In accordance to tradition, as a young man his birth name was changed: his grandfather predicted that he would become chief of the Crow Tribe, live a very long life, and accomplish many great deeds, thus christening him Alaxchiiaahush, meaning "many achievements". Plenty Coups is the English translation of his name, coming from the word coup, or act of bravery. Over the course of his life, he would live up to his name and his grandfather's predictions.
Early in his life, Plenty Coups started having prophetic dreams and visions. Many seemed so far-fetched that no one believed them, but when they started coming true his fellow tribe members began to revere him and listened to him carefully:
When he was nine years old, he had a dream where he was told that he had great powers, and that if he used them well he would become a great chief. Later, when he was eleven years old, Plenty Coups went on a vision quest. He had a vision where he saw "many buffalo coming out of a hole. They spread over the plains, then disappeared. Cattle came out of the hole and covered the plains. Winds blew down the trees in the forest. Only one was left standing. In it was the home of the chickadee.”
His vision was interpreted to mean that the white man would take over the Indian lands and their way of life, like the wind that blew down the trees in the forest--all except one, which represented the Crows. The Crow tribe would be spared if they could learn how to work with the white man. His spirit guide then became the chickadee, and he would carry a pair of chickadee legs in a medicine bag he used for protection and spiritual power. This vision would guide his actions for the remainder of his life.