BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You

Joe Medicine Crow, The Last Living Plains Indian War Chief, Dies At 102

The Native American historian, author, educator, veteran, and war chief died on Sunday.

Posted on April 3, 2016, at 10:00 p.m. ET

Joseph Medicine Crow, an acclaimed Native American historian and last surviving war chief of Montana's Crow Tribe, died at age 102 on Sunday.

https://www.facebook.com/War-Chief-Joe-Medicine-Crow-125830537920/photos
AP

A member of the Crow Tribe's Whistling Water clan, Medicine Crow was born in 1913 and raised by his grandparents in a log house on the Crow Reservation in Montana, the Associated Press reported.

Beck Bohrer / Via AP

His crow name was "High Bird," and he grew up hearing stories of the Battle of Little Big Horn from his family members who were there.

Pete Souza / Via The White House

His grandfather, Yellowtail, started to train Medicine Crow to be a warrior when he was only 6-years-old. The training involved grueling physical activity, such as running barefoot in the snow.

Secretary Salazar and Joe Medicine Crow
U.S. Department of the Interior / Via Flickr: usinterior

Secretary Salazar and Joe Medicine Crow

In 1939, Medicine Crow earned a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Southern California, becoming the first member of his tribe to ever earn a master's.

Crow Nation Members Joe Medicine Crow and Leonard Bends with Deputy Attorney General David Ogden
US Interior / Via Flickr: usinterior

Crow Nation Members Joe Medicine Crow and Leonard Bends with Deputy Attorney General David Ogden

He became a Crow historian, collecting his nomadic tribe's history through firsthand accounts before 1884, when Native Americans were made to live on reservations.

US Interior / Via Flickr: usinterior

During World War II, Medicine Crow completed the four tasks needed to become a Crow War Chief, including stealing horses from the enemy and wrestling a weapon away from a Nazi.

"Warfare was our highest art, but Plains Indian warfare was not about killing. It was about intelligence, leadership, and honor," Medicine Crow wrote in his 2006 book Counting Coup.

In 2009, President Obama bestowed upon Medicine Crow the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the country's highest civilian honor.

Alex Brandon / Via AP

"(His) life reflects not only the warrior spirit of the Crow people, but America's highest ideals," Obama said at the time.

Montana senator Jon Tester tweeted that "it was impossible not to be inspired" by Medicine Crow.

When you spoke with Joe Medicine Crow, it was impossible not to be inspired. https://t.co/JGLmAk5Dbp

Gov. Steve Bullock also called Medicine Crow an inspiration.

Facebook: GovernorBullock

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said Medicine Crow's "spirit, humility and life achievements leave a lasting imprint on Montana's history."

Support our journalism

Help BuzzFeed News reporters expose injustices and keep quality news free.

Contribute
ADVERTISEMENT