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    A COMPENDIUM FOR THE DRY GARDEN

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East of Yellowstone lies the Absarokas–Crow Country

East of Yellowstone lies the Absarokas, the Big Horn Basin, and the Big Horns.  To the southeast lie the Wind Rivers.  These were the original lands of the Crow peoples.  This is where I live. Below is a wonderful quote from a Crow Indian chief about 200 years ago.  If you stay here, you are in the Center of the Universe.  At the Center, things happen as they should and you will fare well, he says.  Wow,  two hundred years later and this is my experience too!

Big Horns from the Basin

 

“The Crow Country is a good country. The Great Spirit has put it in exactly the right place; while you are in it you fare well; whenever you go out of it, whichever way you may travel you fare worse.”

“If you go to the south, you have to wander far over great barren plains; the water is warm and bad and you meet with fever and ague. To the north it is cold; the winters are long and bitter and there is no grass; you can not keep horses but must travel with dogs. What is a country without horses?”

“On the Columbia they are poor and dirty, paddle about in canoes and eat fish. Their teeth are worn out; they are always taking fish bones out of their mouths; fish is poor food.”

“To the east they dwell in villages; they live well, but they drink the muddy water of the Missouri – that is bad. A Crow’s dog would not drink such water.”

“About the forks of the Missouri is a fine country; good water, good grass, plenty of buffalo. In summer it is almost as good as the Crow Country, but in winter it is cold; the grass is gone and there is no salt weed for the horses.”

“The Crow Country is in exactly the right place. It has snowy mountains and sunny plains, all kinds of climates and good things for every season.”

“When the summer heat scorches the prairies, you can draw up under the mountains, where the air is sweet and cool, the grass fresh, and the bright streams come tumbling out of the snow banks. There you can hunt the elk, the deer and the antelope when their skins are fit for dressing; there you will find plenty of white bears and mountain sheep.”

Absaroka high country

“In the autumn when your horses are fat and strong from the mountains and pastures, you can go down into the plains and hunt the buffalo, or even trap beaver on the streams.”

“And when winter comes on, you can take shelter in the woody bottoms along the rivers; there you will find buffalo meat for yourselves and cottonwood bark for your horses, or you may winter in the Wind River Valley, where there is salt in abundance.”

“The Crow Country is in exactly the right place. Everything good is to be found there. There is no country like the Crow Country.”

Arapooish, also known as Chief  Rotten Belly around 1830.

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Tipi Rings

I thought I’d do a short post on a few teepee rings I’ve seen.  The other day I was in Cody with some time to kill.  I’d heard there were tipi rings on the north side of the Shoshone river by Trail Creek.  A friend told me the historical wisdom-lore was that many tribes gathered there during the winter months to camp by the hot springs.  Most of those springs are now either extinct, buried under the damn, or on private lands.  In fact, the bulk of the rings, apparently 100’s of them, are on private lands going up the traditional passage of Trail Creek.

Walking along the shores of the Shoshone River (called the Stinking Water River before it was changed due to popular [and probably economic] demand)  you can still occasionally smell sulfur .  The rings are obvious, easy to pick out.  They’re incredibly close together; some even still have fire rings in the center.  Compared to the rings in other places, these looked fairly recent, maybe 150 years old.  Why?  Because the rocks are not very buried.

Cody tipi ring with fire ring in middle

Another view of several rings outside Cody

This is an excerpt from Plain Feather about the death of Crow Chief Sits in the Middle of the Land while Plain Feather was camped outside of Cody:

“About a year after the big battle on the Little Bighorn (1876), a small band of Crows went hunting from the Yellowstone to the Stinking River…The band reached the Stinking River a short distance below where the city of Cody now is located.  Here Chief Sits in the Middle announced that he was going south to a valley where there were still some buffalo left.  The other group decided to follow up the Stinking River to the big mountains where there were plenty of deer and bighorn sheep.

My family was with this latter group.  That evening we made camp at the forks of the river just above the narrow canyon where a dam is now located.  Towards evening we sighted two horseback riders galloping in our direction.  They were messengers from the other group.  They announced that the great chief and his wife suddenly became ill and soon died. They said we were to hasten over there.  It is believed that they died of pneumonia.

Immediately teepees came down and we were soon on our way.  We arrived early the next morning, just in time for the burial.  The bodies, strapped in robes, were taken to the rimrocks of the valley and put into a ledge and then covered up with slabs of rocks.  The burial mourning followed, with men and women wailing.  They recounted the many great things that the chief did for his people for many years.  At that time he was the Chief of All Chiefs, reigning over the two main bands of the Crow Nation.”**

(**Note:  In the late 1960’s, the Chiefs’ remains were relocated from nearby Meeteetsie to the Crow Agency in Montana.)

Now compare those rocks with the rocks in the rings below.  These rings were along the Bighorn River in Bighorn Canyon.  The rings are right beside the main road, which follows the ancient travel route of the Crows.

Another view along Bighorn canyon

Big Horn Canyon rings

Here are some much older rings near the town of Clark.

Clarks fork tipi rings, much older

I spent a few hours walking along the plateau near the mouth of the Clark’s Fork Canyon, an area where tribes traveled for the fall Buffalo hunt.  There are rocks galore there, and although I could pick out some rings, they couldn’t be photographed as they were very obscure and some of it might have even been my vivid imagination.  Most of the rings seemed much smaller, probably no more than 6′ in diameter compared to these larger rings.  But the setting was right–on the table above the river with a wide view of the surroundings.

I love finding these rings.  They spur my imagination and kindle a sleeping spirit.  The very soil emits stories I’m awaiting to hear.