Snell, Alma Hogan: Crow elder passes on at 85

Billings, Montana (AP) 5-08
Crow tribal elder Alma Hogan Snell, a tribal historian, educator and herbalist, has passed away. She was 85.

“She was an educator of the highest regard among the Crow people,” said Lanny Real Bird, business instructor and teacher of Crow Indian studies at Little Bighorn College. “She was a living library of information and knowledge of Crow protocols and foundations.”

Snell, of Fort Smith, passed away May 5 in Billings.

She specialized in the knowledge of herbs and healing and was a frequent lecturer and consultant at the college and shared what she learned with tribal members and the non-Indian community.

“She was an ambassador off the reservation promoting native knowledge and native ways of thinking,” said Tim McCleary, anthropology professor at Little Bighorn College.

Just before she became ill, McCleary was working with Snell on a project with a botanist from Montana State University.

“She was always so accessible,” he said. “She was always seeking to build on what her grandmother taught her. It was living scholarship.”

Snell received an honorary doctorate from Montana State University in a special ceremony in Billings last week.

“We knew she was gravely ill,” MSU president Geoff Gamble said. A delegation of faculty and others from MSU traveled to Billings with her gown and hood and Gamble called and read the certificate that conferred the doctorate, he said.

“She was weak, but I think she was delighted that we were able to do that,” Gamble said.

Her son, Bill Snell, was expected to be on stage during MSU’s graduation May 10 to formally receive his mother’s doctorate, Gamble said.

“She was just a remarkable individual,” Gamble said. “I’m obviously deeply saddened that she won’t be with us, but what a great life. She did so much good for the state.”

Snell, the granddaughter of Crow medicine woman Pretty Shield, also wrote two books: “Grandmother’s Grandchild: My Crow Indian Life,” and “A Taste of Heritage.”