MISSOULA – This week’s Nike-inspired N7 basketball games at the University of Montana will honor the state’s Indigenous tribes – from the jerseys worn by the players to the display of the state’s Tribal Nation flags during the National Anthem. Included in the tributes will be a moving promotional video featuring Crow traditional dancer and UM law student Holly Old Crow, performing with her children in full regalia on center court of Dahlberg Arena.

“Crow style dancing is putting the tribe on the map,” said Old Crow, a second-year law student at UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law. “It’s such a visual part of our culture. But there is much more about the people behind the regalia.”

Old Crow’s story is an inspiration itself.

A single mom who had her kids early in life, Crow always wanted more for her family.

“I didn’t want to be the stereotype,” she said. “I wanted to set an example for my kids so they can see anything is possible. I want to give them the world.”

That example started with Old Crow earning her undergraduate degree in sociology and criminology with a minor in Native American Studies. Then, knowing she needed more skills to land the kind of job she was looking for, she decided to pursue a law degree at UM.

“I was really young when I had my kids, and they are my first priority,” Old Crow explained. “I made a promise to them that I would better our lives through improving our opportunities. Law school is the path that will create these opportunities for us.”

A legal education isn’t easy. Most students work more than eight hours a day studying, going to class and writing papers. For Old Crow, the day includes taking care of her two children and motherhood, which is a fulltime job.

“I start my day around 6 a.m. and get the kids fed and ready for school,” said Old Crow. “Then I’m studying at school and going to class from 8 a.m. until five.”

After school she cooks dinner and helps her children with their schoolwork. Then she studies from their bedtime until after midnight.

Old Crow grew up on the Crow Agency, a community that values education in equal measure as culture.

“I see more community support from home than I could have imagined. The whole community rallies behind me,” she said. “They have helped pitch in for the cost of my books and supplies, offer words of encouragement when they see me, and they pray for me.”

This encouragement gets her through the day.

“I know I can do this with their help; they are really in my corner,” she said. “It’s a reminder I’m part of something bigger than myself.”

Old Crow credits some of her drive to growing up in a supportive family of “go-getters.” Her father was in tribal government, and she grew up watching him as a leader in her community. Her brothers worked in law enforcement, and her grandfather is a highly respected elder.

“My 90-year-old grandpa is my biggest supporter,” she said of Newton Old Crow Sr. “When times are tough, he always reminds me of where I have been.”

Old Crow Sr. has seen a lot in his lifetime. She said his grandparents lived a traditional Crow lifestyle and were born in teepees. Now he is watching his granddaughter get her law degree, and even lets his great grandson crawl over him when they see each other.

“He would have never allowed that when I was a child,” said Old Crow. “He is so happy watching his family grow through time. It is such a blessing to have him involved in our lives.”

Old Crow’s ultimate goal is to move home and practice law to help her reservation. She wants to buy a large plot of land that her family will be able to live on and visit.

It’s important, she said, to pay back her parents and grandparents for their support, and to succeed and help others as she can.

When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, she spoke with experience.

“Regardless of the challenges you face, everything will work out as it should,” said Old Crow. “Keep working hard and trust the process.”

The promo video created by Grizzly Athletics, she adds, is really exciting for her and her children.

“This production will be in our family forever,” she said. “It was a really special moment for my kids and me. We love dancing, and this was a great way to show it to the world.”

- by Phil Stempin, UM News Service -

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