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Crow, indigenous people of North America


indigenous people of North America whose language belongs to the Siouan branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
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) and who call themselves the Absaroka, or bird people. They ranged chiefly in the area of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries and were a hunting tribe typical of the Plains cultural area. Their only crop was tobacco, which they used for pleasure and religious purposes. Until the 18th cent. the Crow lived with the HidatsaHidatsa
, Native North Americans, also known as the Minitari and the Gros Ventre. Their language belongs to the Siouan branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages).
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 on the upper Missouri River; after a dispute they migrated westward until they reached the Rocky Mts. The Crow developed a highly complex social system. They were enemies of the Sioux and helped the whites in the Sioux wars. Today most Crow live in Montana, near the Little BighornLittle Bighorn,
river, c.90 mi (145 km) long, rising in the Bighorn Mts., N Wyo., and flowing north to join the Bighorn River in S Mont. On June 25–26, 1876, Sioux and Cheyenne warriors defeated the forces of Col. George Custer in the Little Bighorn valley in Montana.
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, where tourism, ranching, and mineral leases provide tribal income. In 1990 there were over 9,000 Crow in the United States.


See R. H. Lowie, The Crow Indians (1935, repr. 2004); P. Nabokov, Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior (1967); E. G. Denig, Five Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri (1975).

crow, in zoology


partially migratory black bird, genus Corvus, of the same family as the raven, the magpie, the jay, and the rook and the jackdaw of Europe. The American, or common, crow, C. brachyrhynchos, about 19 in. (49 cm) long, has a wingspread of over 3 ft (92 cm). Crows eat some eggs and nestlings and grain, but destroy many harmful insects and rodents. In winter they gather at night by thousands in communal roosts. Their throaty "caw" is familiar, although they can also produce a musical warble. Crows, along with the other members of the family Corvidae, are considered to be the most intelligent of all birds. They are easily tamed and can learn to mimic some human sounds. The New Caledonian crow, C. moneduloides, is especially noted for its intelligence with respect to tools and toolmaking; it can use sticks, wire, string, and other objects as tools and can reshape them so that the object is better suited to a specific use. The fish crow, C. ossifragus, of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is smaller than the common crow. The carrion crow, C. corone, of Eurasia is a flesh-eating bird 18 to 20 in. (46–51 cm) long. Crows are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Corvidae.

Crow; Raven

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Ravens are considered the most intelligent of birds, on par with the smartest nonavian animals on earth, including dolphins and primates. John K. Terres suggests that Corvidae, or corvids—crows, ravens, and magpies—possess "the highest degree of intelligence" of any birds.

The raven, sacred to Apollo, was regarded as prophetic. In Norse mythology, Odin had two ravens, Hugin and Munin, who flew out each day and reported back to the god all that they had seen. Odin was called Hrafna-gud, or "God of the Raven."

The crow features prominently in Native American mythology. Roger Williams wrote in 1643 of the reverence of the Algonquins for crows. In the Pacific Northwest, the Kwakiutl and Haida leadership clan is known as the Raven Clan, with Raven Priests. They speak of great leaders who were guided by crows and ravens. Among the Chipeweyan of eastern Canada, crow is a trickster, while the Navaho refer to missionaries as crows, because of their black robes.

The Greeks and Romans believed that crows could predict the weather. Similarly, the raven was sometimes regarded by the Greeks as a "thunderbird" because of its ability to presage a storm. An old Irish saying, "to have raven's knowledge," means to have an oracular ability to see and know all things. In Wales it was common custom to doff one's hat at the sight of a crow.

In England, ravens are still kept in official capacity at the Tower of London. It is said that as long as they remain, England will never fall to her enemies. Crows and ravens are believed to have very long life, and in his Metamorphoses Ovid speaks of the witch Medea injecting the veins of the elderly Jason with the blood of a crow that had outlived nine generations of men. In Tibet, the raven is the messenger of the supreme being.



a tribe of North American Indians belonging to the Siouan group.


(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for a number of predominantly black birds in the genus Corvus comprising the most advanced members of the family Corvidae.



crowbar, crow

A steel bar, one end of which is flattened; sometimes slightly bent; used for heavy prying, and as a lever for moving heavy objects.


symbolizes one who lives by his wits. [Western Folklore: Jobes, 388]
See: Cunning


faithful; does not mate again for nine generations. [Animal Symbolism: Mercatante, 161]


1. any large gregarious songbird of the genus Corvus, esp C. corone (carrion crow) of Europe and Asia: family Corvidae. Other species are the raven, rook, and jackdaw and all have a heavy bill, glossy black plumage, and rounded wings
2. any of various other corvine birds, such as the jay, magpie, and nutcracker
3. any of various similar birds of other families