Plenty Coups Day of Honor focuses on ‘Sowing the Seeds of Success’

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Photo by Gary Rood

Ellsworth Goes Ahead carries Chief Plenty Coups’ flag Saturday afternoon in Pryor during the 24th annual Day of Honor. Plenty Coups was known both for his valor and desire to cooperate with white settlers to preserve the Crow Tribe.

Parking opportunities were nearly non-existent east of Pryor Saturday as an estimated 400 people arrived for the 24th annual Chief Plenty Coups Day of Honor, whose theme was “Sowing the Seeds of Success.” The Day of Honor took place at Chief Plenty Coups State Park, a national historic landmark that contains the famous Crow leader’s store and log cabin house.

The event was themed after the apple trees originally planted by Chief Plenty Coups himself. Five of the trees stand to this day and are some of the oldest and biggest in Montana at around 120 years old, according to Park Ranger Emily Tyler.

This year, Montana State University’s Heritage Orchard Program took samples from the trees, cloned them and gave 10 back to the park. They were planted in June.

“[Plenty Coups] planted the first ones,” Tyler said, “and we planted the second ones.”

Known for fulfilling the requirements to become a chief many times over, Plenty Coups emphasized the importance of education for his tribe and cooperation with the U.S. government. He became a chief in 1876, the same year as the 7th Cavalry fell in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

“Education is your most powerful weapon,” he said. “With education you are the white man’s equal. Without it, you are his victim.”

Crow Vice Chairman Carlson “Duke” Goes Ahead borrowed this quote for his speech on the event’s “Sowing the Seeds of Success” theme, where he addressed Plenty Coups’ vision quest. In the chief ’s vision, Goes Ahead said, he saw many things that would come to pass – timber being felled by strong winds from all four directions, representing the coming of the white man; and the last tree standing was the home of the chickadee, which represents the Crow people.

He also saw a buffalo disappear into the ground and what was later understood to be cattle come back out. Finally, he saw himself an old man sitting under a cottonwood tree next to his home. Just over 86 years after his death, people from near and far – Native and non-Native – gathered to honor Plenty Coups, known as the “Chief of All Chiefs” and last of the old Crow leaders.

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