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‘Teepee capital of the world’

I write this in the wake of the annual Crow Fair, held in Crow Agency on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. The fair site is often called the “teepee capital of the world” because so many of the cone-shaped tents dot the grounds.

Part of the time, I was lucky to be a guest of Ramona Howe, a Crow woman who lives on the reservation. Ramona and I have a friend in common (Joyce Dalton) who lives in Billings, Montana.

The 2013 fair program included a message from Henry Rides Horse, Jr., describing the fair as the time when Crow and friends from other tribes, from near and far, come together. He said it is a time to honor clan fathers and mothers and a time for Indian names to be given. Also, he said, the powwow is for dancing to the beat of the drum, known to Indians as the heartbeat of Mother Earth.

Joyce and I attended an afternoon powwow, where there was indeed much dancing, even involving some tiny tots.

Ramona invited us to join her family for the next day’s horse parade when men, women and, again, even small children rode through the campgrounds, on horseback or on floats.

In both cases, most participants were in traditional clothes.

The fair, which usually occurs over the third weekend of August, included more dance events, as well as a rodeo and races. It was not a tourist event; however, visitors were welcome and included Europeans as well as North Americans.

Uncounted numbers of Crow participated, and individuals in varying age and gender categories competed for money prizes in contests that included the quality of their costumes, their dancing, various races and other activities.

Ramona said families have their teepees made, usually of white canvas. They were a dramatic sight, even more so when painted, as a few were.

We also learned (over a lunch that included Indian fried bread — yummy) from Ramona and her family, that a fraction of tribe members speak Crow as their first language. Some Crow have Indian names, including a number of Ramona’s family.

Ramona said songs can be privately held. Someone gave her grandfather a song, celebrating his bravery, which now lies dormant. She will ask for it, but no one has the right to use it now.

The Crow Fair was a colorful as any I’ve attended while traveling the globe. Just look at the photos!

Crow dancer in Montana

Crow man, in traditional regalia, dancing during the Crow Fair powwow.

Dancer at Crow Fair Montana

Dancer dramatically displaying her shawl during the shawl dance that was part of the Crow Fair’s powwow.

Girl dancing at Crow Fair in Montana

Young dancer attired in a jingle dress, so named because the attached decorations jingle.

Crow horsemen in Montana

Men riding in the horse parade at the Crow Fair in August 2013.

Horsewoman at Crow Fair in Montana

Woman riding in the horse parade at the Crow Fair in August 2013. Note the regalia on the horse’s head.

Teepees at Crow Fair in Montana

Wonderful painted teepees on the grounds of the Crow Fair.

This blog and its photos are by Nadine Godwin, BestTripChoices.com editorial director and contributor to the trade newspaper, Travel Weekly. She also is the author of “Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia,” which was published by The Intrepid Traveler; it can be purchased at http://intrepidtraveler.com/travia-release/