The Crazy Mountains

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(MWA photo)

Honoring the Crow Nation’s Sacred Ties

For time immemorial, the Apsáalooke have held a profound connection to these mountains. It’s vital the Forest Service manage them accordingly.

The Forest Service is now working on its revision of the Custer Gallatin National Forest plan, which will largely decide the fate of Awaxaawippíia (pronounced a-wuh-kaw-wah-pee-uh). That’s the Apsáalooke (Crow) name for this range of mountains. 

To demonstrate just how significant this range is to the Apsáalooke, we joined with Shane Doyle, EdD, a Crow educator and tribal member, to produce this eight-minute film called “Awaxaawippíia; The Crow Nation’s Sacred Ties,” which explores the historical, cultural, and spiritual connection that the Crow Nation hold to this range. We hope you enjoy.

A refuge for high-elevation wildlife 

The Crazy Mountains’ numerous isolated basins offer some of the most productive mountain goat habitat in the state, sustaining a population of approximately 450. With mountain goat population numbers dropping throughout the species native range in the U.S. and Canada, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks consider the Crazies as essential for the future survival of the species.

The island range’s alpine and riparian ecosystems, and its high peaks that hold snow late into the summer, also provide crucial habitat for pikas, wolverines, and other species that are dwindling in number as a result of climate change. 

As our climate gets warmer and warmer, threatening the survival of Montana’s biodiversity, it’s becoming imperative that we protect high-elevation refuges like the Crazy Mountains.

Stay informed, take action

The Custer Gallatin National Forest plan revision, which will decide how the Forest Service will manage the Crazy Mountains for the next 20-plus years, is due sometime in 2021. 

If you'd like to stand up for the Crazy Mountains before the final forest plan is released, write a letter to the editor calling on the Forest Service to protect the Crazies because of their cultural importance to the Crow Nation, their ecological importance for species imperiled by climate change, and the sanctuary they offer to all Montanans.  Submit your LTE to the Billings Gazette, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and the Livingston Enterprise

A huge thank you to the 426 people who submitted comments last year to the Forest Service addressing the Crazy Mountains. Almost all of the comments, including from the Crow Tribe’s government, called on the Forest Service to recommend Wilderness for the Crazies and to consult with the tribe on management decisions.

Dive deeper

In January 2020, we held a series of screenings of “Awaxaawippíia” and invited a panel of Crow and other tribal members and officials to speak afterward. The screenings packed the auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman and again the next night at the Shane Lalani Center in Livingston. A few weeks later, the screening and panel packed the auditorium at the Billings Library. Members and officials from the Crow and other tribes participated in the panels, offering a moving perspective of the Crazies and underscoring the need to consider Indigenous perspectives in public land management decisions. 

View a video of the panel discussion that took place at the Museum of the Rockies on Jan. 14 after the premiere of “Awaxaawippíia," below.

Read this blog post by Crow tribal member Peri Bauerle O'Haire, who is featured in “Awaxaawippíia; The Crow Nation’s Sacred Ties,” about her personal connection to the Crazy Mountains.

Also, listen to this excellent story that Yellowstone Public Radio produced in the summer of 2019.

For more information

To learn more about the Crazy Mountains, email Emily Cleveland at 

Crazy Mountains Panel Discussion


"Awaxaawippíia" Panel Discussion - Bozeman, MT

On Jan. 14, 2020, a panel discussion followed the screening of the documentary "Awaxaawippíia" at the Museum of the Rockies. Tribal members and officials discussed the significance of the Crazy Mountains and other public lands in Montana held sacred by Native Americans.

Moderator: Dr. Shane Doyle – Founder of Native Nexus Consulting and member of Apsáalooke (Crow) Tribe

The panel:

• Frederica Lefthand – Dean of Academics at Little Big Horn College
• Loren Birdrattler – Katz Endowed Chair of Native American Studies at Montana State University and member of Niitsitapi (Blackfeet) Tribe
• Michael Spears – Actor and member of Kul Wicasa Oyate Lakota Lower Brulé Tribe of South Dakota
• Adrian Bird, Jr. - Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Office lead monitor and member of Apsáalooke (Crow) Tribe
• Johnny Tim Yellowtail – Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Office monitor and member of Apsáalooke (Crow) Tribe
• Tennison Big Day – Anthropology student at Montana State University and member of Apsáalooke (Crow) Tribe