Date of Award

Spring 1981

Document Type




First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Second Advisor

Rev. Jeremiah Sullivan

Third Advisor

Hank Burgess


Under the insightful leadership of Chief Plenty Coups, the Crow nation aligned itself with the white man prior to the campaigns which decimated the Plains Indians in the 1860's and 1870's. Plenty Coups knew that white forces would eventually overwhelm any tribe which resisted "Manifest Destiny." When the whites invaded the sacred Black Hills of the Sioux in 1875, Plenty Coups said: I have observed that the yellow metal drives the white man mad. They will swarm into the sacred mountains of the Sioux and that will bring war. The soldiers will need scouts, more scouts than ever before, Crow scouts. And when the war is over, the soldier-chiefs will not forget that the Crows came to their aid. I--Plenty Coups-- will not let them forget. Many years later, Plenty Coups admitted that they had aligned themselves with whites not because the Crows liked whites or hated the Sioux or Cheyenne, but because the Crows wanted to protect their own country. The Crows' decision proved fruitful as the white man helped to protect the Crows from their traditional enemies, the Sioux, Cheyenne, and BIackfeet,while attempting to honor Crow treaties and treat the Crow people with respect--benefits the Cheyenne, Sioux, and other Plains Indians did not receive.

During the 1950's, this amicable relationship between the Crow nation and the United States government was disturbed; the government discovered a different type of "gold" on Crow lands. It was irrigation and hydro-electric power which could be generated by the construction of a dam on the Big Horn River in Big Horn Canyon, thirty-five miles south of Hardin, Montana. The Crow people had dismissed a similar proposal made in 1912 by the Big Horn Canyon Power and Irrigation Company. 3 They wanted their beautiful land preserved and the white man kept out. Although their rejection was accepted in 1912, the situation was much different in 1951. This time it was not some private company making an offer for Crow land, but the United States government represented by the Bureau of Reclamation under the Department of Interior.