Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly 33:2 (Spring 2013)


© 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska


With a thorough grasp of the historical record of the Crow people of Montana, Frank Rzeczkowski presents a thoughtful and perceptive rendering of an Indigenous community that perseveres, in the face of overwhelming hegemonic forces, by adapting and reinventing itself, continually redefining its own identity as tribal, as Indian, as Crow. He seeks to understand the changing meaning of these constructs from the perspective of Indigenous people themselves.

Joining the discussion with other anthropologists and historians who have been wrestling with the definition of “tribal,” Rzeczkowski challenges the position some have maintained that the concept of “tribal” is of totally Euro-American origin, designed to facilitate colonial control over Indigenous populations. Rzeczkowski recognizes this position as a reaction to the legacy of nineteenthcentury notions of “evolutionary anthropology,” which established a false hierarchical dichotomy between “tribal”—as something static, rigid, primitive, and constrained by tradition—and “modern”— as fluid, diverse, complex, and open. However, he points out that abandoning the concept of “tribe” implies that “Indian” identity requires the surrender of tribal identities.