Daniel Conrad Old Elk Sr., 80, Balaxxia dutche (Takes A Bow), Sundance Chief and Legislator, considered himself a culturally wealthy man. Rich in relatives, he owned many fine horses and tipis in his lifetime. A descendant of Apsáalooke scout Curly and political dissident Crazy Head, he spent his early years on the banks of the Little Big Horn River.
Embraced by his wife of 53 years Carlene, and surrounded by his family and close friends, he peacefully passed to the other side camp in his Garryowen ranch on December 27th, 2019. Dan was born to George Curly Old Elk and Evelyn Birdinground Old Elk on December 16th, 1939. He was a member of the Whistling Water Clan and child of the Greasy Mouth Clan.
Takes A Bow grew up in a traditional Apsáalooke household. As Sundance Chief, he was song holder and keeper of many sacred bundles and medicines. Dan was a member of the Tobacco Society. He participated in sweat lodge, the Hot Dance, handgames, roping, and was a Crow Fair Parade Champion. He and his wife raised their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in this same tradition.
Dan attended primary school at Crow Agency and earned his high school diploma from Hardin High School in 1959. Following high school, Dan joined the BIA Relocation Program earning a certification in accounting at the Barnes Business College in Denver, CO.
In 1962, Dan was called home to help his Crow people. He returned and was elected Vice-Secretary becoming the youngest official elected to Crow Tribal office at age 23. During his tenure, he oversaw government, grant, and community action programs combatting poverty and education. While in service to the tribe, Dan met the love of his life, Carlene Hinson. The couple was married on March 5th, 1967 in Crow Agency.
Dan, Carlene, and their children moved to Salt Lake City, UT so Dan could work at the University of Utah as a tribal economic development specialist. The family then moved to Fort Duchesne, UT. Dan employed with the Ute Indian Reservation in economic development. He achieved 100% employment for the tribe. An accomplishment he was very proud of.
In 1971, the Old Elks moved back to the Crow Reservation so both could work on education initiatives. In that same year, they would be adopted into the Tobacco Society by John and Elizabeth Smart Enemy. In 1972, Dan and Carlene were asked to seat the Crow Central Education Commission Group which would later go on to create the Little Big Horn College Trustee Board. This group would found Little Big Horn College; Crow Teacher Training Program; the Crow Education Research; and the Crow Head Start Program. Dan would sit on the Board of Trustees for numerous years.
In 1973, Dan met his life-long friend Bob Burton. The two created youth program VisionQuest. Dan and Bob envisioned a program that would mentor and intervene at-risk youth modeled after Indigenous child-rearing practices and world views. The program grew to become the largest private-sector youth corrections program in the United States. Dan was a Board of Trustee member until his death and was proud of the over 100,000 youth his program served. He would remain a consultant with VisionQuest for over 40 years. VisionQuest would go on to employ several Crow members in its 45-year history.
In 2001, Dan returned to tribal politics campaigning for the Center Lodge District. His peers would select him as the first Speaker Pro Tempore during a significant period in Crow history. Dan would bear witness to the amendment and passing of the 2001 Constitution and Bylaws of the Crow Tribe of Indians. This governing body remains the active constitution of the Crow Tribe.
Dan’s wisdom reflected the knowledge and insight he gained from his grandfather Sampson Birdinground. Sampson would take Dan on hunting trips through the mountains. Dan would ask, “I wonder what is over there?” His grandfather Samuel would reply, “let’s go find out.” Dan carried that sense of humility, curiosity, and adventure in his travels throughout the world. Dan loved, cared for, and prayed for all. In the Crow tradition, he considered the children and grandchildren of his late siblings Sharon, George Jr., Andrew Old Elk; Wesley and Frank Falls Down; Dora Rides Horse; and Lavern Riojas as his own. He believed and shared in the cosmology and world views of the Crow people. He was in every part, an extraordinary Crow man who spent his life selflessly working for and praying for his people.
He is survived by wife Carlene, brothers: Walter (Colleen), Clayton (Georgianna), John (Karen), Larry (Carol) Old Elk, Richard (Kathy) White Tail, Bob (Claire) Burton; sisters: Gwendolyn Plainbull, Georgia Bad Bear, Valerie (Lloyd) Birdinground Hogan, Mardell Plain Feather; children: Mary S. (Lane) Simpson, Donna (Michael) Yazzie, Daniel Old Elk Jr., Denise (Michael) Stops, Dominic (Nancy), Delora Old Elk, Elroy (Kitty) Nomee, Neta (Lance), David (Susan), Devereaux, Jon (Susan), Danetta Old Elk, Winter (Mitchell) LaForge, Jessica, Hunter, Isabella Old Elk who were raised in the family home. Adopted daughters Kim (Joel) Yellowtail Albea, Tana (Jordan) Chandler, Luvenia and Savanna Old Elk; adopted sons Dexter Falls Down, Royce Old Elk, Melville (Rosie) Stops, William (Sheila) Peters, Robert LaFountain, Cody (Aritha) Hogan, Jason Kaline, Newly Little Swallow, Mike HeCrow Jr., Jesse Madill; uncles: Clifford Birdinground, Grady HuntsArrow; aunt: Norma Hunts Arrow-Stops; 54 grandchildren, 85 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great-grandchildren; as well as extended family including: Old Elk, Birdinground, White Dirt, Yellow Eyes, Reed, Deputy, Hunts the Arrow, Onion, Chief Child, Weasel Tail, Many Hides, Calf Robe, Little Bear of Browning; White Tail of New Town; and Engavo of Fort Washakie families. Our family is large; if we have missed you please accept our sincerest apology.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, at the Multipurpose Building in Crow Agency. Interment will follow at the family cemetery at Dan’s home on Shoulder Blade Creek. Bullis Mortuary of Hardin has been entrusted with the arrangements.