquered?



Now that you have thought about different perspectives involved in naming places around us and the values these names may convey, think of places that have meaning for you personally. Select a place along the Lewis and Clark Trail with which you are familiar and/or that you have visited. Research its original name and also the name Lewis and Clark chose. Through careful analysis examine values and cultural connotations inherent within these names and write about the conclusions your research and analysis has produced. Your paper should be two pages in length and should address the backstory for each name and what each story reveals about the values and perspectives of the two different cultures.



Struggling learners may be given a pair of names to research as a starting point rather than have to find one independently. This may give the student a jump start and allow more time for writing and processing. Students might also pursue the research in pairs and struggling students might be assisted by students who are more confident in the research process. If writing is an obstacle, students could use a cell phone to do an audio recording of their findings and conclusions to be submitted to the teacher. Advanced learners should be encouraged to research more than one place and might also be encouraged to locate the place naming within the Lewis and Clark journals as they learn to access and use primary sources.



The Migration Story by Joe Medicine Crow – http://lib.lbhc.edu/index.php?q=node/85. Little Big Horn College Library website. LBHC is the tribal college on the Crow Reservation. It houses much of the official resources for information about the tribe and its oral and written history.

College Name – http://www.lbhc.edu/about/. Little Big Horn College website.

They Call Me Agnes: A Crow Narrative Based on the Life of Agnes Yellowtail Deernose. Voget, F, and Mee, M. (2001) University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0806133198, 9780806133195

A Taste of Heritage Crow Indian Recipes and Herbal Medicines. By Alma Hogan Snell. (2006) University of Nebraska Press.

Using Primary Sources

Joe Medicine Crow’s telling of the Migration Story is an oral history that can be considered a primary source.

In the differentiation for advanced learners students are encouraged to research within the Lewis and Clark journals. These are also a primary source.