Crow historian tells his story as True West Magazine expert

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Photo by Gary Rood

Alden Big Man Jr. of the Crow Tribe poses with a copy of True West Magazine beside a rug depicting business magnate Warren Buffet on Friday at the Big Horn County News office. That day, Big Man’s story on what he has learned from history was published in the magazine.

Crow tribal historian Dr. Alden Big Man Jr. recently has begun contributing regularly to True West Magazine, a monthly publication with 70,000 paid subscribers. This magazine, its website states, allows readers to “get the no-holds-barred, straight shootin’ facts about the West from our staff of experts and historians.”

In addition to his work as a historian, Big Man also is irrigation projects director for the Crow Tribe’s Water Resources Office.

“[We] all have a story to tell,” he stated in his article, “What History Has Taught Me: Alden Big Man Jr.,” published Friday. “I have done many interviews among native communities. Unfortunately, white visitors who come to reservations usually communicate with the only white guy living on the reservation, rather than approach one of the 14,000 members of the tribe.”

Though Crow Fair makes up only one paragraph of “What History Has Taught Me,” Big Man said he wanted to promote the event, whose 100th anniversary will be celebrated from Aug. 15-20. The Crow people, he continued, are “alive and strong.”

On a national level, he said, “I just want to educate non-Indians that there are western [shows] that include real Indians, like ‘Smoke Signals’…we still maintain that culture and tradition.”

This is not the first time Big Man has written for the magazine. He also did some writing on Crazy Horse – a nineteenth century Lakota war leader – in 2005 and Curly – a nineteenth century Crow scout – in 2002. He also has written a biography on Curly that has yet to be published.

Bob Boze Bell, editor for True West, said he first learned of Big Man from Paul Andrew Hutton, who serves as executive director of the Western History Association. Hutton, a professor at the University of New Mexico, served as a mentor to Big Man, who attended as a student.

Bell wanted to do a piece on “In-din humor” and Hutton recommended the Crow historian as a writer.

Big Man’s eventual entry into Kent Blansett’s article “The Long and Rich History of In-din Humor,” published four weeks ago, told of his love of eating blubber in a small village “just south of the Aleutian Islands.”

“[Blubber] – food of the gods!” he wrote. “Next to the luncheon meat we get from the monthly commods [In-din slang for “commodities”], nothing beats blubber.”

Addressing his work, Bell said “we couldn’t have been happier.”

“I’ve never met him previous to this, so this was the first time,” Bell said. “But it won’t be the last.”

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