Robert Summers Yellowtail Sr.
Robert Summers Yellowtail Sr. was born in Lodge Grass, Montana on August 4, 1889. It was a very rough time for the Crow people; the traditional way of life was being restricted by the U.S. Government, buffalo were nearing extinction, and practicing traditional religion and the Crow language was not allowed. When Yellowtail was four years old he was boarded at a reservation school away from tribal influences and elders. By the age of thirteen, he was sent to the Sherman Institute in Riverside, California where he excelled and graduated in 1907. He then became interested in Native American law and wanted to aid his people. He spent time at the Extension Law School in Los Angeles. He gained a law degree via correspondence courses from the prestigious University of Chicago. Yellowtail then made defending the Crow Tribe his life’s mission.
Yellowtail’s main arch-rival became Montana senator Thomas Walsh. In 1907 Walsh had introduced a bill that opened up the final 1.8 million acres in Montana to homesteaders. Crow chief Plenty Coups then asked Yellowtail to fight the legal battle for the Crow Tribe against Congress. During the seven-year-long legal battle, Yellowtail's stubbornness proved to be an asset for the Crow Tribe. In 1917, he and the Crow were victorious in their fight and the reservation lands were kept under tribal control. Yellowtail then went on to accomplish many important deeds. He helped to write the 1920 “Crow Act” in which no lands belonging to the Crow Tribe could be taken without tribal consent. He also assisted in native rights that led to the American Indians being given the right to vote in 1924. In 1934 Yellowtail became the Superintendent of the Crow Reservation, a position he held until 1945. During his tenure, he was able to revive the Crow culture and economy. In the mid-1930s, Yellowtail was able to get ranchers to return 40,000 acres of land to the Crow Tribe.
After World War II ended, the potential damming of the Bighorn River became a possibility that the Crow people feared. This proposal was something that threatened a very sacred place for the Crow Indians. Yellowtail refused the Government’s offer of 1.5 million dollars for 7,000 acres of land needed in order to construct the dam. But in the end, the government ended up with everything--the dam, land, and all future proceeds for a mere 5 million dollars. And in the irony of it all, the dam was actually named in Yellowtail’s honor. Something that left him heartbroken.
Yellowtail passed away in June of 1988 at the age of 98. His legacy would be that of a warrior who fought and won the ultimate battle for his people-personal, tribal, and economic freedom.
(The Robert Summers Yellowtail room is the suite that features 1 Queen Size bed, a single lavatory, & a shower. All rooms have wired and wireless internet & individual heat/ac. -Shower-Facing East towards the Railroad Tracks and Broadway)