The Full Wiki

Joe Medicine Crow: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joe Medicine Crow

Joe Medicine Crow at the White House on August 12, 2009.
Born October 27, 1913 (1913-10-27) (age 96)
Near Lodge Grass, Montana
Nationality Crow Nation, United States of America
Occupation tribal historian, anthropologist, author

Joseph Medicine Crow (or Joe Medicine Crow, full name 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. He is a founding member of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders & Youth.


Early life

Edward S. Curtis portrait of White Man Runs Him, c. 1908

Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird was born near Lodge Grass on the Crow reservation in Montana. He is a cousin to Pauline Small, the first woman elected to the Crow Tribe of Indians. His step-grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was a scout for George Armstrong Custer and an eyewitness to the battle[1 ]. He grew up hearing stories of the momentous event. The first member of his tribe to attend college, his graduate studies were interrupted by World War II.

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

Joseph 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.[1 ] Medicine Crow completed all four tasks required to become a war chief. 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. 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.[1 ]

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.[1 ] Of his story, noted documentarian Ken Burns said, "The story of Joseph Medicine Crow is something I've wanted to tell for 20 years." [2] Mr. Crow was interviewed and appeared in the 2007 Ken Burns PBS series The War, describing his World War II service.

Tribal Spokesman

After serving in the army, he returned to the Crow Agency. In 1948, he was appointed tribal historian and anthropologist. Now well into his 90s, he remains active writing and lecturing. In 1999, he addressed the United Nations. He is a frequent guest speaker at Little Bighorn College and the Little Big Horn Battlefield Museum and has appeared in several documentaries about the battle. A noted author, 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.[3] 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.[4] On July 17, 2008, Senators Max Baucus, Jon Tester, and Mike Enzi introduced a bill to award him the Congressional Gold Medal;[5] Crow's name does not appear on an official list of Congressional Gold Medal recipients.[6]

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.[7]

Joseph Medicine Crow received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the U.S.A.'s highest civilian honor) from President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009.[8]


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.


  • The Image Taker: The Selected Stories and Photographs of Edward S. Curtis [Foreword] (World Wisdom, 2009) ISBN 978-1933316703
  • The Earth Made New: Plains Indian Stories of Creation [Foreword] (World Wisdom, 2009) ISBN 978-1933316673
  • Native Spirit: The Sun Dance Way [Introduction] (World Wisdom, 2007) ISBN 978-1933316277
  • Native Spirit and The Sun Dance Way DVD (World Wisdom, 2007)
  • Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond(National Geographic Children's Books, 2006) ISBN 978-0792253914
  • All Our Relatives: Traditional Native American Thoughts about Nature, [foreword] (World Wisdom, 2005) ISBN 978-0941532778
  • From the Heart of the Crow Country: The Crow Indians' Own Stories (Bison Books, 2000) ISBN 978-0803282636
  • Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird (Abbeville Press, 1998) ISBN 978-0789201607
  • The Last Warrior (Sunset Productions, July 1995) ISBN 978-9995331047
  • Keep the Last Bullet For Yourself (The True Story of Custer's Last Stand) [Introduction] (Reference Publications, 1980)
  • Memoirs of a White Crow Indian [Introduction] (University of Nebraska Press, 1976) ISBN 978-0803258006
  • The Crow Indians: 100 years of acculturation (Wyola Elementary School, 1976)


  1. ^ a b c d Ken Burn’s “The War”
  2. ^ Brendan Miniter, “Ken Burns Returns to War” Wall Street Journal Opinion, 19 Sep 2007; accessed 19 Sep 2007.
  3. ^ Custer Museum Biography
  4. ^ Stephanie Domurat, "Crow Elder Receives High Honor" KULR8, 25 Jun 2008; Retrieved 2008-07-28
  5. ^ Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow Congressional Gold Medal Act Retrieved 2008-07-28
  6. ^ "Congressional Gold Medal Recipients (1776 to Present)",, Retrieved 2009-11-06
  7. ^ the official journal of National Council for the Social Studies
  8. ^ Crow war chief to receive President's medal

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address