Life on the Crow Reservation (Big Episode)

Nov 20, 2022 425.6K Views 1.8K Comments

Far out where the plains meet the mountains in Montana is the Crow Reservation. Here there is a people with a deep history, unique stories and culture. Join me as we meet Crow locals who bring us into their fascinating world.

► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello
► Researched by: Kymberly Redmond

JAMES: Well, I got stuck a lot
but you could always get out of stuff,
you know what I mean?
PETER: So James, where are we going?
-A bit of a tour
through the res I guess.
-And this is technically now
on the very outside of it
but disputed border, right?
Is that what you were saying?
-Yeah, yeah.
Actually half of Hardin used to be
part of the Crow Reservation
but they had some surveyors come in
and they kind of moved the line so…
-Okay.
-It’s not really been challenged yet, you know?
These are things that I think
have to come to light eventually.
-All the towns around the reservation,
you consider border towns?
-More or less, yeah.
-Where there’s sort of like…
…a lot of Natives living here
but also people outside the reservation.
-Yeah, it’s so close to the reservation
that a lot of the Natives live here.
It’s not part of the tribe
or the reservation.
So it’s just a community here
and a lot of Natives spill out into here
because there’s not a lot of housing
and stuff back in the reservation either.
-Oh.
-So these are all problems.
There’s a lot of factors
why we come this way.
Why some people even
live in Billings right now.
A lot of them live there ’cause there’s
not a lot of places to live here,
not a lot of jobs.
-Can you tell me about this,
the Police Bureau of Indian Affairs?
-Yeah, that’s the BIA.
-So they operate
under a different jurisdiction
correct, or how does that work?
-Yeah, yeah, they’re federal.
Strong hand of the government.
-The US government?
-To come here and to keep an eye on us.
-Oh, interesting.
Yeah, so it’s actually…
There’s the BIA, that’s the police force
and then there’s the BIA,
the Bureau of Indian Affairs
and they’re the ones
that actually do a lot of the land stuff.
-Okay.
-They’re the ones, unfortunately, kind of
getting rid of a lot of the Native lands
to non-Native people
and selling a lot of things.
It’s been effectively covered up,
a lot of things, you know?
There’s not a lot of evidence,
a lot of things to point to.
-Oh, okay.
-But we all know it’s been going on.
-It’s been memory holed?
-Otherwise who else is selling our land?
I know we’re not, you know what I mean?
WOMAN: Yeah, yeah, that was cool.
[unclear] around here. [giggles]
-It’s all Indigenous too.
-We do a lot of hunting and…
PETER: You got a buck?
WOMAN: Yeah.
-How’s that feel?
-Pretty good, I mean it’s pretty normal.
I learned to hunt when I was young.
We went hunting since I was a little girl.
-You freeze it?
-I give all my meat away.
-Oh, okay.
-My first kill of the year…
…I give away to
my clan aunt or my clan uncle.
That’s just a tradition
that I was passed on by somebody.
-So it’s respect?
-Yeah.
-You kill the buck and then you
give it away to your clan uncle you said?
-Mm-hmm, yeah.
I give it to my Papa Tilton.
-These guys are duck hunting here.
Got some shotguns.
Hello, hello, hello.
-Natives or not?
-Nope.
Natives don’t wear orange. [chuckles]
That’s the best way to spot ’em.
-So non-Natives can come out
to the reservation and hunt if they want?
-Well, some of these spots, you can
kind of see, these are leased out here.
So you’ll see a lot here
as we go through the reservation.
A lot of reservation lands
that used to be Tribal lands,
they’re owned or leased
by non-Tribal people
and a part of how a lot of these people
got these areas is the BIA and BLM, all these…
different agencies
of the federal government
were actually selling them to non-Natives
and there’s a whole thing called
Native Crow Preference
and Native Preference.
Us Crows, we were
supposed to be given the first bids
and the go ahead to buy
pieces of land if it was Tribal.
If it was Tribal land
that was being sold at auction or anything.
We were supposed to be given a right to bid
and kind of take ownership of these areas
but unfortunately they didn’t really…
I guess they forgot to tell us
a lot of these times about these auctions.
So a lot of these lands actually went
at the year 1800 prices.
-Okay.
-And still today
some of these leases are super cheap
and they’re not that cheap
when Natives try to get them.
When us Crows try to get them.
-BLM is not the movement,
it’s the Bureau of Land Management.
-Yes, Bureau of Land Management.
-They were the ones that were put in charge
of all the Native lands in a lot of areas.
-Okay.
-Unfortunately, they didn’t really have
the Native values and things
that we cared about.
So they would sell off a lot of lands
that we valued and hold sacred.
-Is this a Native home?
-Nope.
-No?
-Nope, non-Natives.
-So how does that work
with Natives and non-Natives?
-Oh, check it out there’s some deer,
those are whitetails right there!
Yeah, those look tasty.
-How does…
-I would totally eat those.
-How does it work with Natives
and non-Natives on the reservation?
Is there a lot of friction?
-Yeah, there’s a lot of friction.
-Or it depends? There’s a lot of friction?
-There’s a lot of friction,
there’s a lot of the generation now
that they’re starting
to be cool with the Natives.
That they live…
‘Cause ultimately they’re guests
here in our land.
-Sure.
-You know,
however they want to think about it.
Whatever piece of paper they have,
you know, they’re all guests here
‘Cause we’ve always been here, you know?
And we’re not opposed to having them here
but it’s just, you should
respect the lands you’re on
and respect the people that live here.
‘Cause we still hunt on these lands
and a lot of lease people that lease lands
try to keep us out
from hunting these areas
and these are places
we’ve hunted for millenia, you know?
-Sure.
-So as a rule of thumb, if there’s
a non-Native that, say, lives here
and they’re respectful,
and they’re cool to you guys,
there’s not much of an issue?
-No, there’s no issue, you know?
Usually a lot of ’em are cool, they’ll,
“Hey, we saw some bucks up that way,
go check that spot out.”
“Hey how’d it go, you guys get anything?”
You know, just friendly banter.
They’re just humans talking
to other humans, you know?
That’s what it comes down to.
-Right.
-You gotta remember we’re all humans
and we need to just be good to each other.
They actually can see your waves.
You know, like your energy waves?
They can sense them, they can see ’em.
Like your RF waves that come off your body.
-Natives can sense this?
-No, no, well yeah, yeah.
Natives too specifically,
I’m just kidding, no.
But elk and stuff, they can sense those.
Yeah, there’s actually companies
that are coming out with gear
where it kind of blocks
your RF waves and stuff.
So it makes you sneaky and silent
but Natives can kind of…
We can tone those down
and kind of sneak up.
We can disappear like predator.
-Okay, okay.
-I’m just kidding.
[both laughing]
-So just so the audience doesn’t think
you have a bodyguard behind you
that’s your father.
-Yeah, that’s my dad.
-And he doesn’t want
to be on camera so much.
If it happens, it’s okay, right?
But he’s protecting us, watching us.
-Yes, he’s making sure
we don’t do anything stupid.
-Okay.
[laughs]
So what do we got here, James?
-Well, this is the river,
this is the Bighorn River right here.
This goes up and down the reservation,
the entire Crow Res and stuff.
So just try to imagine it
without those telephone poles. [chuckles]
Pre-colonialization, I’m just kidding.
-No, we like Wi-Fi.
We like telephones. [laughs]
Social media, all these things
are connecting the Native people together
to where we’re actually having
a force to be reckoned with again.
We’re not just all separated and isolated
like the federal government
used to like us to be.
-Okay.
-We’re actually coming together…
…and we can help each other out with
issues going on in different reservations
but we’re part of this old world too.
So we actually live
in many different worlds.
There’s a modern world where
it’s just not a whole lot of hardships.
Things become easier.
Just like foods today.
You know, like you go
to a gas station, grocery store.
Everything’s just packaged,
made really easy, lasts forever.
It’s convenient to get but these are
destroying our microbiomes, our guts.
We were totally taken away
from our food diets…
-Okay.
-…and severed from
our cultural food systems.
They knew that would
destroy us, it would kill us.
That’s why they killed
all the buffalo back in the day.
-Right.
-They killed them
because they couldn’t kill Natives.
We were so strong
and we were so awesome in this area
because we knew our way so awesomely.
-Sure.
-So much that we were hard to kill.
We were hard to fight.
They actually guised it
as the industrial revolution.
So because they needed new
leather strips to put on their machines.
To run their cotton gin
and all these machines
they needed something else
so they proposed the buffalo
because of their skins,
their hides, where it’s thicker.
So they used that as a way
to exterminate the buffalo
but the actual federal policy
that was written in
was to exterminate the Natives.
“We have to exterminate their food source.”
-Let me ask you this, James.
The federal government
divided you guys, the tribes, right?
-Yeah, yeah, they separated us.
-But there was huge competition
between the tribes naturally, right?
Like the Lakota and the Crow
weren’t best buddies obviously?
-Yeah definitely.
Oh, no, no, we weren’t.
Back then we had
the inter-tribal warfare.
-Yeah.
-And it was a huge cultural thing.
It wasn’t just, you know,
we didn’t like each other.
Well in our way, specifically the Crow way,
we were extremely militaristic.
We could only gain status in the tribe
if you went to battle, if you went to war.
That’s the only way you can be a chief.
-Okay.
Is you have to go to battle.
You have to gain (koos)
and do all these things to become a chief.
-Sure.
-And today
the battle’s different, you know?
There’s still a lot of veterans.
Natives are actually
the highest enlisting group
of any demographic in the military.
-Still?
-Still today, yeah.
-Wow.
-And that’s because we’ve always fought.
We’ve always went to battle,
and war, and stuff.
-Interesting.
-So that’s a big part
of Native cultures still today.
I think the battle’s sort of changing.
Sports, that’s kind of the new battlefield
for the younger generation.
-You guys love hoops, I was told…
-Yeah, we love basketball.
-I was told that high school league
is massive, and everyone comes out,
and they’re yelling, and it’s crazy.
-Yeah.
We always have the best crowds,
us Native crowds.
We get… Man, we get loud, we get mean.
It’s energetic, you can feel it, you can
really feed off of it when you’re playing.
PETER: You said we’re living
in three worlds right now.
Right here at this very point.
-[father speaking] Yeah.
What do you mean by that?
ROBIN: Well the rock you think
has no life but it actually does.
You say you’re going down to Lakota,
down to Pine Ridge…
An old man who passed away years ago
was kind of one of
the last great medicine men, you know?
And that was Frank (Fruscrow).
I went down to see him
and that’s where I went and fasted,
and had vision quest,
and all that, you know?
And took the pipe and stuff.
So… but he was a whole different type
of person all together.
We went in a ceremony one time
and he heated the rocks,
and the rocks got red hot
from heat just by prayer, you know?
And that was him.
That was how he was.
-So you saw that?
-Yeah, oh yeah.
-So just by prayer, no fire?
-Yeah, no fire, nothing.
He didn’t have time
because somebody was dying, you know?
If you look at it,
there is no such thing as time.
Or different worlds or anything
’cause everything exists
all at the same time
but that’s a whole different
philosophy all together.
It takes a lot of time to explain
but basically everything exists
all at the same time.
You know, we don’t see it,
we don’t think that way.
-So you’re saying
the Gregorian Calendar, 365, it’s linear?
-Yeah.
-But time, I’ve found, as of years of late,
I can have a day
that seems like three weeks
and I can have three weeks
that seems like a day.
Is that what you mean?
Like there’s no linear way
to calculate that?
Well, you know, if you look at
Einstein’s theory of relativity
and how he explained it
is kind of a nice way
because the faster you go
the slower time goes
until time stops all by itself.
And if you splice it in individual units
going at a certain speed
you can actually go backwards, you know?
So a person can go at the speed of light
and come back
and he can be gone for a hundred years
or he could be gone for a minute
and come back,
and people lived a hundred years here.
Einstein never went
far enough though.
But some of these people,
the old people, they go way beyond that.
That’s why when they give food to elders,
clan uncles and things like that
you’re actually giving food
to generations that have passed away.
They’re still here, and they help us,
and they teach us, and they show us things,
but we don’t see it, you know?
Most people don’t see it.
Natives, they used to take
a little food offering
and put it aside because
everything is a cycle, is a circle.
The food offerings are for the spirits,
and they eat, but they don’t eat very much.
I mean just,
you can’t even see what they eat
but so, they’re still here.
So we still see ’em, you know?
JAMES: Here’s a firework store
owned by Matt Blue
Those fireworks are pretty
darn good fireworks there.
You can’t find anything like that anywhere.
-So they’re not…
-But he can sell them there…
…because it’s within
the reservation boundaries.
-So in the rest of Montana
you wouldn’t be able to sell those?
-No, all the other shops you go to,
they’re the small ones.
They’re the snakes and sparklers.
So, he owns that
property as a fee land.
It’s unrestricted fee lands,
that’s what it’s called
and if it’s owned by a non-Tribal member
it’s almost like you have the ability
to do whatever you want
on that piece of land.
If a tribal member
owned a piece of land like that
in order for them to put it into fee land
they have to go through this whole process
and part of that process was really weird.
It’s outdated.
They actually have to show
that the Native American
that owns that piece of land
is a good Indian.
They have to determine that after 15 years.
-Who determines?
I think the BIA or one of those people.
So they have to determine
that it’s a good person, a good Indian,
and that they know what they’re doing,
they’re competent,
and they’ll be able to
transfer that into a fee land.
Which they can then lease,
or start a business,
or do something on that piece of land.
-So you just avoid the highway,
you stay on the frontage road?
-Yeah, ’cause there’s not really a traffic
ordinance and stuff here in the res so…
You’ll get stopped
by the BIA and not the highway.
-So a lot of people don’t have licenses?
-Most everybody doesn’t, yeah.
-What about insurance?
-Nope.
Having these different ordinances,
having these things in place,
this whole tribal government,
all of this, it was a colonial construct.
So it’s actually completely foreign to us
and we’re still trying
to make a foreign thing work
in our country, in our area.
It’s really hard to do though.
-So what happens…
…if there’s a car accident here?
You guys just agree on something,
the two parties?
-Hopefully.
-Hopefully. [both laughing]
I don’t know, sometimes there’s fights
but usually a lot of time people don’t get
any compensation for stuff.
You’ll see a lot of houses like this
and a lot of people just…
You know, they can’t keep up on houses
because a lot of jobs aren’t here.
I think it’s a bit of Natives,
where we come from
and we’re kind of
adapting to this new world still.
We didn’t have these structures
that last forever.
-Right.
-We would use a structure…
…and then when the poles
for our teepee got old
we wouldn’t cut ’em up
but we would leave ’em there
and they’d be used
for something else, or a fence, or…
-So the house was not an important thing?
It just served a basic function?
-Well not the houses
you see today like these.
-Right.
-The house that is specifically important
to us is our teepees.
That’s our home.
The home is with the women too.
The women that we’re with,
they’re the keepers of the home.
-Sure.
-Back in the day actually…
They’re the ones that
used to put up the teepees,
and the poles, and everything,
and set up the whole lodge.
Man, they were fast at it,
they could set it up
just as fast as they could take it down.
-Okay, so like one of these trailers here,
how many people
are typically living in there?
-It depends, you know,
you might have just a small family.
Sometimes you have like three, to four,
five different families living in there.
-Now is that provided
through the Bureau of Indian Affairs?
-Not all of them.
-Like the housing or are people actually…
…paying rent, or a mortgage,
or how’s that work?
-It depends, if they’re on fee land
they pay a fee
to the county taxes and stuff for the land.
-They don’t own the land?
-But no, no, some of these areas,
they own the land.
See, so it’s checkered.
There’s a lot of checkered places.
-Okay.
-Some of them are just so old.
You know, have water damage,
all these things, so…
You know, people just kind of…
They’ll have to just move and that’s when
you have families living with each other.
I mean you help your family
when they need it.
If they need a place to stay,
you invite them in.
That’s where food comes into plays.
You always feed
everybody that’s at your home.
You know, you always open your doors.
That’s a Crow thing,
it’s always been that way.
Basically, whatever you have,
the best thing you have,
that’s what you feed your guests.
You don’t try to hold off
on your good foods and things
or stash your good stuff.
That’s when you bring out your good stuff.
“Hey, do you want any of this,
do you want to try this?”
Culturally it was disrespectful
to decline a meal.
-It was super disrespectful ’cause
they’re giving you the best they have.
♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪
A lot of these, it’s really nice
and manicured but…
Prime real estate
all by the river and stuff.
Usually owned by non-Tribals…
-Oh, so the river’s up there?
-Yeah, the river’s right there.
-See where all those trees are?
Kinda follow the tree line,
that’s where the water’s at too…
-But some Tribal… We passed
some ranches back there
-…some ranches you said were Tribal?
-Yeah, there’s a couple ranches and
…people that lease the land to cows
and stuff. A lot of people have horses mostly.
-And some are non-Tribal?
-Yeah, most of them you see are non-Tribal.
So I was always under the impression that
reservation land is reservation land
and this is coming from
no background in this.
But that’s what I’m finding out
not to be the case?
It used to be all reservation, it was
supposed to be reserved just for us
just for Tribal people.
But that’s when we go back to
BIA and BLM and
them selling off Tribal lands willingly
to non-Tribal members and…
you know, a lot of these lands
in the reservation are checkered
so you have to go through non-Native lands
to get to our prime real estate
our prime hunting spots.
We were supposed to not pay taxes on
our own produce, our own resources here
but the only ones extracting
resources are non-Tribal people.
Look at the mine, the coal mine.
It’s the biggest money maker for the tribe
but we’re actually getting
pennies on the dollar.
That was…
-Okay, that’s right,
you have a ton of coal here, right?
-Yeah, we have a ton of coal
but we barely see any of that.
We were supposed to get
somewhere up from 10-20% I think.
It was a pretty big stake.
And the state came in
and successfully argued that
since we don’t have a tax department
or any kind of tax ordinance
that the state claimed all of that tax
and all of that money
goes to the tax people now.
So because of all that the tribe was iffy
and didn’t really want to do it
because we weren’t gonna get anything.
So they offered them a little tiny 1% tax.
Or a 1% royalty tax on top of it
to suffice and that was…
That could have been negotiated
so much better.
We should have got so much more on that
but usually that happens
with those kind of cases.
-Right.
-Somebody lines their pockets. [chuckles]
Then they’re like, “Okay, we’ll sign,
that’s fine, screw everybody else.”
-So where’s the corruption worse?
Do you think at the federal level
in Washington D.C. or on the tribal level
or they’re equally just as terrible?
[chuckles]
-Well, they came from the same place.
The federal government put this little tiny
kind of tribal government system and idea
and they put all the people in charge
who are the ones
that look out for themselves.
-But the unfortunate thing for you guys
is you’re getting it times two
where I get it just once.
-Yeah.
-Yeah, well times two
and if we leave our res
that’s a whole ‘nother story.
There’s still a lot of…
[claps]
…old animosity towards other tribes.
Specifically other tribes towards the Crow.
Because we’re traditional enemies
and they’re like,
“Oh, man.” and they’re always gonna
fight us Crows no matter where we’re at.
-I’ve heard that
when I was with the Blackfeet.
-Yeah.
-And the Flathead…
-Yeah.
-And I’m going to Lakota tomorrow.
They all said that about the Crow.
-Yeah, yeah.
-So you guys are like the bad boys?
-Yeah, everybody wants
to be Crow, you know?
I think that’s what it comes down to.
If you’re not Crow that’s why you’re mad.
-I’m sure that will go over
really well with them.
-Oh yeah, they’ll love that.
[Peter laughing]
But you know, it’s ’cause
they know and that’s why they love it.
-Because you guys, historically,
are some of the best warriors or why?
-Yeah, well I mean just in general.
There’s a lot of pride
every tribe feels for their own
but specifically for the Crow,
we’re super prideful.
We’re so prideful
we’ll even fight each other sometimes.
-That’s your flag, right?
-Yep, that’s the Crow tribal flag.
If you get a picture of it there.
-Oh, wow.
Can we take a left here, is that all right?
-Yeah, we can go check it out.
Here’s a cop, BIA.
Looks like they’re up to something.
-Can I film them or that’s unacceptable?
-Go ahead, film them. I don’t know, man.
They’re supposed to be able
to be filmed, right?
-I don’t know.
-That’s a public right, man.
-Yeah, I don’t know
how it works out here though.
I don’t wanna…
-So check out over here on the left.
This is where
the Tribal building used to be.
-Okay.
-It burnt down.
So kind of shows you
the state of our tribe,
we don’t even have a tribal building.
-But you have a skate park.
-Yeah, and even that’s kind of like…
It’s run down too.
We don’t have people to upkeep stuff.
It’s hard to keep jobs
’cause there’s no funding for things.
-Right.
-You need federal funding for these things
and that’s what I’m saying,
a lot of federal funds either
get misappropriated or they get lost
or they don’t earmark it for things
that are usable to help us as a tribe.
And that’s the trick with federal programs
and all these grants and stuff
that are supposed to help our people.
A lot of them, they’re restricted funds.
They only go to certain things that are…
That they want to see.
-Sure.
-A lot of things that they want to see…
…aren’t things that we need here at home.
-Okay.
-That’s the problem, right?
It’s like someone dictating what goes on
over here who’s never been here.
-So how do people make it out here
if there are no jobs?
They have to go into Billings or something
or if they are working…
But if they’re not working
they’re just gonna…
I mean how does that work?
-Some people don’t work,
they live off the land still.
They just hunt, and fish,
and do all that, and they’ll make ends meet
’cause sometimes they’ll lease the land,
get a little bit of money here
to help with stuff.
-Okay.
-A lot of people bead.
That’s a big industry around here
is beading and making stuff like that.
-Okay.
-A lot of people do competitions,
arrow throwing.
You know, there’s pow wows.
So a lot of people dance
to make money too nowadays.
-Cool, arrow throwing?
-Yeah, there’s a lot of
rodeo people, a lot of horse people.
Arrow throwing’s a Crow thing.
I think some other tribes
are doing it now too
but it used to be a Crow game.
But here’s the Crow Agency School here.
I went to school here when I was a kid.
-How was that experience?
-It was cool, you know?
It’s getting tricky now
because there’s a non-Native
that’s running the program.
We used to try to have it
be Native teachers here
’cause this is where all the Crow kids go.
The boarding school days
was pretty rough on a lot of tribes
and the Crow specifically
was pretty rough too
but during those boarding school days
they got together
and they fought with the federal government
to not send all of our kids away
to a school far away.
So they fought to have a school
actually made on Crow Reservation.
-Okay.
-And that’s how they were able
to keep a lot of their kids close
and so they were able
to go there and camp outside
the outskirts of the school.
So we were kind of unique
as far as a tribe.
We fought for our kids when they were
being taken, and stolen, and stuff
but a lot of people had to leave
to the mountains and stuff
to get away though still.
-The boarding schools,
I studied this stuff a long time ago
but it was really prevalent in the ’20s,
and the ’30s, and the ’40s, right?
-Yeah.
-When did it stop?
ROBIN: I don’t think it’s really stopped,
it’s just changed faces.
JAMES: Yeah, it just changed form.
-It’s just like a regular school
and everything.
Basically a lot of the culture
and everything is really downplayed
and they don’t teach the language
or anything like they used to.
-Mm-hmm.
-It’s kind of dysfunctional.
Real dysfunctional in a lot of ways.
In a lot of the school systems,
there’s a lot of sexual abuse,
you know, stuff like that
on children and stuff in a way.
Teachers, and predators,
and things like that.
-Okay.
-And even now a lot of the women
are being abducted and they vanish.
-Okay, I’m seeing that
all over the country actually.
And near reservations
and highway stops, you know, gas stations.
Like missing persons.
-The whole country is that way.
-So what’s going on with Native?
‘Cause I think
it’s really prevalent with Natives.
Do you know what’s going on with that?
Like girls are getting abducted?
-There’s no law.
I mean you just go in there…
I mean, some people have…
They’ve actually caught people
in a vehicle
and being abducted
and they don’t do anything.
They let ’em go.
-What about their parents though?
Aren’t their parents…
-Their parents complain and everything
but that doesn’t mean anything.
-Yeah.
-Nobody…
-That’s all the tricky stuff.
With the laws here.
-Laws are not enforced.
A non-Indian can come onto the reservation
and commit a federal crime
and get away with it
’cause there’s no jurisdiction.
-What?
-Because there’s no law
that says they can be prosecuted.
-But I would get…
The police officer we just passed, right?
-He can’t do anything.
He can’t arrest you.
-So I can commit a crime here?
He can’t do anything?
-Right.
-He’d have to call
the sheriff or someone else.
Best they’ll do is they’ll come over
and escort you off the res.
That’s the most they’ll do.
And that’s it, you can go right back and…
-Do it again.
-So that’s the policy here, yeah.
-That’s the way it is.
-Is that… That’s truth?
-Yeah.
-Wow.
-That’s why things don’t get fixed.
-That’s why non-Natives
get away with everything here
but the Tribal people, we…
-But why isn’t your government here
doing something about that?
-They’re too busy lining their pockets
with programs and money
wherever they can steal.
-Okay.
So if you had a strong governance
then that wouldn’t be happening.
They’d put their foot down.
-If we had a traditional government.
Not a United States government governing.
They need their own tribal jurisdiction.
-We need our cultural ways back.
We had ways of enforcing everybody
back in the day.
We used to have all the warriors,
the badass warriors, the ones…
They were the ones
that would enforce things.
They were the ones
that would keep people in line
because no one messed with them.
They were the ones on top.
-Yeah.
-And we don’t have that anymore.
The Tribal government,
you can only do so much
and I think, ultimately, we have to
learn how to do things on our own.
How to live on our own.
How to help ourselves and basically
come back to helping each other out again.
That’s what we’re missing.
-You had really good parenting
growing up, yeah?
Fair to say?
-Yeah, yeah, I had
a really good mom and dad.
They’re still together, you know?
I guess I was one of the lucky ones.
Not a lot of people had that.
-That’s pretty rare
to have that family unity?
-I think so, yeah.
I mean nowadays it’s kinda rough.
A lot of people kind of lose their parents
sometimes to different things.
Even to Army, to wars, drugs,
different things like that.
Some people just don’t work
and they hang out, you know?
-How is crime out here?
Is this at all edgy at night or anything,
or not really?
-It’s starting to get a little sketchy now.
-Okay.
You know, there’s a lot of meth here now.
That’s the big thing,
there’s a lot of meth people.
It’s unfortunate, a lot of the times
they’re kind of hurting the elderly now.
‘Cause they’re easy targets.
It’s really unfortunate,
sometimes their own grandparents.
It’s really messed up.
They’ll steal from them, they’ll beat them,
steal their trucks, and cars, and stuff.
Man, that drug is just pretty damn sucky.
-And that’s…
There’s more meth than Fentanyl?
-I mean Fentanyl just now got here.
I mean it’s…
-And that’s 10 X’s.
-It’s coming from the same source though,
the meth source.
There’s a lot of things
that go on on a lot of reservations
and it’s hitting every res now,
all these things.
-You’re graduating soon,
you have all sorts of opportunities.
-Yeah.
-But you’re saying you want to come back…
…to the reservation.
-Definitely.
I never went to go to school
to leave my people or leave my res.
-Okay.
-That’s why I chose
Montana State University.
‘Cause it’s here in Montana,
and that’s still Crow country.
-Right.
-I never really left home.
-Right.
-So for me, I wanna help my people
’cause I grew up here.
All my best friends are from this area too.
I know a lot of my family and everybody.
They’re still around here.
So who would I be if I just headed out
somewhere and forgot about everybody?
-Right.
-That’s not how we were raised.
-Do a lot of Natives do that
that go off to University?
Do they just leave, they never come back?
Well, it’s a bit of a process.
They don’t do that intentionally.
Mostly they’ll come back home
to try to help.
‘Cause we get educated, we come back.
-Okay.
-That was the whole reason
for us to get our education
was to come back and help our people
just like Plenty Coups said,
he’s one of our chiefs.
He said, “With education
you are the white man’s equal…”
“…and without it you are his victim.”
-Interesting.
-So that’s a big thing with us…
…is education but unfortunately
the ones that go and get educated,
we come back home,
we try to help, we sort of get outcasted.
Because we know too much now.
We’re challenging the status quo.
-There’s envy, right?
-Yeah, well, [sighs]
I don’t know if it’s envy, it’s more of
the people that are in power
and the people,
we call them the 80 hour club.
There’s a lot of people that do 80 hours
and you never see them at work.
But they get their 80 hours in every week.
A lot of people come in with
really big ideas, they have education,
they figured out what they’re gonna do.
-Sure.
-They come in with a plan and then
all the people that are comfortable…
Goes back to comfortability.
They’re the ones that
they don’t want to change anything
because they have a nice check every day.
It really comes down to
we need to get back to work.
We need people to get back to work
and stop being lazy
and a lot of us,
we need to change these systems
but that’s hard for people.
It’s gonna be… It’s like growing pains.
-Yeah.
-It’s a whole flip, it has to just change.
It can’t just change overnight
but it has to be pretty intense too
for anybody for anybody to even care.
For things to change in a good way
sometimes you have to just rip it off
and start new.
-So where do these people
that are lining their pockets live?
Are they living in nice houses?
Are they on the reservation?
Are they… What’s their story?
-You know, some of them
live off-res now too.
Really nice places,
really nice little ranches
but where’s all the work getting done?
Who’s doing the work?
Who’s helping our people?
That’s what it comes down to.
-Sure.
-Where’s our leaders?
Where’s our leaders at?
Where’s the people that give a damn?
-So why aren’t these people voted out?
Isn’t there a way to vote them out
or they all sort of spoil
once they get into those positions?
-Well they got the biggest families.
Pretty easy to vote for your family
if they’re gonna help you out.
-Sure.
-Or at least even the thought
of helping you out.
-Right.
-That’s enough for anybody to vote.
It’s just like any politics, you know,
it’s a dirty game.
To me it feels like you put this
foreign concept in between all these people
and then they start fighting over it.
Well you’re never gonna get any progress.
-Yeah.
-That’s never meant or designed to work.
Maybe it was placed there for us
to continue fighting over the scraps.
You know, whatever’s left.
-Yeah.
-Unfortunately that’s what
it’s come down to.
That’s how it feels,
it feels like we’re fighting for scraps
and little by little,
it seems like our tribe,
we’re losing more and more
every single year.
Every new chairman, they’re signing off
more parts of our mountain.
They’re giving away more of our rights.
Just recently they signed away
our hunting rights.
-What do you mean?
-Well, they signed into law that…
…non-Tribal people can come
onto our reservation and hunt now
and by doing that they have to
start regulating us as individuals.
Which that’s a colonial concept.
Is regulating by an agency.
To regulate how much food
we can acquire for ourselves.
-So they’re making money
off selling permits to outsiders?
-Yeah, that’s what they’re doing.
-And then it screws up your own hunting
here and you’re now regulated?
-Well like I said before,
a lot of people can barely afford food.
They don’t have jobs, they can barely
afford their house, their electricity.
-Right.
-So a lot of people are…
Unfortunately we have to eat
deer, elk, all these things
and it’s already strained.
Our food systems here are already strained.
We’re living in a food desert.
There’s no food locally.
The grocery store here in town
burned down couple years ago.
The only place is IGA
in Hardin or Lodge Grass.
Super expensive foods.
-The closest grocery store is Hardin,
where we started?
-Yeah, where we started.
-There’s nothing out here?
-12 miles away, yeah.
The grocery store here in town burned down
due to arson because of
a bunch of miscreants.
There’s a lot of people just doing
a lot of crazy things, you know?
-This is where you grew up?
-Well, this is my aunt’s house…
…and that was my house there,
over here on this next one.
Right across the road here,
you can look over across the road.
This is the Buddy Burger right there.
You see that?
-Yeah.
-Best burgers in town.
If you’re ever in Crow Agency,
go hit up Buddy Burgers.
Uppsalaga Trading Post.
-Uppsalaga?
-Yeah, that’s what we call ourselves,
“Children of the large big bird.”
-So you guys don’t call yourself Crow?
-That’s like the government version name.
Just like Navajo,
they’re not called Navajos.
They’re like Denan,
they have all different tribes.
We all have our own names for ourselves
we call ourselves Apsaalooke
or Beelooke, that’s kind of
another way we say it too.
-Okay, so you do have
one place to get food.
-Yeah, this is one place
to get food but it’s not the…
-It’s the mini-mart style.
-Yeah, just like a mini-mart kind of style.
You know, like chips,
candies, gum, burritos.
This is kind of a trading post kind of
slash too, you know, with the store.
So a lot of people come
and pawn stuff here too
but this owned by a non-Tribal member.
Everything’s owned by non-Tribal members,
any of the economy here.
It’s really interesting
but I mean this guy,
he’s been here for the community.
In the community for a long time.
It’s funny because
you see this little grass here?
He used to pay us
to come pick up trash here,
and mow the lawn, and stuff, and we’d get
like a dollar or two for a bag of trash.
-Okay.
He’d have us pick up
around the thing here, the park.
-Is he pretty well
accepted in the community?
-Yeah, he is now, I mean, like,
he’s one of the only places
to come get food, right?
So he’s always been here
and he’s talked with the individuals.
With the people here
and done a lot of good stuff too I guess.
He’s actually married up with a Crow now.
[laughs]
So if you stay here long enough
you’ll get married up with a Crow.
So watch out, Peter.
This is the fair grounds,
this is where we have Crow Fair.
It’s a gathering we have
the third week in August.
The biggest teepee capital of the world
’cause everybody that’s Crow,
we come here and we set up all our teepees,
and man, there’s teepees
all across this whole valley.
It’s really cool, and we have a pow wow,
we have rodeos, we have parades.
Us Crows, we still have
a lot of our culture and things we do.
So it’s like a hundred years old
gathering celebration
but even before that, different bands
of the Crow would come together
and back then it was pretty cool, you know?
They used to have
a lot of things they don’t do now
like the rodeos that people have now.
Before rodeos they used to have
all the horses that were green.
Basically they’re bucking,
and they’re wild, and they’re just caught.
They’d have this huge corral
and all the Crow men,
they’d all get in there,
and stand in there,
and they’d release all those horses,
and the trick was you’d have to
rope one and jump on one,
and you’d have to ride it to stand still.
And that was the whole name of the game,
and if you did that you could…
You won and basically they’d be like,
“Whoa man, that’s guy’s awesome.”
but a lot of people died in this too
because you’d get hit,
you’d could get trampled on,
it was a dangerous time,
it was a dangerous sport
but these are the kind of things
that Natives did though.
Specifically Crows, everything we did
was to be ready for battle.
To be ready for war, all these things.
So our games were war games,
that’s everything we did.
Those are called outfits or regalia.
-And that’s all beadwork?
ROBIN: A lot of it is beadwork.
Elk teeth is what women would wear
because their husband is a good hunter…
…and a good provider.
JAMES: Yeah.
So that’s what this spot looks like
when we have it all camped out.
We have our teepees up.
ROBIN: And then, like, the parade.
PETER: Oh, wow.
JAMES: Yeah, so see that’s the stuff
you’d probably want to really see.
PETER: That would be amazing.
JAMES: The parade is really…
…the most unique
out of any tribe actually.
A lot of us will come back for this,
we’ll plan for this.
Not all the Crows are here in Crow country.
A lot of us live
all over the world, you know?
-All over the world?
-Yeah, there’s a saying,
“In every community, every country,
everywhere you go, you’ll find a Crow.”
There’s a lot of reasons why they say that.
Some say ’cause we’re very fertile.
[Peter chuckles]
-We’re very viral as men, you know?
And there’s a lot of men
that went into the military.
So that’s why
there’s Crows everywhere they say.
But just in general, Crows,
we’re not afraid
to move around and go places.
So this is where we used to come and swim,
this is the watering hole.
This is where everybody comes
and waters their horses.
It’s really nice and peaceful for me
’cause I come back
and it reminds me of my childhood.
I didn’t have all these stresses
and all these things nowadays
that we put ourselves against
and it was just a good time then, you know?
Times are rough all over the place
but if we have somewhere to go
and recreate,
somewhere to go
and still just be humans, you know?
And just exist.
I think that’s what
we’re missing in the world.
Too many cities.
That’s my opinion.
[Peter chuckling]
Water’s healing too.
You know, it connects
every single one of us in the entire world.
I got some old dry meat.
One thing we do is we feed the river
and you know…
Basically we’re feeding the spirits,
and the animals, and the water too.
Any time my mom would come swimming,
my mom would tell us,
“Make sure you bring some meat
and feed the river.”
‘Cause we’d have to do that before we swim.
‘Cause there was snapping turtles here
and there’s other things
and there’s also beings in the river
and stuff too, spirits and stuff.
So you want them to, you know,
basically watch out for you
and not to bother you while you’re here.
You’re just swimming in a good way
And basically that we respect the area here
and we’re feeding them
to show them that we respect them
and so that they won’t eat us.
[chuckles] Just kidding.
[whispering prayer]
[splash]
Aho, aho.
-So before you threw the meat,
what did you say?
Like a prayer or…
-Little bit, yeah, just a prayer.
You know, just kind
of asking for blessings and stuff,
and safe travel for all of us.
-So that you get home too, safely.
-Thank you.
‘Cause like I said,
the water connects us all.
So if you pray to the water,
it covers everywhere.
We can’t really separate ourselves
from these things, you know?
We’re all connected.
Everything has a spirit,
everything has a being,
even the foods we eat.
That’s why we pray to them.
That’s why we honor them with tobacco
or say a prayer when we take a life.
You know, ’cause we’re
honoring that animal and the spirit.
-For giving its life for us to eat.
-But some people have lost their ways
with nature with this stuff unfortunately.
-Yeah, yeah, a lot of people
don’t really care about the nature anymore.
They’re kind of…
I don’t know, they’re just lost
and no respect anymore for some things.
It’s just upbringings.
A lot of us care about stuff still
and want to fight
for our community, our area.
We pick up trash when we can
but you can’t pick up everything.
‘Cause someone will go
and throw it right when you pick it up.
Throw another piece of trash down.
-Right.
within a certain radius is the remedy.
JAMES: The antidote.
-Within a certain radius.
PETER: Interesting.
So you just have to know what to look for?
-Yeah.
-So if you got bit by a rattlesnake
right here, what would you do?
-Pray.
[all laughing]
JAMES: These are choke cherries.
Usually they are
a little big bigger and plump,
they look nice and plump, and juicy
but these are dried up,
they’re getting ready to hibernate
for the winter and stuff.
Most people are gonna look at this and,
“Oh man, those are done.”
“Those are bad.” right?
-Yeah.
That’s what people think,
well that’s wrong.
So my grandma, my (Kala),
what she taught us about things…
And this is, like…
This is the Indigenous way, you know?
These are dehydrated berries.
So we can collect all these right now,
put them in a bag, and they won’t mold.
They’re ready to go.
They’re dried already.
So we can store these.
You throw these in water, it rehydrates
and then you have berry soup.
We call it (Hulapia).
It’s kind of a delicacy,
you save all your berries up for the year
and then you make them at certain times.
So you look at all these companies,
these big food companies.
They’re using all kinds of energy
just to dry stuff.
These are dried already.
Naturally, sustainably by the sun.
So how do we get people
to come and collect all of these?
Maybe that’s an industry itself is having
our people re-collect these old ways.
Reconnecting with them.
Saying, “Hello.”,
these are our relatives, you know?
“Hi.” You know,
like we’re coming back to them.
Reintroducing ourselves to our food systems
because they are our relatives
and I think that’s a big thing.
Is reconnecting people with that
and maybe that’s a way we do it.
Is we can pay…
We can even pay Tribal people
to come and collect our berries
and use that as a Crow produce.
PETER: This is an interesting shot.
You have the casino
right next to the church.
JAMES: Oh yeah, that’s interesting.
That’s actually just a sign for the casino.
-Oh, it’s a sign, okay.
-Yeah, but I don’t know.
It’s interesting, a lot people,
their casinos are their new church.
[both chuckling]
-Are many people going to church out here?
-There is a lot of people
that are real churchy people now.
That’s a product of the colonialization
and the Christianity coming here,
and really kind of infiltrating our tribe,
and our people, and stuff.
There’s a lot of good stuff
that comes with it too
but there was a lot of bad that happened.
So there’s a lot of controversy
still with Natives.
It’s hard for a lot of Natives to follow
all of this religions and different things.
‘Cause we’ve had our own ways.
I’m not against it.
-Yeah.
-But it’s just kind of one of those things.
Like, they’re definitely against us.
Some of them. [laughs]
We’re just kind of weird.
But here’s the old casino.
And you know, it’s just one of those things
that we had here
that just failed
because of people lining their pockets.
I actually used to work
in the cafeteria in there.
They have a little kitchen here
and a cafeteria and I worked here.
Just cooked before I went back to school.
And my wife, Angela,
worked the graveyard shift, security jobs.
-But it was a job out here, yeah?
-Yeah, it was a job.
Like I said, all the money that was made
was getting skimmed off the top
and they didn’t invest money back in.
So people stopped working
’cause they couldn’t pay for people.
So this was kind of one of those things
that was supposed to be guaranteed for us
from all the things that
the federal government took from us.
“We’ll give you healthcare,
we’ll give you your own system.”
This was the Indian Health Service.
They gave us money to kind of
put these things together and stuff
but there’s still a lot of
bureaucracy in all that.
They do their best
but there’s not a lot of…
You know, a lot of doctors
are kind fresh and green.
They’re not the awesome doctors
that go to all these real nice places.
A lot of these doctors
come here to do some of their…
I can’t remember what that’s called.
-Residency?
-Yeah, their residency.
They come and do their residency here.
So the federal government
will give the doctors money
to come and work at these IHS’s.
And a lot of them are just…
They’re not the greatest students,
some of them. [chuckles]
This is the Crow Tribal gas station.
That’s Curly right there.
That beautiful man right in the middle.
His name’s Curly,
he’s one of the Crow scouts
that was around with Custer.
-Right.
-I think he was like 13 years old, maybe 12
when he was riding around
with the other scouts and Custer.
So he saw that battle, he was only a kid.
He was a part of it.
-So a lot of the regional tribes
give you guys hard time
for your relationship with Custer, right?
-Yeah, yeah, they do.
That’s the biggest thing
that other tribes despise the Crow for.
Because they think
we sided with the white man.
“Oh man, you guys are white man lovers.”
and this and that.
It’s real funny, we’ve heard ’em all
but you know,
what really happened during that time was
all these tribes were coming
and fighting us.
They were coveting our land.
They wanted our land.
So they kept trying to come and kill us.
-Who were the tribes at that time, Lakota?
-Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Blackfoot.
Every single surrounding tribe.
-From all angles they’re coming in?
-Every angle was coming
and trying to crush the Crow.
So that’s why
we were so intense and hardcore.
‘Cause we had to be,
we were so small of a tribe.
So we would fight back on every angle
and we had warriors that would just go
and patrol the entire reservation.
It wasn’t a reservation then but they’d
go and patrol our entire Crow lands.
If they saw anyone,
they would go and fight them.
So that was kind of why a lot of…
A lot of tribes didn’t really
come to this land
unless they were coming to fight.
Because they knew they’d fight
if they came to these lands every time.
That’s what the Crow were,
we never backed down.
-But your alliance with the white man was,
“Enemy of my enemy is my friend.”?
-Yeah yeah,
that’s actually where that term came from.
-Is it?
-Part of it, I don’t know, like…
maybe. [chuckles]
But that’s the first time I heard it
in a good context was that way.
Because all these tribes were coming,
trying to steal our land,
and then now the white man
was coming to try to take our land too.
And our chief at the time,
he saw a vision,
and his vision was these white men.
And people were coming,
and they were coming forever and ever.
And they never stopped.
There was no end to them.
So rather than fight this huge wave,
basically he was showing a way
that we can survive here.
That we can retain our land
because you’ll notice
that every single other tribe in America
was pushed away from their original lands.
The reservations they are now on
isn’t their original areas usually.
So they were relocated.
Crows were one of the only tribes
that weren’t relocated.
We fought for our land.
Whether it was fighting with the whites
or fighting with this other side
and we didn’t really fight with the whites.
We just showed ’em where to go.
And we basically pretty much set them up.
We knew those Indians were there.
We knew the Lakotas and all,
they were there
but we basically just sent him on his way
and they told him too.
There’s stories of all this happening.
They told Custer,
“You go down there, you’re gonna die.”
and he was arrogant.
He’s like, “I’m gonna go down there,
we’re gonna kill them all.”
“‘We’re gonna beat ’em all.” and that was
the greatest Indian victory of any…
That was the biggest battle
lost by the US government.
-Yeah.
-Actually it was that one.
So basically we just
facilitated this war to happen.
Of a fighting of
our enemies fighting themselves
and we just sat back and watched,
and this land that’s Crow land,
we’re still here because of this.
Because of this move.
Because of this decision.
And it was a vision,
we didn’t just do it willy nilly.
“Oh we’re gonna fight with these guys
instead and go against our Natives.”
No, we were shown a way
to protect ourselves, to save ourselves,
to save our country here.
We’re one of the only tribes in America
that was never conquered.
Did you realize that?
-I didn’t know that.
-Every other tribe has signed a treaty…
…as a conquered tribe.
We’re one of the only tribes that signed
a treaty as a friend to the government.
-Oh.
-So we’re a very unique tribe.
We have certain rights
that other tribes don’t
because of this relationship we had
with the federal government.
See, so that was where
the chess play happened.
That was where the moves happened
’cause we were playing the long game.
Everybody just wanted to fight
and kill all these white people
but we knew they were going nowhere.
They were gonna be here in excess.
And part of that vision, he even saw cows.
They were coming out,
and spilling out, and never stopped.
And so that’s the cows that we have
everywhere in Native lands.
These cows overrun it now, cattle.
♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪
PETER: So this is one of your
go to places up here?
-Yeah, it’s a really beautiful place.
Nice place to hunt, and just go, and be.
-Your wife goes in these hills
for four days?
-Well she’s… Well, yeah
I put up way back there some place.
-Okay.
-No food, no water?
-No, no, nothing.
It’s just you and the spirits, you know?
You see a lot of things.
Where I put her,
there’s mountain lions and stuff like that.
They’re actually wild but they’re tame
the closer they get to you,
the tamer they are.
And so sometimes they
come right up you and everything
and then they leave.
-So does she sleep in any teepee, or tent,
or anything, or just out in the open?
-No, you kind of make
an alter and everything,
and you’re just kind of like
on the grass there.
Usually you have a buffalo robe
or something you can sit on.
-Wow.
-You have a pipe that they use, you know?
The way I did it…
You know, kind of like, um…
They take you up on a horse
and everything, and then they…
You know, you have…
It’s pretty intricate how
they set everything up and everything.
And then you make little medicine bundles.
You make 405 ’cause there’s…
We work with 405 different spirits.
Then you have a food offering
you have for the spirits.
You stay there, and you pray,
and everything.
But there’s a lot to it.
-What’s in the pipe?
-Well, they call it Kinnikinnick.
Which is…
Well actually it kind of grows around here.
I don’t know if there’s any around here
but it’s a red willow.
-Okay.
-So different people have different things.
But basically a red willow.
Anyways, non-hallucinogenic
but it’s just a smoke, you know?
An old, old, smoke.
What I used in one of mine,
I used what they call a dream smoke.
Meaning you have dreams
and stuff, you know?
And then the spirits come,
and they talk to you, and stuff.
They tell you things,
whatever reason you’re there.
Usually when you’re young,
13 years old or so,
you get to a point in your life to where
you’re defiant and things.
You have a lot of energy.
-Right.
-Things like that, you know?
They don’t listen
to their parents and stuff.
Well usually that’s when
they go up on the hill
and then what they say, they seek a vision.
In other words, for their whole life
they have a vision
on who they are, what they are,
what their purpose in this life is
and everything.
A lot of people don’t do that,
they’re just all lost and everything.
-Okay.
-And so to find yourself
in this world and spirit world
they go on what they call
a vision, you know?
And the spirits kind of
guide you all through your life
and usually one, two,
or many spirits will come to you,
and they will help you, and guide you
and tell you things, and stuff.
You know, like I had a vision
a long time ago
and one person was lost.
Nobody knew where they were
and they couldn’t find them.
And they could be any place, you know?
And so they asked me to find them.
And I was the sheriff so I was,
“Well, you know, I’ll see what I can do.”
So I went and everything,
and I did a few things, and stuff,
and then like a…
I don’t know what you call it.
A dirt devil.
A real tall…
It was really… was just skinny,
and it was white, and it went way up,
and it kind of went all over the place,
and all the way down in the valley.
So basically it traced their steps,
and then it stopped,
and then it just disappeared,
and so that’s where he’s at.
And that’s where they went,
and that’s where they found him.
But he was dead, you know?
JAMES: A non-Native company
siphoning all the lands oil
away from our reservation. [chuckles]
They get these little tiny spots
where they dig in and they drill in
and then now these little spots,
they siphon all the gas and oil
out of our reservation
and we don’t see any of it.
They’re able to do that because we don’t
go around for these leases.
We don’t look for oil ’cause we’re not
trying to ravage our lands, you know?
We like to leave it the way it is.
We’re not oil people,
we don’t extract things.
‘Cause it stinks, you know?
And all these things leak too, you know?
All these pipelines leak.
It’s a guarantee,
it’s just a matter of when.
So here’s the IGA.
This is the only place for food here.
PETER: Now we’re way deep
into the Crow Reservation at this point?
-Yeah, yeah, so this is Lodge Grass.
The Valley of the Chiefs, (Oshpajikcha).
Has to be all guarded up.
A lot of miscreants.
Hey, what’s up man, how you been?
MAN: How you been?
-Good. Good to see you.
It’s a basic grocery store,
has all the needs you need and stuff.
But let’s go look at some prices.
-Okay.
-Check out some prices.
Meat’s a big thing, we eat a lot of meat.
so you can imagine
being the biggest seller
they’re gonna price it up.
Look at that, seven bucks for sausages,
there’s only a couple there.
This is the selection of meat though.
There’s hardly any meat
as you can see, right?
-Right.
PETER: Bologna, I don’t know the price
of this stuff but $5.65.
-Bologna, yeah it’s pretty big
but, like, four bucks for bologna?
-It’s usually a couple bucks
at other places.
-But all processed stuff.
-All super processed.
-But you got some fruit over here.
-Yeah, there’s fruit but check out
the prices, five bucks for cantaloupe.
PETER: Bananas, 80 cents each,
that’s pricey.
JAMES: Eight bucks for a gallon of milk.
-Nine bucks, no way.
-Yeah.
I mean if they don’t get you on one thing,
they get you on the thing it goes with.
The cereal’s not expensive,
they get you on the milk.
Talking about a food desert, you know?
Kind of how we’re…
This is the only pace
to get food right now, right?
-Yep.
-There’s a food desert.
How much was your chips,
you know what I mean?
It’s super expensive, right?
-Like, $4.00 for a bag of chips.
-Yeah.
They have the best salsa here though.
[chuckles]
That’s one good thing.
One of our legislatures, Lloyd Hogan,
him and his wife set up a program.
They help with elders
getting meat, and food, and stuff.
So they’ll pay hunters
and pay their gas, and help them and stuff.
So they can go and hunt.
Gather meat and stuff
for the community and the elderly.
So yeah, he does that a lot too.
PETER: Oh, you do that?
-Yeah.
He’s a hunter.
He’s a big hunter here too.
PETER: That’s great.
PETER: Look at this beauty.
[door closes]
For as far as the eye can see.
So peaceful out here.
JAMES: Yeah, it is, man.
That’s why I love
coming out here, you know?
You get away from
the hustle and bustle of the city
and one can just come out here on the hill,
and sit there,
and watch the animals for hours.
You know, it’s beautiful.
It’s a way to reconnect.
PETER: Okay, so what do you got?
This is the project,
the business you’re working on.
-Yeah, yeah, so…
-And I have a good hint of what it is…
…but I’m gonna let you explain.
-Okay, so the thing that I wanted to do
is bringing back Native foods.
You know, Native nutrition.
Everything back in the day
was highly nutritious.
Food used to be medicine
but we don’t see it that way anymore.
We only eat things that are sugary,
that are…
You know, that taste good.
I mean, yeah, things should taste good
but it doesn’t have to kill you.
Natives understood metabolism
back in the day.
What we needed to survive
even through the winters.
A lot of things were stored and dried.
Here is a product
that’s similar to a Native product.
[paper unwrapping]
Check this out, this is a fruit leather.
You know, and fruit leather,
it’s out there
everybody knows about fruit leather.
-It’s like a Fruit Roll-Up.
-Kind of like a Fruit Roll-Up.
Essentially, Natives back in the day,
we always dried our fruit.
A lot of times they would crush up berries.
They’d grind ’em up even with the seeds
and we’d grind ’em up
and make ’em into patties.
Let them dry in the sun
and so fruit leather
is actually a Native product.
It’s actually a Native idea
that the big fruit companies out there
are pushing and so…
Do you want some?
-Very nice.
I brought a couple for…
You can bring some to your wife.
-So James, what’s in this?
-Oh, so this one has black currents,
that’s a Native berry.
Native to this area.
It’s pretty high in antioxidants.
There’s a little bitterness to it.
-Yeah.
That’s the medicine.
That’s the healthy part.
That’s the part we need.
That’s the antioxidants.
That’s the stuff that’s good for your body.
It’s the tannins and things like that.
There’s no added sugars in here
except for honey.
‘Cause honey is a better…
It’s a better product for Natives.
Sugar is detrimental to our health.
So honey is definitely a better source.
You need apples.
Apples provide the pectin
to kind of make it like leathery.
-Okay.
-Sort of that nice texture that you like.
And then apples were
an Indigenous ingredient too.
They’re just domesticated now
and people grow them in orchards
and things like that.
But they were all domesticated
from an Indigenous source.
You look at choke cherries,
it’s a pretty big trade here in Montana.
Huckleberries is the biggest trade,
berry trade here in Montana.
And it’s all fueled by non-Natives.
All these people would buy these lands up
with all the berries.
They’d land lock tribes
out of their own resources
and now they sell all that back to Natives.
I want to hire my own people.
I want to hire other Tribal people
to go and collect, and harvest
these traditional resources.
So that we can sell them traditionally
and help our own people,
other tribes including, to be successful,
to have their own economy,
their own businesses.
But the biggest thing about this is
it’s not about the money.
It’s about providing nutrition
for the people, for the kids.
Letting them have something
available here for them to eat.
But we also have to make it palatable.
If we sell something here, we have to
show them that it’s tasty too, you know?
-That works, it is, it’s very tasty.
-So this actually has protein in it.
Which is unique to products of this type.
Like a fruit leather, most people aren’t
putting proteins and stuff in fruit leather
because they don’t know.
-What protein’s in there?
-There’s a lentil protein actually.
So this is kind of, you know,
we’re taking things that are modern
you know, there’s modern ingredients
like lentils, chickpeas,
these things have really good protein.
-Mm-hmm.
-Basically we can provide a vegan product.
The way Natives made stuff,
we put a protein,
we put a fat, and we put berries.
And that’s called pemmican.
That’s one type of food
that we used to eat
and a lot of non-Natives
are actually making pemmican out there
and selling it as pemmican
but that’s a Native product.
There’s one tribe doing that, Tanka Bars.
But they got kind of beat out
by this company.
I don’t know who the company is but
they have Epic Bars is what they’re called.
-Yeah.
-They just flooded the market
with a pemmican product
and successfully beat out
a Tribal company
who was making that product.
See, so that’s going on in the world.
-Are these for sale yet
or they’re prototypes?
-Not for sale yet,
these are the prototypes.
Right now I’m actually
looking to developing a package
and there’s the whole
branding thing, you know?
I have a guy, he’s a marketer,
he’s a marketing guru,
went to school for that,
has a masters in that.
-Okay.
-He’s also a Crow, he’s part of our team.
My wife is designing a package
right now as we speak.
She might be drawing it right now.
[Peter chuckling]
So we’re gonna design it, we’re gonna
come out with a Native food company.
I think we’re shooting for
six months to a year.
We should have some operation
up and running.
PETER: So it goes all the way
almost to the sun?
The reservation?
-Yeah, yeah.
You see that line up in the sky there?
-Yeah.
-That’s the Bighorn Mountains,
that’s our mountains.
-Okay, and then it goes pretty much
the horizon line here?
-Yeah, yeah, pretty much the horizon there.
That’s all the way, kind of like there’s
a line that goes towards Billings.
PETER: Robin, thank you.
Thanks for your insight.
And James…
Appreciate it.
-Yeah, no problem.
[hands slap]
-That was awesome.
-It was good to show you around.
-Without you, there’s no way…
…I’d be able to get into this,
have the access or the local knowledge.
Which is key, so appreciate it.
-Mm-hmm.
-Cool.
-It’s a whole world.
ROBIN: Really pretty out here isn’t it?
-Oh, it’s amazing, yeah.
I absolutely love it.
It’s a whole ‘nother world in this country
that most people have no clue about.
-Mm-hmm.
-At least I didn’t.
Until about three days ago, I started.
So thanks for bringing us in, guys.
Appreciate it.
-Thanks for coming, yeah.
Welcome.

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