Pictured here is the rock for which our ranch was named. Little information was given to us on the history of this rock. However, we were told it may have historical significance. Our desire to find out more led us to the Museum of the Beartooths, located in Columbus, Montana.|
We were greeted with great enthusiasm by the Executive Director of the Museum. She was happy to share her knowledge of the Absarokee area and Stillwater County. This area of Montana is rich with the history of the cowboys and Indians, the travels of Lewis and Clark, ties to General Custer, the Bozeman Trail, a Buffalo Jump and mining, to name just a few. There is so much here we need to learn and see. However, our journey to the Museum was to find out information on "our rock". We were thrilled to hear the rock is possibly a Memorial to the great Crow Indian, Chief Blackfoot.
As recently as 2011, archaeologists discovered the exact location of the Second Crow Agency on Hwy 78, about 1/2 mile from our ranch. The site had been lost in the landscape for over 100 years. The archaeological dig uncovered the physical remains of the lost compound along with many artifacts. Included in the compound was a vast stockade enclosing 8 large buildings, 7 adobe houses and a corral. They pinpointed "Doby Town", a row of 13 adobe buildings used for tribal housing, located under Hwy 78. Just east of Doby Town was the slaughterhouse and horse barn. Butcher Creek, which runs through our property got its name from the slaughterhouse.
The Crow people were relocated to the Second Crow Agency in 1875 from Fort Parker (present day Livingston Mt). The Crow Tribe's first reservation consisted of 35 million acres but as miner and settlers encroached, their land was reduced to 8 million acres. The Agency then moved to the land just south of Absarokee. The Second Crow Agency existed here from 1875 to 1884. Once again the miners moved in and the Agency was moved to its present location, 60 miles south of Billings.
For nine years the Crow Indian Tribe settled here and adjusted to a different way of life. It was a very difficult time for them. Gone were the days of free roaming and buffalo hunting. The buffalo were nearly wiped out by the white men and the tribe was restricted to the land the government set aside for them and encouraged to farm. They also faced disease including measles and scarlet fever. It was a time of transition for the tribe and a significant time in the history of the Crow people.
The second Crow Agency is once again lost in the landscape. When traveling on Hwy 78 just south of Absarokee all you will see is the historical marker. Privately owned fields and homes cover the compound, slaughterhouse, cemetery and Hwy 78 covers Doby Town. Visually there is not much to see but the Historical Marker is a reminder of the land once inhabited by the Crow Tribe.
Now getting back to the Indian Rock....right now the theory seems to be that the rock may have been carved to honor the great Crow Chief Blackfoot after his death. Chief Blackfoot died at the age of 82 in 1877 near Cody, Wyoming while on a hunting trip with his wife. A burial took place in Wyoming and the band of Crows on the hunting expedition with him returned to the reservation. Eventually the exact location of the grave site for Chief Blackfoot became lost. For many years tribal members searched for the exact location of his burial site. It was important to the Crow people for their great Chief's remains to be brought back to the reservation. In my quest to find out more information I found an amazing story and legend on Chief Blackfoot's remains. In August of 1978 a psychic-healer claimed to have visions of Chief Blackfoot. She led tribal members to what they believed were his remains and brought them back to the reservation. I found several different stories and feel this is somewhat of a mystery. I do know he was a highly regarded chief to the Crow people and a great sadness spread over them upon hearing of his death. So....was our rock carved as a Memorial to Chief Blackfoot after the news of his death? Someone who photographed the rock at one time believes there is also a carving of Chief Blackfoot's "spirit animal", either a dog or a coyote. Upon further examination we have not seen the "spirit animal" although it is difficult to exam closely as moss covers a large area of the rock.
Hopefully the mystery of the Indian Rock will come to an end. The Executive Director of the Museum of the Beartooths has scheduled the archaeologist, a tribal historian, and possibly a professor to visit and research the "Indian Rock" on our property. We are both excited and nervous. Our hopes are high that the rock here is of historical value and will be an important Memorial to the Crow people.