Archives On The Air 56: "Crazy Sister-in-Law"—Richard Throssel Collection

Sep 5, 2018

Richard Throssel was of Cree Indian and English descent. The Crow Tribe adopted him in 1905.

Throssel studied photography under Edward Curtis and became a field photographer documenting the lives of Native Americans on the Crow reservation. Working on the reservation gave Throssel insight into the origins of some tribe members’ names.

According to Throssel, mothers commonly named their newborns after the first object they saw. But names like “campfire” and “smoke” were common.

Over time, more fanciful names were given, usually with a story.

A hunter named “Crazy Sister-in-Law” contributed to his granddaughter’s name after successfully avoiding a raid on a solo hunting journey.

Crazy Sister-In-Law noticed raiders planning to ambush him. He sang a death song, and a medicine song, and then charged at the center of the raiders.

Amazed by his audacity, the raiders let him pass.

His granddaughter’s name “Sings To You A Pretty Song” referred to the songs that carried him through the raid.

Richard Throssel’s photographs and stories are available through the digital collections of UW’s American Heritage Center.