Dr. Joe Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, died at the age of 102 on Sunday, April 3, 2016, family members confirmed.
Medicine Crow was born on October 27, 1913, near Lodge Grass.
The decorated WWII veteran and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom attended the University of Southern California where he earned a degree in anthropology in 1939. He is the first member of the Crow tribe to obtain a master’s degree.
In 2015, Billings school officials named the new middle school in the Heights “Medicine Crow Middle School,” which is currently under construction on the corner of Bench Boulevard and Barret Road. He also appeared for the ground breaking of the school’s construction.
Crow was a frequent guest speaker at Little Big Horn College and Little Big Horn Battlefield Museum, and has appeared in several documentaries about the battle.
He was also a historian and author of several books, and is best known for his writings and lectures concerning the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
School District 2 Superintendent Terry Bouck sent out a statement regarding Medicine Crow’s death:
“Today we learned of the Passing of Joe Medicine Crow. Dr. Medicine Crow was a patriot, scholar and the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Billings Public Schools is proud to honor Dr. Medicine Crow by naming the new Heights Middle School after him. Joe Medicine Crow’s "New House of Learning” will open in his honor in August of 2016, and we know that his words and deeds will influence all who walk through its halls.“
The National Park Service has more information about Medicine Crow, including this overview:
Born October 27, 1913 near Lodge Grass, Montana, Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow is the last living person with a direct oral history from a participant of the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
His grandfather, White Man Runs Him was a scout with General Custer and died in 1925 when Medicine Crow was 11 years old.
Dr. Medicine Crow’s grandparents lived before the United States Government sent Indians to a reservation in 1884. His father was a boyhood friend of Chief Plenty Coups and had advised Plenty Coups to go to the nation’s capital to present the Indians cases for preserving their ancestral land.
Indian Country Today Media Network provides this information about his earning the title of "war chief”:
Prior to WWII, Medicine Crow – who was the first of his tribe to graduate from college – was studying for an advanced degree in anthropology before volunteering for the Army and being sent to Europe.
It was on the European battlefields Medicine Crow completed all of the four tasks needed to become a Crow War Chief. As a scout he led several successful war parties deep behind enemy lines; he stole German horses; he disarmed an enemy; and he touched an enemy (counted coup) without killing him.
The last photo is Joe Medicine Crow’s grandfather, White Man Runs Him, who was a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer.