Tradition, pageantry on display as parade celebrates Crow heritage

2014-06-27T13:15:00Z 2014-06-28T23:01:04Z Tradition, pageantry on display as parade celebrates Crow heritageBy MIKE FERGUSON mferguson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

CROW AGENCY — Honor, tradition, pageantry — and dozens of folks dressed head to toe as their ancestors did and riding on horseback — were in plentiful display Friday morning during the Crow Native Days parade along the streets of Crow Agency.

Parade participants tossed spectators enough candy to warrant a dental checkup Monday morning.

Politicians preparing to face the voters in November tossed out cries of “I’d appreciate your vote.” One spectator answered with, “We appreciate your presence.”

“The fun of this parade is seeing all the people, and being seen,” said Hardin resident Gabrielle Lopez, 11, who was riding with her sister, Dallyn, 6, on the hood of a car decorated with colorful blankets and a saddle horn. Gabrielle was wearing beaded Nez Perce items, including leggings and a belt, made about 15 years ago for her mother, Shaleen Old Coyote, when Shaleen was district princess.

As Shaleen prepared to take the wheel of the car on which her daughters would ride, she peered out of a small portion of the windshield that was undecorated. How did she plan to make it the length of the parade route with limited visibility?

“Like everyone else, we’re going to go very slowly,” she said with a smile.

Tradition and honor were values mentioned by several participants as they waited for the 10 o’clock parade start. Sandra Grant of Hardin is a member of the 107th Advisory Council of Elders, which gives advice to tribal members when they ask for it. She said it was “an honor” to ride on a float honoring Vietnam veterans, naming at least four family members who’d served in the U.S. Army.

Atop a horse called Starr, Corky Old Horn called Crow Native Days, which began Tuesday and runs through Sunday, “an opportunity to provide entertainment for the leaders of tomorrow — our young people.”

Two men seeking the same office on the November ballot — the incumbent, U.S. Sen. John Walsh, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican — also talked about honor as they and their mounts waited for the parade to start.

“Being invited to participate is an honor for me,” Walsh said.

“I’m here to honor the Crow Tribe and, especially, veterans,” Daines said, adding, with a grin, “This is Montana!”

Jonesa Other Medicine was on a float with a pair of sisters, Sarayna and Brocade Stops. Together they formed an entry in the Lady Ultimate Warrior Challenge, a contest where one member rides a horse three miles, another paddles a canoe a mile and a third runs five miles. This year’s challenge includes 14 women’s and nine men’s teams.

“We just wanted to show everyone we are participants,” Other Medicine said, dressed like her teammates in neon green T-shirts.

If parade participants weren’t having a good time Friday, it wasn’t the fault of Tom White Clay, whose job it was to help judge the entrants and whose pleasure it was to offer them encouragement.

“Ready, wave, smile,” he shouted more than once, calling on parade participants by name. A candidate for local office was borrowing White Clay’s truck. Another, Ruth Backbone Alden, sat atop a float paying tribute to her, the Big Lodge Clan Matriarch, who’s 93.

“This is a matter of beauty,” White Clay explained as he scanned for participants in the Reservation and Western Hat categories he was there to judge. “This is something we don’t want to lose.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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