Crow Tribe War Chief to be Buried in Veterans Cemetery

Medicine Crow spent decades cataloging Crow history and became a renowned Native American historian

By Molly Priddy

BILLINGS — A funeral is planned Wednesday on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation for the man who was tribe’s the last surviving war chief, Joe Medicine Crow.

Medicine Crow, who died Sunday at the age of 102, spent decades cataloging Crow history and became a renowned Native American historian.

Gov. Steve Bullock ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Wednesday in Medicine Crow’s honor.

His Crow name was “High Bird,” and he grew up in a rural area near Lodge Grass, Montana, hearing stories as a child from direct participants in the Battle of Little Bighorn. They included his grandfather, White Man Runs Him, a scout for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

Medicine Crow attained the title of war chief for a series of deeds performed during combat in World War II, including hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier whose life Medicine Crow spared. He later said that Plains Indian warfare was not about killing so much as leadership, honor and intelligence.

Medicine Crow embraced the changes that came with the settling of the West, and he worked to bridge his people’s cultural traditions with the opportunities of modern society.

He continued to research and promote Crow history into his 90s even after his eyesight and hearing faded.

In 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Obama released a statement after Medicine Crow’s death calling him a “bacheitche” — a Crow word for “good man” — and said Medicine Crow’s dedication to promoting his tribe’s culture “helped shape a fuller history of America for us all.”

Wednesday’s services are planned in Crow Agency, a town on the Crow Reservation. Medicine Crow will be buried at the Apsaalooke Veterans Cemetery.


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