Dr. Joseph Medicine
Crow receives Presidential Medal of Freedom at White House
Ceremony, August 12, 2009
Dr. Joseph Medicine
(October 27, 1913 - )
"No one wins (in war). Both sides lose. The Indians, so
won the battle of the day, but lost their way of life."
Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow is
a Crow Indian historian and author. His writings on Native
American history and reservation culture are considered seminal works,
but he is probably best known for his writings and lectures concerning
the Battle of the Little Bighorn. He is the recipient of the
Bronze Star, the Chevalier Légion d'honneur on June 25, 2008, and will
receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony on
August 12, 2009. Medicine Crow is an enrolled member of
the Crow Tribe of Indians.
White Man Runs Him, portrait by
Edward S. Curtis, c.1908
Medicine Crow is the
step-grandson of White Man Runs Him, a scout for Gen. George Armstrong
Custer, who was an eyewitness to the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
He grew up listening to stories of the most famous battle of the
Joe Medicine Crow joined the
U.S. Army during World War II and served in the 103rd Infantry Division.
He said whenever he went into battle, he wore his war paint beneath his
uniform with a sacred eagle feather beneath his helmet.
During his service in WWII, Medicine
Crow completed all four tasks required to become a Crow war chief:
1) touched a living enemy soldier; 2) disarmed an enemy; 3) led a
successful war party; 4) stole an enemy horse. He is the last
member of the Crow tribe to become a traditional war chief.
In the 2007 PBS series The War, Medicine Crow told Ken Burns what happened when he
turned a corner and found himself face-to-face with a German soldier:
"The collision knocked the
German's weapon to the ground. Medicine Crow lowered his own
weapon and the two fought hand-to-hand. In the end, Mr. Medicine
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. Medicine Crow then let him go."
He successfully led a war
party and stole an enemy horse when making a midnight raid to steal the
horses from a battalion of German officers. Medicine Crow said he
sang a traditional Crow honor song as he rode off.
Medicine Crow is the first
member of his tribe to have attended college. He received a
bachelor's degree from Linfield College in 1938. He received a
master's degree in anthropology from the University of Southern
California (USC) in 1939. His Master's Thesis was titled The
Effects of European Culture Contact Upon the Economic, Social and
Religious Life of the Crow Indians . When he returned to Crow Agency
in 1948, he was appointed tribal historian and anthropologist. He
holds two honorary doctorate degrees, one from Rocky Mountain College in
1999, and the second from the University of Southern California (USC) in
Dr. Medicine Crow is a guest
speaker at the Custer Battlefield Museum, at Little Bighorn College and
other colleges throughout the country. He has appeared in several
documentaries about the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
His books include: A
Handbook of Crow Indian Laws and Treaties, and From the Heart of
Crow Country: The Crow Indians' Own Story remains one of the most
widely read resources on Crow culture today.
He lives on the Crow Indian
Reservation in Lodge Grass, Montana.