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Crow Honor Guard To Open Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Cenntenial Celebration

Taylar Stagner
Yellowstone Public Radio
Grand Entry Labor Day Weekend 2021, Chief Plenty Coup Day of Honor

Crow Nation celebrates the life of the last tribal chief every year, but this year is special because the Crow Honor Guard has been invited to the centennial celebration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Virginia.

This year's Chief Plenty Coup Day of Honor is especially important because the Crow Honor Guard is headed to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia later this Fall. This year marks the 100th anniversary of when Chief Plenty Coup, Crow Nation’s last chief, said a prayer at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921. The Crow Honor Guard has been invited to open the ceremony in Virginia November 11th.

Harry Lee Rock Above served in the army and has been in the Crow Honor Guard for 15 years. He’s excited to represent the Crow people on a national stage.

“Personally, I feel honored. And there's a sense of pride. We continually as honor guards, represent the tribe, and we try to do it in the best possible way,” Lee Rock Above says.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was erected in 1921 after WWI to commemorate the fallen soldiers whose bodies were never recovered.

Chief Plenty Coup was not slated to address the crowd during the monument's opening but when he did nobody interrupted him. After his prayer in the Crow language, he left his war bonnet and coup sticks on top of the tomb. Both of which reside in Arlington National Cemetery today. The only other person who addressed the crowd that day was President Warren G. Harding.

Gavin McIlvenna is the President of the Society Honor Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He attended the day of honor on Crow Nation and says that Chief Plenty Coup in his 1921 speech spoke of cooperation between the Crow nation and the United States.

“It speaks to the true nature of this nation, the Crow Nation, specifically about how as warriors they are fierce in battle, but they are able to understand and how to work together with other nations towards common goals,” Mcllvenna says.

He says that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a place where mourning family members can come together.

“It was never designed to recognize that one class or one individual, it's a place where all of America can come to remember service and sacrifice," he says.

Chief Plenty Coup State Park is situated in Pryor, Montana where the chief lived his life. Visitors can walk around the chief's house, and learn more about the impact he had on the Crow Nation and the United States.

Bernadette Smith has lived on the Crow Reservation her whole life and volunteers at the Chief Plenty Coup Visitors Center. She said that the Day of Honor tradition was started 27 years ago, to honor the legacy of Chief Plenty Coup. She says that her favorite quote from the chief was about education.

“Because of his famous quote, you know, education is your most powerful weapon. So they started a day of honor. And sometimes 1,000 people would come,” Smith says.

According to the Smithsonian,12,000 Native Americans served overseas during WWI, and Smith says that Chief Plenty Coup knew the importance of sacrifice and that's why he was compelled to speak at the tomb one hundred years ago.

Taylar Stagner is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America Indigenous Affairs reporter.

Taylar Stagner covers tribal affairs for Yellowstone Public Radio.