CROW AGENCY — Renowned for her bead work, Birdie Real Bird is a mentor among the Crow community. For the three-time breast cancer survivor, beading is not only a creative outlet, but it's also therapeutic.
The former Hardin Public School educator has been beading since she was 12 years old.
“I never pass a day without beading. If I’m busy, I might bead for one hour,” said Real Bird on Tuesday.
The only time Real Bird wasn't beading was when she underwent treatment for breast cancer three times. Her most recent diagnosis was last November.
“This last cancer was invasive. So, they advised me to have a mastectomy and remove the whole cancer, the whole breast,” Real Bird said.
Four rounds of chemo treatments took their toll on Real Bird.
"Every single treatment was hard, but it seemed like I was stronger the first chemo. Then the second one took my strength away, then I was fatigued, and I started getting sick," said Real Bird.
But she's a fighter.
“Today I feel a lot stronger. And I can, I can get back to beading,” Real Bird said.
It was news that brought her mentee, Dy Anna Three Irons, relief.
“Birdie had the patience for me, and I learned a lot from her, and I’m real thankful,” said Three Irons.
It was why the Crow Fair princess coordinator asked Real Bird to make something special for royalty a couple of years ago, a traveling princess crown.
“I knew that everything she does, there’s a story because it’s art. When she beads, it’s not just, just to make something. There’s always something behind it,” Three Irons said.
“I started making all these little tipis. And there’s 13 tipis on here, and it represents the original clan of the Apsaalooke nation,” said Real Bird.
Miss Crow Nation 2024 Michaiah Pease couldn't be more honored.
“Just thinking about her beading that crown while she’s going through so much in her personal life, makes me want to be better as Miss Crow Nation,” Pease said.
She even got to wear the crown to California for a trip last week.
“I love the design of it and the way it sits on my head is perfect. It feels meant to be and I know that might be a lot to say but I really am grateful,” said Pease.
Real Bird's also grateful, not only to be alive, but to be able to pursue her passion.
“You got to stand up and keep going. I’m glad I’m back to beading,” Real Bird said.