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Joseph Medicine Crow
File:Medicine Crow.jpg
Born October 27, 1913(1913-10-27) (age 106)
Near Lodge Grass, Montana
Nationality Crow Nation, United States of America
Occupation tribal historian, anthropologist, author
Relatives Step-grandfather, White Man Runs Him

Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird (born October 27, 1913) is a Crow historian and author. He is also an enrolled member of the Crow Nation of Native Americans. His writings on Native American history and reservation culture are considered seminal works, but he is best known for his writings and lectures concerning the Battle of Little Big Horn. He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Légion d'honneur. During World War II he became the last war chief of the Crow Tribe, and is, as of 2013, the last living Plains Indian war chief. He is a founding member of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders & Youth. He turned 100 in October 2013.[1]

World War II and becoming the last war chief of the Crow TribeEdit

Medicine Crow joined the army, becoming a scout in the 103rd Infantry Division. Whenever he went into battle, he wore his war paint beneath his uniform and a sacred eagle feather beneath his helmet.[2] Medicine Crow completed all four tasks required to become a war chief.[3]

He touched a living enemy soldier (1) and disarmed an enemy (2) when he turned a corner and found himself face to face with a young German soldier:

The collision knocked the German's weapon to the ground. Mr. [Medicine] Crow lowered his own weapon and the two fought hand-to-hand. In the end Mr. Crow got the best of the German, grabbing him by the neck and choking him. He was going to kill the German soldier on the spot when the man screamed out "momma." Mr. Crow then let him go.[2]

He also led a successful war party (3) and stole an enemy horse (4), making a midnight raid to steal the horses from a battalion of German officers (as he rode off, he sang a traditional Crow honor song.) He is the last member of the Crow tribe to become a war chief.[2] Of his story, documentarian Ken Burns said, "The story of Joseph Medicine Crow is something I've wanted to tell for 20 years."[4] Medicine Crow was interviewed and appeared in the 2007 Ken Burns PBS series The War, describing his World War II service.

Tribal SpokesmanEdit

After serving in the Army, he returned to the Crow Agency. In 1948 he was appointed tribal historian and anthropologist. Now a centenarian, he remains active writing and lecturing. In 1999 he addressed the United Nations. He is a frequent guest speaker at Little Big Horn College and the Little Big Horn Battlefield Museum, and has appeared in several documentaries about the battle. He wrote a script "that has been used at the reenactment of the Battle of Little Big Horn held every summer in Hardin since 1965."[5]

His books have included Crow Migration Story, Medicine Crow, the Handbook of the Crow Indians Law and Treaties, Crow Indian Buffalo Jump Techniques, and From the Heart of Crow Country. He also authored a children’s book entitled Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird.


He received a bachelor degree from Linfield College in 1938. He attended the University of Southern California, earning a master's degree in anthropology in 1939. He was the first member of the Crow tribe to obtain a master's degree.[6] His thesis, The Effects of European Culture Contact upon the Economic, Social, and Religious Life of the Crow Indians, has become one of the most widely cited documents concerning Crow culture. He received an honorary doctorate from Rocky Mountain College in 1999. He received an honorary doctorate at USC in 2003.


On June 25, 2008 he received two military decorations, the Bronze Star and the Légion d'honneur.[7] On July 17, 2008 Senators Max Baucus, Jon Tester, and Mike Enzi introduced a bill to award him the Congressional Gold Medal; however, the bill did not garner the required sponsorship of two-thirds of the Senate to move forward Congressional Gold Medal legislation.[8]

His book Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, written about his life, was chosen by the National Council for the Social Studies as a "Notable Tradebook for Young People" in 2007.[9]

Medicine Crow received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the United States' highest civilian honor) from President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009.[10]


As a member of the Crow tribe, and as a professional researcher, I think I’m doing quite a nice job of telling the Crow Indian story in the proper ways.
No one wins [in war]. Both sides lose. The Indians, so called hostiles, won the battle of the day, but lost their way of life.



External linksEdit

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