[to the book The Stars We Know: Crow
Indian Astronomy and Life-ways,
by Timothy P. McClearly]
The crow people believe that all creation is of Iichihkbaalee, First Maker, Our Creator. And since everything exists because
of this creation then nothing is excluded. The Crow Indian's understanding of creation and the vastness of the cosmos was
demonstrated to me
when I was a child.
Many times I had the distinct privilege and blessing of listening to maternal great-grandmother, Baaxpassh, "One Who
Is Sacred," pray at sunrise. She would say, "Creator, You who created all things. You who created things that we can see and
things we will never see. You who created things that we can understand and things we will never understand." this prayer
showed me the magnitude of the creation of Iichihkbaalee.
Since all things come from the Creator, the Crow Indians also believe that the power from First Maker permeates all
things. This is why the Crow believe in intercessory spirits or agents of the Creator. So for the Crow it is not unusual to
say and believe that everything has a soul or a spirit. This belief further states that the Creator's power is shown and given
to fortunate blessed individuals through seven entities: the heavens, air, fire, earth, water, plants, and creatures.
The power that is in the heavens includes the sun, which is called the "Old Man", Isaahkaxaalia; the moon, which is called
the "Old Woman", Kaalixaalia; and the stars, Ihke. The Old Man is believed to be the center of wisdom, while the Old Woman
is believed to have the power over conception and livelihood.
For the Crow all the stars are sacred. Within our cosmogony and cosmology, however, there are constellations that have
special religious interpretation and history. One constellation that is always prominent in our lifeways is the Big Dipper.
It is termed Ihka Sahpua, "Seven Stars," and also Iipchalapaachuoo, "The Place Where The Pipe Is Pointed." This constellation
is also the place where the "Seven Sacred Brothers," Akbachakupe Sahpua, the "Seven Sacred Bulls," Bishee Chiilape Sahpua,
and the "Seven Sacred Rams," Iisaxpuatahche Sahpua reside.
The power of air is found in the wind, the clouds, and in thunder and lightning. The Sacredness of water is found in
rivers, springs, and lakes, and it is also found in what is called Baakkaawile, "above water"--snow, sleet, hail, rain, and
mist. When the Crow speak of creatures, baaisbilaaleete, "those without fire," they include all that move of their own volition--reptiles,
birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and everything else that moves on its own accord.
The teachings of these seven entities (the heavens, air, fire, earth, water, plants, and creatures) provide the basis
of our beliefs. Their precepts have shaped the innate understandings of Crow nationhood. They have become the guiding force
of an entire life-way, providing our sense of right and wrong and our attendant sense of values and ethics.
Once the Crow nation had strength, beauty, and a strong sense of national identification. Today, however, we see a
demise in this cultural heritage. The use of the Crow language is waning, and there are groups--even amongst the Crow people--who
decry the validity of native spirituality. The rich resources of the Crow are being exploited by non-Indians and we are poverty
stricken--so much so that the majority of the Crows must rely on public assistance. It is hard to have an elevated sense of
intellectual realization when we are hungry. This condition has led to despair and defeatism.
It is through intellectual curiosity and the acquisition of knowledge that our negative self-concepts can be replaced.
Scholarly research and writings, such as seen in this book, can have a very positive impact on the Crow, both within and outside
the reservation. This book on our traditions related to the heavens expresses a part of the native theology of the Crow in
a careful, thoughtful, and detailed manner. From this, the native culture is much better understood both by Crow people and
by non-Indians. I believe this inevitably will lead to improved self-awareness, which strengthens group and cultural interaction,
ensuring the future of the Crows as a people and as a part of Iichihkbaalee's beautiful creation.
Dale D. Old Horn
Little Big Horn College
Little Big Horn College Library