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CROW AGENCY — A dozen tribal legislators and three tribal judges were sworn in Monday during a ceremony that honored the Crow Nation’s modern government with traditional drumming and the tribe’s native tongue.

“We start fresh again,” said Manuel Covers Up Sr., who was elected to a second four-year term on the Crow Legislature.

The tribe’s legislative body was established in 2001 and is made up of 18 representatives who meet four times a year.

The Crow Tribe has about 13,000 enrolled members, 70 percent of whom live on a 2.2 million acre reservation southeast of Billings.

Three of the legislators who were sworn in Monday were elected to second terms and one, Vincent Crooked Arm, was elected to a third term.

They and the eight new representatives took their oaths after the Black Whistle Drum Group performed traditional songs honoring the Crow flag and Crow warriors and a keynote speaker addressed the crowd for almost 20 minutes in the Crow language.

In a significantly shorter version of the speech spoken in English, Gordon Real Bird Sr. said that unemployment hovers around 65 percent on the reservation and 50 percent of Crow teens drop out of high school.

The tribe must focus on creating opportunities for its members to ensure that it has a future, Real Bird said.

With less than a decade under its belt, the tribal Legislature is still maturing, said Bill Old Crow, the entity’s finance officer.

“It’s slowly changing,” Old Crow said. “Growing pains, I guess you’d call it.”

The Legislature and a constitution that was also adopted in 2001 replaced a council and governing documents from 1948. Some tribal members are still adjusting to the change.

“Oftentimes, growth can be difficult, but oftentimes growth can be great,” said Leroy Not Afraid, a Big Horn County justice of the peace who emceed the inauguration ceremony.

Some legislators wore traditional war bonnets and buckskin pants and vests for the ceremony. Others wore jeans, blazers and cowboy hats.

One woman, Victoria Jeannie Pretty Paint, was in the legislative group, but all three judges who were sworn in were women.

Contact Diane Cochran at dcochran@billingsgazette.com or 657-1287.

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Fifteen elected officials took oaths of office Monday at the Crow Tribe’s multipurpose building.

Three were judges: Chief Judge Julie Yarlott and Associate Judges Sheila Wilkinson and Jonnie Dreamer-Big Hair.

Four were legislators elected to second or third terms: Rudolph Knute Old Crow Sr., Manuel Covers Up Sr., Vincent Crooked Arm and Marlin Not Afraid.

Eight took office for the first time: Gordon Real Bird Jr., McKinley Tye Backbone, Kenneth Shane, Shawn Backbone, Bryce Hugs, Lawrence DeCrane, Victoria Jeannie Pretty Paint and Hubert Noel Two Leggins.

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