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Historical stroll at Chief Plenty Coups State Park



Pryor, Montana – Chief Plenty Coups State Park is located in the Crow reservation’s central region, near the foothills of the Pryor Mountains. A 40-mile trip takes you straight into history from Billings.

A visit offers the ability to travel back in time, and the park’s namesake has a history that is almost as interesting as the park itself.

“Chief Plenty Coups is one of the last traditional chiefs for the Crow people. He was known as a transitional chief, leading people from the buffalo days to the reservation days,” said Aaron Kind, park ranger for Chief Plenty Coups.

Visitors can travel through the life of the last Apsaalooke traditional chief on the park’s Life’s Way Trail.

The chief’s farmhouse, though he didn’t spend much time there, is the first stop on the trail.

“Funny thing is, Plenty Coups didn’t live in this house until the last three years of his life. He actually had his teepee right outside, and he preferred living in his teepee as most people did at the time. He would just use this house as needed,” added Kind.

The park has 196 acres even though the walking trail is only 1.1 miles long.

“The Crow were traditionally known as a smaller population tribe and through some of their visions, they found around this area in Montana to be what they considered their homeland,” Kind added.

Along the route, the sacred spring is another well-liked resting place. It provides a space for prayer, and many visitors leave something as a memento of their journey.

A trip to the park is often a spiritual experience for the Crow people.

“One of Chief Plenty Coups’ spirit helpers was the chickadee. A bird that the Crow believed would listen to all sides of the story before making a decision. So, that was one of Chief Plenty Coups’ spirit helpers throughout his life,” said Kind.

Two previously unidentified apple species are another intriguing mystery found on the property.

Montana State University “came out and genetically tested them, and they were a heritage species. So, we got the naming rights for them. So, the two varieties of apples out here are Chief Plenty Coups Dutchess of Oldenburgh and Chief Plenty Coup Wealthies,” added Kind.

Without stopping by the gravesite of Plenty Coups, no trip to the park is complete. There, he rests alongside two of his wives.

It’s a hike that’s more than just a route through the wilderness; it’s also a journey through historical culture. And a special location for everyone who visits there, not just the Crow people.

“That’s one of Plenty Coups’ things that he wanted is a place where people could come together and learn from each other. No matter what it is, cultures around the world want the same thing, a good place to be, family being safe, and I think we really try to keep the chief’s guidelines going here,” Kind said.


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