C&I talks with Macariah Pine, Princess to Preserve Culture, about her experience as Miss Crow Fair two years running.
Crow Fair has been around for more than 100 years, and Macariah Pine has served as Miss Crow Fair for two of them. The 20-year-old will be parading at the big gathering in Crow Agency, Montana, in August. But she won't just be waving at the crowds while sitting in a new elk-tooth dress and all of her other traditional finery atop a decorated horse.
Among other things, she'll be camping with her family, dancing at the powwow, and building, putting up, and taking down her tepee during the week she and her family camp together in the Tepee Capital of the World. It's the largest encampment in the world, with more than 1,000 tepees, along with the largest Crow/Apsaalooke parade, which stretches a mile and a half.
"Yeah, it is a lot of work," she admits. But it's also a lot of fun, the kind that creates warm memories. "My favorite part of Crow Fair when I was little was just being around all my family, especially my cousins and siblings because we're all really close — all of my family's really close. Being able to stay with them for five days is what I remember the most from Crow Fair when I was little and getting together with each other, eating breakfast and lunch and dinner together those days. I hope that we always have Crow Fair, that it never goes away because it's the one time of year that everyone gets together, you see everyone there. I don't know, it's a different feeling, especially when you stay there those days, you remember that feeling and sometimes you miss it, too, that feeling of staying in the tepees or after you're done powwowing and it's late and you're just sitting there with all of your family around together and you're all visiting and talking. Sometimes we'd ride horses with my cousins. Me and my cousins would go to the river, which is far from our camp, but not really far. We would take baths over there so we wouldn't have to leave Crow and go to our house and take a shower.
"And we'd water the horses. You're up super early in the morning. Crow Fair is just a different feeling. Especially getting the horses ready, because a lot of people in my family parade, and so everyone's getting ready and they're all rushing trying to get ready. Everyone's doing something; even if it's just for three people getting ready, everyone's helping out. I don't know how to explain the feeling, but it's a really good feeling."
It's still winter in Montana when I meet Macariah and her mom in Billings, atop the Rimrocks that overlook the city. They've driven in from Pryor on the Crow Reservation. February in Montana means snow still covers the ground. It's a beautiful day for a shoot, with blue skies and bright sun, but we could do without the bitter, cold wind.
The shoot is short. Macariah is wearing white buckskin head to toe, and we have to try desperately to keep her from getting wet. With snow still fresh, we use a pillowcase and Tupperware lid to make a path to the rock outcropping where she will stand for her portrait. After a half-hour of shooting, we retreat to the car to escape the wind and talk about her life, her culture, and her role as Miss Crow Fair.
"My Crow name is Baauhkaan chiiwiahkish, and it means morning prayer. It was given to me by my late grandmother, Janice Little Light. When she gave me the name, she said it's because every morning when she wakes up, the first thing she does is pray. My tribe is Crow. My last name, Pine, is Cheyenne, which is from my dad's [side]. I think I come from the biggest family on the reservation — from the Little Lights, the Real Birds on my grandpa's side. Originally, I grew up in Hardin. But we moved to Pryor when I was nine. We live out in the country just a few miles from Pryor. I like it. It's beautiful where I live."
When I ask why she was chosen, she's characteristically soft-spoken. "I think it's because I have a lot of knowledge on our tribe," she says. "They asked each of the contestants three different questions, and I answered all three of them correctly. The first question they asked me was who my clan fathers and clan mothers were. My clan child is who my clan fathers and clan mothers are, which is Big Lodge. The second question was, How do you say Billings in Crow? I was nervous I was going to say it wrong, but I knew the answer and said Ammalapashkuua, which translates 'where they cut wood.' The third question they asked me was what all the clans were of the Crow tribe. There were originally 12, and now there are only eight."
Being knowledgeable about Crow language and culture and excelling at traditional lifeways are some of the things that earned Macariah the Miss Crow Fair crown two years running, along with her role as her district's Princess to Preserve Culture.
Pine's mom has accompanied her to the interview and photo shoot and hops in to explain certain things. "We are all super proud of her," her mom says. "At the pageant, when she competed to be the Miss Crow there, she knew how to answer her words in Crow, and she answered all the questions correctly. Because she was a princess last year, her grandpa, Curtis Red Bird, gave her a really beautiful white horse. This year, he's getting a paint ready for her."
Crow Fair is a family affair, down to some of what Macariah is wearing for our shoot and will wear as Miss Crow Fair in August during the encampment. Her entire outfit was made by women in her family. Her hand-embroidered red shawl was made by close family member Jeanie Davis. Her bracelet was made by her auntie ("I use it every time I dress up," she says.) Macariah herself made her beaded leggings she's wearing; the beads on her leggings and belt were her great-grandmother's. "My mom taught me how to bead," she says. "It runs in my family, really good beaders, like my grandma." This buckskin dress was made by her grandma, Lena Little Light (at Crow Fair, she'll wear the new elk-tooth dress she made herself). Her grandpa's first cousin, Birdie Real Bird, made the crown she's wearing. Her fan was made by her grandpa.
"We're so proud of her that we want her to have the best stuff," her mom says. "We're proud that she's keeping the language alive and she's not scared to speak out in public. She goes to everything she's asked to. We're her biggest supporters, her grandpa and I."
As Miss Crow Fair, Macariah makes a lot of appearances at schools, from elementary to university level, and powwows. She goes where she's invited, and chances are she'll dance when she gets there. As for what the title means to her: "Hopefully be a role model to the younger ones."
The conversation begins to wind down, and it's time for everyone to get on the road home. Macariah has saved the best for last. Before saying our goodbyes, she takes out this statement to read, but it feels more like a parting declaration and benediction.
"I believe, and therefore, I am. I believe in the Crow culture, and therefore I am the Crow culture.
"I enjoy the different aspects in the culture of the Crow tribe. I love dancing to the beat of the drum. I enjoy singing the different songs of Crow. I love playing Crow-style hand games to sing with the men as they sing the different songs of the hand game. I love to see my little brother as he guesses correctly or scores a stick. I love being a high-point woman in the tournament as my little brother was a high-point man.
"If the Crow Tribe is a Horse Nation, and I experienced my happy times when I paraded in my Crow regalia on my beautiful white parade horse, which my grandfather, Curtis Real Bird, has given me, then I am proud to e part of the Horse Nation, to hear the praise songs of my clan fathers, and experience the joy in hearing those songs of my clan fathers, and experience the joy in hearing those songs makes me very proud to be a Crow. To see the pure appreciation of my clan aunts as they give them gifts and to feel the love of the clan system makes me proud to be a Crow.
"Therefore, I am very proud and happy to represent the 2023 Tepee Capital of the World as Miss Crow Fair."