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Tributes Pour In For Deceased Crow War Chief Joseph Medicine Crow

Tributes are pouring in for the famous Crow War Chief, Joseph Medicine Crow, who died Sunday at age 102.

Joe Medicine Crow sings to the president
A group photo of Barack Obama, Joe Medicine Crow, and Michelle Obama amongst other persons.

Audio: Tributes Pour In For Deceased Crow War Chief Joseph Medicine Crow

Tributes are pouring in for the famous Crow War Chief, Joseph Medicine Crow, who died Sunday at age 102.

Medicine Crow earned the war chief title from his tribe for his bravery in Europe in World War Two, including leading a successful war party and stealing enemy horses, a story he recounted in the 2007 Ken Burns documentary, The War.

“I put my little rope, and made an Indian bridle, you know? Double half-hitch,” he said in the film. “I got on it, and I stampeded the horses out of there. I headed off. These were not ordinary horses, they were beautiful. And the one I was on was a sorrel, with a blaze, so I felt pretty good, so I looked around, pretty soon I sang a song, a praise song,” he said, then singing the song.

Medicine Crow was a noted scholar as well. He was the first member of the Crow tribe to earn a Master's degree and was at work on his doctorate in anthropology at the University of Southern California when he was called to serve in the military.

Mary Hudetz grew up in Billings and Crow Agency, and is a member of the same Whistling Water clan as Medicine Crow. She's now an Associated Press reporter in New Mexico and has written about Medicine Crow.

“I grew up really admiring him, always seeing him at cultural events, and Crow Fair, and sometimes getting to see him or meet with him or visit.”

Hudetz says Medicine Crow was a role model not just for excelling in the academic world off the reservation, but for doing so without losing his strong tribal identity. She says she admires him for learning and preserving Crow traditions from the elders he knew, and then passing them on. People saw that, Hudetz says, during Crow Fair.

“And he would be with the drummers, at the middle, singing and just enjoying the event, and then also recording it, because he was an anthropologist, and to me that summed up Joe quite a bit, in that he was culturally active, but then also a person who was documenting our life and making sure it was sustained for a very long time.”

In 2009 President Obama awarded Medicine Crow the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Historian, educator and patriot,” Obama said, “a good man. Dr. Medicine Crow's life reflects not only the warrior spirit of the Crow people, but also America's highest ideals.

Crow Tribal member and distant relative of Joseph Medicine Crow, Mary Hudetz, says that as accomplished and respected as he was, Medicine Crow remained humble and made everyone he met feel important and valued.

He also had a great sense of humor, she says. Hudetz says she interviewed him on his 101st birthday, and he jokingly said he was actually 91.

“And I just – the way he laughed at himself and said something about trying to believe he was young,” she said, laughing herself.

Joseph Medicine Crow, whose Crow name was High Bird, died at a hospice in Billings Sunday. He was 102 years old.

Copyright 2016 KUFM-FM. To see more, visit KUFM-FM.

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