Apsáalooke Baannashtua

Native American Art MagazineJune - July 2020

Apsáalooke Baannashtua
The revered art form of beadwork is woven deep into the history and culture of the Crow people.

A psáalooke, Children of the Large Beaked Bird, this is what we called ourselves until we made first contact. Apsáa meaning the name of a bird that has since thought to have become extinct and Looke meaning “child of” becomes Apsáalooke. When early fur traders and pioneers were introduced to this name, they misunderstood the meaning, thinking this “bird with the big beak” referred to a crow, hence the “Children of the Large Beaked Bird” became known as the Crows.

Baannashtua is the word we use that means “something you pound” and was transliterated into “beadwork.” Before beads were introduced to the Apsáalooke in the late-1700s the women decorated their clothes, bags and rawhides containers with mediums available only from Mother Nature. Ochres, mineral paints from the earth found in the ground like soils and clays, made colors like yellow, green, red and blue. They also used porcupine quills to adorn clothing and these quills were color dyed with berries and plants. A distinctive technique used by the Crow women was used to sew the quills on to clothing and other items as an adornment. There is a story about a particular berry—and various plants—that produced colors of the rainbow depending on the amount of time it was boiled, from yellow to purple. It was thought to be magical.

Crow women were also famous for their use of elk teeth as an early decoration. Primarily used on women’s clothing, elk teeth were a sign of wealth and success. Only the two top “ivories” or milk teeth were used, and it took 350 elk to adorn an entire dress!


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June - July 2020