Custer-Gallatin National Forest Plan

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Custer-Gallatin National Forest Plan

Date: 06/27/2019     State: MT     Issue: Wild Lands     Partners: American Indian Institute, Crow Tribe, Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, Park County Environmental Council, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation


Flights with Crow Tribe members, sportsmen, Park County Environmental Council and press highlighted the spiritual and ecological importance of the Crazy Mountains and the effort to secure protections for the Crazies in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest Plan revision.

For thousands of years, the indigenous people of the Northern Plains have held a profound connection to the Crazy Mountains. The Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation knows this range as Awaxaawippiia, or Ominous Mountains. These mountains stand as one of the most sacred places in the Crow homeland, having provided their communities with knowledge, power and other blessings.

As the U.S. Forest Service considers the future of the Crazies in its revision of the Custer Gallatin National Forest Plan, the Crow Tribe Executive Branch and tribal members are calling on the agency to draft a plan that honors the historical, cultural and spiritual significance that these mountains hold for the Apsaalooke Nation.

One of the most renowned figures in Apsaalooke history, Chief Plenty Coups spent four days in the summer of 1860 fasting and praying in the Crazy Mountains when he was 11 years old. While on Crazy Peak, he had a dream in which he saw bison disappearing into the earth and being replaced by cattle, and of the land being changed forever by a powerful force soon coming to his homeland. An elder later interpreted Plenty Coups' dream as instructing the Apsaalooke people to not make war on the soon-to-be-arriving settlers and to negotiate agreements with them regarding the ownership and use of their homelands. Guided by this prophetic vision, the Apsaalooke people experienced no violent conflicts with the non-Indians who passed through and eventually settled in the Yellowstone Valley.

Although the Crow Tribe lost legal ownership of the Crazies in 1868, the Apsaalooke people continue to turn to them for ceremonial guidance. They go there to fast, pray, and pursue dreams that help renew and strengthen their lives. For their culture to endure and flourish, the Apsaalooke people must be able to fast and pray in ceremonial solitude as they have since time immemorial in this place that defines and embodies their identity.

That's why the Crow Tribe Executive Branch is asking the Forest Service to give the Crazy Mountains the highest level of protection possible in the Custer Gallatin plan revision. That would mean not expanding mechanized and motorized travel in the Crazies and not allowing mining, the building of any new roads, construction of any new energy or utility corridors, or development of any new recreation sites or facilities.

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