Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Plenty Coups

Aleek-chea-ahoosh, or Many Achievements, was a fitting name for the influential Crow chief who was esteemed among his people and honored by both statesmen and presidents. White men called him Plenty Coups for the eighty feathers he wore with earned authority on his coup stick. A veteran warrior and shrewd negotiator, Plenty Coups was also a true, if sometimes critical, patriot and friend to the white man.

Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, PAc 82-26 A2 p. 48
At the age of ten, Plenty Coups had a dream that foretold the demise of the buffalo. His tribe realized the poignant truth of this vision, and unlike others, the Crows resignedly “pointed their guns with the white man’s.” The passing of the buffalo brought irreparable change, and Plenty Coups served as a bridge for his people between the old ways and the new. On the reservation he learned to farm and in 1888 chose a place to build a home of square hewn logs; in keeping with native custom, the door faces east. Completed in 1906, it was the reservation’s only two-story building. Plenty Coups and his wife, Strikes-the-Iron, executed a Deed of Trust providing that forty acres of the farm be “set aside as a park and recreation ground for members of the Crow Tribe of Indians and white people jointly.” The government symbolically accepted this gift at a great ceremony in 1928. Plenty Coups died in 1932 at the age of eighty-four. He was the last chief of the Crow Nation, so venerated that his people never named a successor. The designation of Chief Plenty Coups Memorial State Park in 1965 would have been in accordance with his wishes. The site is now a National Historic Landmark.


  1. I keep saying every summer that we're going to go to that state park and have yet to make it. One of these days.

  2. The great Montanan Frank Bird Linderman wrote quite a few must-read books. His biography of Plenty-Coups, which I believe was originally titled, "American", is one of his must-reads. Linderman understood the Indians and spoke their language, and his knowledge of Plenty-Coups was first hand. He sat down with Plenty-Coups and listened to his life story. The University of Nebraska Press reprinted it in 2002 under a different title, and it's worth getting your hands on if you haven't. Plenty-Coups had a hell of a life.