Joe Medicine Crow MA ’39 (LAS) of Lodge Grass, Montana; April 3, at the age of 102. Joseph Medicine Crow was an acclaimed Native American historian and last surviving war chief of Montana’s Crow Tribe.
A member of the Crow Tribe’s Whistling Water clan, he was raised by his grandparents in a log house in a rural area of the Crow Reservation near Lodge Grass, Mont. His Crow name was “High Bird,” and he recalled listening as a child to stories about the Battle of the Little Bighorn from those who were there, including his grandmother’s brother, White Man Runs Him, a scout for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
His grandfather, Yellowtail, raised him to be a warrior. His training began when he was just 6 or 7, with a punishing physical regimen that included running barefoot in the snow to toughen the boy’s feet and spirit.
In 1939, he became the first of his tribe to receive a master’s degree, in anthropology. He served for decades as a Crow historian, cataloging his people’s nomadic history by collecting firsthand accounts of pre-reservation life from fellow tribal members.
During World War II, he earned the title of war chief after performing a series of daring deeds, including stealing horses from an enemy encampment and hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier whose life he ultimately spared.
He was nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal and was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from USC and Montana’s Rocky Mountain College.