CROW AGENCY — In the heart of Crow Agency in the Big Horn Mountains lies a sacred place, a buffalo pasture where the Crow people have hunted for decades. One Crow youth organization trekked up the mountain this weekend, hoping to hunt a buffalo while learning about their heritage.
Several Crow kids in the Ak Bacheeitchiilewioosh Youth Leadership Council trekked on rocky roads through dozens of misty miles to make it to the pasture.
“This area, we take it significantly. Sacred place,” said Noel Two Leggins, the youth leadership council coordinator, on Sunday.
“We’re in the buffalo pasture in the Crow Indian Reservation in the Big Horn Mountains. We call this area Basawaaxaawua, our mountains,” Two Leggins said.
Two Leggins said the Crow people are one of the last tribes that still have buffalo on their homeland.
The herd of about 500 bison was established in the 1940s. (Bison are the technical name for the animals in North America, though many groups use buffalo and bison interchangeably.)
“The reason why we’re here is so the youth don’t forget who they are or where they come from, and a lot of the students have never been there,” said Two Leggins.
The Ak Bacheeitchiilewioosh Youth Leadership Council was established through Little Big Horn College’s extension program. The purpose of the program is to teach the youth about their Crow culture, whether it’s through outings like a buffalo hunt, or by making moccasins.
“I feel like I’m a little closer to what the old timers did,” said Nate Good Luck.
Seventeen-year-old Good Luck’s grandfather taught him how to hunt when he was five. He’s shot two bison in the past and was hoping to get his third on Sunday.
“Once you like walk up to them, see their body, it kind of gives you a reverence almost ‘cuz of how much energy and how much life came out of that being,” Good Luck said.
Low visibility kept the buffalo at bay so the hunt had to be called off Sunday. That meant 17-year-old Vanessa Afraid Of Bear didn’t have to get her hands dirty.
“As Apsáalooké women, we aren’t really supposed to be shooting the guns or actually taking the life, but we do play a big part in processing the meat and taking out all the guts,” said Afraid of Bear.
She feels lucky that she even got to step foot on the sacred land.
“It really shows that, Crows, we survived a lot of things and that we are very resilient and we are able to come back and practice the ways of our ancestors,” Afraid of Bear said.
For Two Leggins, it’s come full circle but his role is now that of teacher.
“As a child I always came here a lot with my grandfather so I feel it’s important. And I don’t know, but sometimes I feel like if I don’t do it, who’s going to do it?” said Two Leggins.