Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In Memoriam: Chief Joe Medicine Crow

The last war chief of the Crow nation has died.

Joe Medicine Crow, an acclaimed historian from Montana's Crow Tribe, World War II veteran, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, has died at the age of 102.

A member of the Crow Tribe's Whistling Water clan, Medicine Crow was raised by his grandparents in a log house in a rural area of the Crow Reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana.

His Crow name was "High Bird," and he recalled listening as a child to stories about the Battle of Little Bighorn from those who were there, including his grandmother's brother, White Man Runs Him, a scout for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

His grandfather, Yellowtail, raised Medicine Crow to be a warrior. The training began when Medicine Crow was just 6 or 7, with a punishing physical regimen that included running barefoot in the snow to toughen the boy's feet and spirit.

Medicine Crow in 1939 became the first of his tribe to receive a master's degree, in anthropology. He served for decades as a Crow historian, cataloging his people's nomadic history by collecting firsthand accounts of pre-reservation life from fellow tribal members.

During World War II, Medicine Crow earned the title of war chief after performing a series of daring deeds, including stealing horses from an enemy encampment and hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier whose life Medicine Crow ultimately spared.

Soon after returning from the European front, Medicine Crow was designated tribal historian by the Crow Tribal Council.

With his prodigious memory, Medicine Crow could accurately recall decades later the names, dates and exploits from the oral history he was exposed to as a child, Viola said. Those included tales told by four of the six Crow scouts who were at Custer's side at Little Bighorn and who Medicine Crow knew personally.

. . .

President Barack Obama awarded Medicine Crow the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

There's more at the link.

This PBS documentary about World War II recounts Joe Medicine Crow's exploits in his own words.

May he rest in peace.



Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks for posting this.

richard mcenroe said...

I think the last Kiowa war chief is still alive. He made his bones during OEF.