Each year leading up to Crow Fair, there are a dozen Crow princesses selected to represent their geographical regions on the Crow Reservation, but there’s only one Miss Crow Fair, and she’s crowned to be the ambassador for cultural preservation.
The pageant happens each fall, prior to the annual August Crow Fair event.
“Baaxaalia awaxpak ammachit basitchiawaak ammalaauu ii eewashche kook. So, what I said is I like to sit down, and when the older people come and visit, I like to sit with them and listen to what they say, and that’s kind of how I learn my language,” says Miss Crow Fair 2023 Macariah Pine.
Her language is Crow or Apsaalooke, and with the U.S. government’s forced assimilation in the 1800s, and the Homestead Act of 1862, the language all but disappeared.
"There's about 14,000 to 15,000 [Crow people]. About 2,000 speak the Crow language fluently. So, we’re trying to influx everything into our language, tradition, culture, to hold on to what we have left,” says 2023 Crow Fair Pow Wow manager Shawn Backbone.
According to a written history, the Crow Tribe executive branch provided to us for this story, the first Crow Fair in 1904 was actually an event designed to showcase successful assimilation, but astute Apsaalooke knew the world press would report it as a violation of human rights.
Thus, Crow Fair as we know it today was born, showcasing dance competitions and beading, and it began to preserve culture.
“My grandma before she passed away, she was a good beader. They are kind of in different museums now all over the world,” says Pine. “There’s patterns that are called Crow designs and you can tell the difference between a crow design and let's say another tribe.”
Pine’s grandmother Janice Little Light’s cradle board is just one treasure, a commissioned piece you can find at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post in Crow Agency. It features a sparkling Crow color called greasy yellow.
“There are Crow colors too. There’s a color called Crow pink and it's kind of a dark pink,” says Pine.
Macariah learned to bead from her mother and beaded the leggings she wore for the pageant.
“They compete on knowledge of our culture, language and history of Crow Fair,” says 2023 Crow Fair Pageant Coordinator Dy Anna Three Irons.
“The first question they asked me was, who are my clan fathers and mothers? We have a clan system in the Crow Tribe. Your main clan comes from your mother, and then your child clan comes from your father,” says Pine. “So, my clan fathers and mothers would be Big Lodge because I'm a clan child.”
The clan is a second family, a group to turn to for assistance, but this year, the spotlight turns to Macariah Pine, as Miss Crow Fair 2023 assists her people and the world in preserving precious history.
“I like to help other people. It brings me joy,” says Pine.
Crow Fair is always the third week in August and is free for anyone to attend. Organizers expect about 25,000 people to attend from all over the world.
For more information, visit the Crow Fair website.