Peggy White, (Well Known Buffalo) Crow Tribe
What does it mean to you to be a Crow Indian today?
Because I was born and raised Crow on the Crow Indian Reservation, I never thought much about the importance of my culture until I began traveling the country to raise funds to start my non-profit organization. Traveling and meeting people beyond I ndian country has given me a perspective on myself and my culture. I also gained another perspective from studying the history of my family. On my maternal side I come from a group forgotten in history books, a long line of traditional chiefs, entrepreneurs and medicine women and men. If there were a chief today, it would probably be one of my family members. On my paternal side I come from a water boy with the 7th Calvalry.
To me, being Crow is being multi-blooded. We carry our history in our veins: other Indian blood from other tribes when we were almost wiped out, white blood from cavalry soldiers and blood from the black, mexican and chinese who built the railroad. As I see it, since almost every Crow is multiracial to some extent, we should be the most open-minded people in the world.
My Indian name is Bale a sa she lesh (translated She Who Wears The Money or She Who Comes From Abundance). The clan system is very important to me because it is the heart of the Crow people. I am from the Bad War Deeds Clan and a child of the Piegan Clan. I believe in all ways of the Crow people: the sweat lodge, the tobacco seeds and fasting as well as the Native American Church, the sun dance and other personal forms of prayer. I also believe that these ways can be interwoven with modern ways to make our children strong.
The Crow people have traditions and beliefs that make us special among all people around the world. For me, being Crow is at the heart of everything I do.
What are some of the challenges you face being a Crow and how have you overcome these challenges?
I have had many challenges in my life including poverty and homelessness and I see many connections in my past to what I do now, I was sent away and raised in government and Catholic boarding schools because one parent died and the other became an alcoholic. The experience shaped me. There, I was forbidden to speak Crow which made me even more committed to my language and culture. I watched children go to bed hungry and shared the food I had with younger ones. I learned how to work around the system. I also learned to work hard and be independent. As an adult, I have started my own organization to empower others. It includes a food bank, a Children's Learning Center, a community thrift store, a straw bale homeownership project, a youth entrepreneurship program, a social justice group and I take care of many children who aren't my own. I have also met the challenge of the reservation governmental system and life in a reservation community. We lack resources and knowledge and it seems like there is a conspiracy to keep us in the dark. Our hands are often tied because no one will take responsibility. I have learned to be a problem solver on many levels and to never give up.
Where do you see the Crow people going in the future?
The Crow people are good people. Their government isn't. It has become corrupt and dysfunctional because it was superimposed on us. We need to reassert our rights as a sovereign state and go back to the time when we were invited in delegations to visit Washington, DC for negotiations. We need to reassert our right to chose our own form of government and go back to traditional values, laws and government where a council of clan elders would have the last word. I believe it is only then that the people with values will rise to the top. We need to break free of everything that holds us back and stop waiting for and depending on the government. We need to stop holding back and challenge the systems in every way.
I see a creativity and energy in our children that aches to be transformed into something productive. I believe traditional knowledge, prayer, entrepreneurship and a broad education that includes global awareness can help our children harness their gifts. We need to teach our children to speak up for themselves and help our children reclaim what is rightfully ours before it is too late. That way we will secure a just future for the Crow people.