Preserving a nation's memory
The Fort Parker Project is your chance to join the Archaeological Conservancy and the Crow Nation in our campaign to save one of the nation’s most important endangered archaeological sites in Montana.
The story of the Native American Crow Indian tribe is linked with the explosive westward growth of the United States in the 19th century. These fierce, nomadic people were forced to change their entire way of life with the arrival of European settlers to their ancestral land. The Fort Parker site in Montana is the first Crow Indian Agency, established in 1869 to provide for educational and technological assistance in transitioning the Crows from their traditional migratory buffalo hunting subsistence to the lifestyle of the encroaching modern world.
More than just a historic site, Fort Parker is a special place of beauty, and a living reminder of the great struggles that gave birth to a nation.
Significant events occurred here that helped shape who the Crow are today; it is a place that should be known and protected. Working in partnership with the Crow, our project seeks to raise funds to acquire and permanently preserve the site, and to establish an interactive tour program and facility that will make the site more accessible to the public.
The ancient people of North America left virtually no written records of their cultures. Clues that might someday solve the mysteries of prehistoric America are still missing, and sites like Fort Parker contain this precious information. Without our help, the site is in danger of being developed and irreplaceable cultural material will be destroyed. Our work will be an essential part of saving the archaeology and giving the Fort Parker site a future life.
Fort Parker, the first Crow Indian Agency, was established under the terms of the Laramie Treaty of 1868. Located along Interstate 90 about 40 miles east of Bozeman, Montana, the site is currently part of a large cattle ranch owned by a Montana family who has diligently protected the site for four generations. The original wooden building at the agency, constructed in 1869, was destroyed by fire in 1872. Immediately following the fire, adobe and stone structures were constructed to replace the original buildings. The foundations of the later structures are visible today on the surface of the site.
The Fort Parker Indian Agency was established to assist the Crow in their relocation and transition from a traditional buffalo-hunting lifestyle to one of sedentary ranching and farming. These changes were driven by increasing European settlement in the West, decreasing buffalo herds, the discovery of gold in Montana, and the westward expansion of the railroad.
Although the treaty promised that the agency would teach the Crow farming skills, and provide them with food, medicine, and educational opportunities for their children, none of these goals were completely accomplished. Floods, grasshopper infestations, and early frosts all took their toll on Fort Parker’s fields, often destroying the entire season’s crop. The Crow also suffered raids by the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe, some of which resulted in the loss of life. The time spent at Fort Parker was a period of transition for the Crow people, marked by hardship as they adjusted to new surroundings and dealt with cultural change. The Crow were still able to continue their hunting and trading lifestyle, visiting Fort Parker only occasionally to take advantage of the goods and services available. The changing world around them would soon transform the Crow into a group totally dependent upon the government for survival.
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