WASHINGTON - The Crow Nation loaded up parade horses on Wednesday and headed back to Montana, completing a near 2,000-mile journey that allowed them to see one of their adopted relatives become president of the United States.
"The whole nation is looking for change from the presidency," Cedric Black Eagle said late Tuesday night. "Today was significant as we were riding up Pennsylvania Avenue and passing the president's viewing box. The people reacted on the street. That felt good. I think people were happy to see us in Indian regalia and on horses."
In honor of their new relative, 24 men and 18 women from the Crow Nation traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to march in the inaugural parade for President Barack Obama. They wore their best beaded clothes. And their horses shined, too.
"We come from a horse culture," Black Eagle said. "The way we put that out, it's not show. It's who we are."
On Tuesday, the Crow, in all their beaded splendor, were on their way to the parade by 4:30 a.m. to begin preparing for the late-afternoon ride down Pennsylvania Avenue. The Crow riders and women who rode a float said it was a day they will never forget.
"It's one of the best experiences I've ever had," said Mike Not Afraid, a rancher from the Crow Reservation who was part of the mounted guard.
Black Eagle became a brother to Obama after his parents, Sunny and Mary Black Eagle, adopted Obama in a traditional Crow ceremony last May during a campaign stop.
Scott Russell, executive secretary of the Crow Tribe, said not only is Obama the first minority president, but he is also the first Crow president of the United States.
In Crow tradition, Black Eagle's clan members are also Obama's relatives. The family gave Obama the name "One Who Helps People Throughout the Land." And the Crow felt it was their duty to pay tribute to Obama. The Apsaalooke participation in the parade will never be forgotten.
"It was a great day in the history of all minority people," Russell said. "We were a part of history. We were not only representing the Crow Tribe, but we felt we were representing all Indian nations."
But all that show required an intense investment of time and resources, including making new beaded regalia for the parade.
"It was a grueling experience," said Birdie Real Bird, laughing with relief. "I think all my energy went towards it. I'm exhausted. All this anticipation wore me out. And the driving, following the horses, I was worried about the load. And once we got here, we haven't really slept. We've been going to bed at 3 a.m., traveling and sleeping three hours. I am going to need a lot of rest."
They expect to be back in Montana by Friday night.
She is, however, thankful for her new relative. Obama and she now belong to the same clan, which makes the president her clan son. And as his Big Lodge clan aunt, she said it is now her responsibility to pray for Obama.
And she will pray, she said, for his success.