Apsaalooke Social and Family Structure, By Dale D. Old Horn and Tim McCleary, Pages 93-98.
Before the Apsáalooke were affected by the Euro-American society, the social structure and kinship was intact and functioning well. In fact, the ideology, the language, and the culture was very strong.
A good example of the effects of Euro-American society upon the Apsáalooke is language usage. Historically, one hundred percent of all Apsáalooke spoke the Apsáalooke language. In 1989 a survey was conducted in the grade schools, on and near the reservation, and roughly thirty three percent of Apsáalooke children under the age of ten speak Apsáalooke language.
The historic Apsáalooke were effected by cultures other than the Euro-American culture for centuries. But these cultures did not try to eradicate the Apsáalooke language, nor the belief ways, nor the social structure. These other cultures included the Lakota, Assiniboine, Pawnees, Arapahos, Shoshonis, and Blackfeet.
It was not until the Euro-Americans came with Christian ideology and belief of manifest destiny that the Apsáalooke began to suffer culture loss. Before that time the Bíiluuke people were culturally healthy. They would adapt or adopt traits from other cultures if they chose. And historically it was common, as can be seen in previous pages, for Plains Indian cultures to share. But the sharing of culture did not mean that one went to another culture and forced the other group to accept and practice only their ways.
In those days, one hundred percent of the Apsáalooke people followed Apsáalooke belief ways, one hundred percent of the people participated in the social structure; the clans, the kinship system, and so forth. Today, the Apsáalooke people are not quite as interactive with their social structure as they have been in the past.
There are a large number of Apsáalooke people who have accepted the Fundamentalist Pentecostal Faith and they have basically given up on the sacred relationships of the clans, especially in terms of the clan fathers and clan mothers. They view things that are native to Apsáalooke people, to be evil, therefore something to be shunned or avoided. So, because of the acceptance of a foreign belief, that segment of the Apsáalooke people do not practice the Apsáalooke way of life, particularly in terms of the kinship system.
There is another group of people who grew up on the periphery of the Apsáalooke society, either they were raised away from the reservation or they grew up in a home that was of mixed blood heritage. These people, for whatever reason, were not part of did not participate fully in Apsáalooke society.
The Apsáalooke society, whether it be in the language, religious practices, or kinship is not being properly taught to the children, and after three or four generations, the knowledge of the Apsáalooke life way will become lost.
Even the knowledge of Apsáalooke technologies; feather work, drum making, is limited to just a few men on the Crow Indian Reservation. There is no one today who knows how to make a bow in the way that it was done in the past.
Many of the foods that the Apsáalooke ate historically are now used only in the sense of ceremonious use. The native dress of the Apsáalooke is now only ceremonious. The material that was used is for the tipis is now primarily lost. Today, the tipi is made of canvas rather than buffalo hide.
Moreover, the dance dress of the Apsáalooke has diminished in importance. Old photographs of the Apsáalooke participating in the Hot Dance or The Grass Dance in the late 1800s and early 1900s shows that the way that people are dressing now is quite different. Many Apsáalooke do not understand that the dress style in the Hot Dance that is practiced now is Nez Perce, rather then Apsáalooke. Many of them do not know that the pow-wow is not Crow of in origin.
A major area of concern is the lack of participation of Apsáalooke people in the Sacred Tobacco Society. The basis for the Bíiluuke way of life, the reason why they became Apsáalooke is the Ihchihchiaee, the Sacred Tobacco Seeds. Today this is only practiced by a small group of Apsáalooke people.
Because of the loss of culture, many of the practices of the Apsáalooke people are being replaced by a tremendous amount of dysfunctional behavior, such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, spouse abuse, child abuse, gambling addictions. There are also individuals who are addicted to process, such as with some introduced religions, where they will go to church night after night and neglect the home or other responsibilities in their lives.
The basis of this culture is belief, and the United States Government critically effected the belief systems that sustained the Apsáalooke when they supported Christian denominations and schools. These two institutions supplant native life ways with the Euro-American lifestyle. Then the United States Government instituted through the Bureau of Indian Affairs a relationship of dependency. This served to attack the pride of the Apsáalooke man and this loss of pride has served to only be a strong impotence for the demise of the home, which is the cornerstone of any culture.
Many Apsáalooke people suffer from physical ailments because of diet. The government supplies food through health programs that is high in fat, starch, and sugar that leads many Apsáalooke to develop diabetes. A lot of Apsáalooke people are having to go to dialysis every two days, many are suffering from eyesight loss, and some of them are suffering from kidney complications due to diabetes.
It is a lifestyle that was brought on through dependency, through loss of pride, through subjugation that is killing not only the culture but also the Apsáalooke themselves.