24×30 original pastel on suede painting based on a 1908 photograph by Edward Curtis. (Private Collection)
About the painting
The traditional name used by the people of the Crow nation is “Apsaalooke” meaning “people of the great bird” or eagle. Through mistranslation, however, the name of this bird has come down to us as “crow” instead.
The Crow were an integral part of the quintessential Plains Indian culture. Their homeland includes the Yellowstone Valley in what is today Montana and Wyoming. After the arrival of the horse to the region in the early 1700s, the Crow adopted a nomadic lifestyle, following migrating bison and other game through large swaths of the Northern Plains. They maintained trade networks reaching as far as the Pacific.
The Crow were renowned for their prowess in battle against other Plains Indians such as the Lakota. In a practice known as counting coup, a warrior gained prestige by sparing the life of a defeated opponent. During the westward expansion of the United States in the 1800s, many Crow – including the one portrayed in this painting – served as scouts for the U.S. Army in campaigns against their traditional enemies.