The Great Crow Nation Sovereign Currency
...to break down regional monetary barriers.
Children of the Large-Beaked Bird
In the early 1700’s, French interpreters translated our given name Apsáalooke into “children of the large-beaked bird”. This later evolved to “children of [the] crow” and eventually simplified to “Crow”. Our home is in the northern Bighorn Mountains of Montana. Our land today covers approximately 2.3 million acres, including the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, possibly the greatest battle of The Indian Wars. One of our primary responsibilities is to protect and preserve this area and ensure that future generations can learn First Nations’ history by visiting the site of this historic event. Each year, the historic site welcomes nearly a half-million visitors.
Our Footnote in History
In the 1850’s, as white Americans arrived in numbers, a young Crow boy named Plenty Coups had a vision that was interpreted by tribal elders as meaning that whites would become dominant over the entire continent, and that our people, if we were to retain any of our land, would need to remain on good terms with the whites. Plenty Coups went on to become one of our greatest Chiefs.
Besides hosting the Battle of Little Bighorn, Crow scouts witnessed Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In the days immediately following the great battle a member of our tribe, Thomas H. LeForge, relayed to visitors of the battlefield the accounts of that fateful day.
Years later, LeForge’s great-grandson embarked on a journey to help our people make history yet again. Ceivert LaForge, a member of our tribal government, developed the idea to celebrate the battle through the creation of a commemorative .999 fine silver medallion. Chief Sitting Bull and Lt. Colonel George Custer, being the two most critical figures in the battle, share space on the obverse while the official seal of the Crow Nation covers the reverse along with purity and weight markings. Sitting Bull is honored with the prominent position and his face is displayed in full while Custer, in recognition of his defeat, is afforded a one-quarter profile view.
But the medallion wasn’t created to simply mark the 137th anniversary of a significant event.
Scouts, not Dollars
Despite centuries of good relations with the federal government, today, the economic writing is on the wall. As the federal government continues to struggle financially with a mounting list of obligations, pressure is felt across the country, and it hits home especially hard for our people. Consistent, systemic funding cuts to our budget are clear indications that the federal government does intend to “get out of the Indian business”, as quoted from a high-ranking BIA official. Federal financial subsidy of our tribe is expected to end within the next ten years.
In an effort to free ourselves from dependence on federal money, the Little Bighorn commemorative medallion was coined to raise money and create awareness for a Crow Nation sovereign currency - known as Crow Scouts - as part of our larger effort to promote self-sufficiency and economic growth.
Creating a stable financial foundation is especially important for our people in light of economic cutbacks due to financial hurdles including the budget sequester: that’s why our Crow Scouts are minted from silver, copper & gold. In addition to the stability afforded by a metals-based currency, Chairman Old Coyote agrees with LaForge on monetary expansion, saying the inherent value of precious metals should also be able to break down regional monetary barriers. He said the new currency was a financially savvy decision for the Tribe, and he hopes to eventually see the Scout completely replace the dollar in tribal commerce.
Looking to the Future
Today, a tenth ounce silver Sits in the Middle of the Land 5 Scout coin is already circulating on our lands, traded for the first time last summer at the 94th annual Crow Fair. Before the end of June 2014, the half ounce copper 1 Scout, featuring a depiction of Red Plume at the Temple, will also be traded across Crow country.
Acknowledging that the acceptance of the new currency isn’t going to set in overnight, plans call for the gradual introduction of Scouts on a steadily increasing scale. Tribal employees, for instance, will receive most of their pay in dollars and a small portion in scouts, with the proportion of Crow currency increasing over time.
According to LaForge, head of the tribe’s LLC department, the strategy exists to be self-sufficient. Government money is there to help us out, but a lot of our per capita income and employment comes from our own natural resources.
As the new currency takes root, Old Coyote and LaForge plan on comparing financial strategies with neighboring nations. As trade lines open with nearby businesses and other tribes, a precious metals Commodity Bank is planned, and a digital version of Scouts is also under consideration.