Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird

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Joseph Medicine Crow (White Man Runs Him)

Also Known As: "Joe"
Birthdate: (102)
Birthplace: Lodge Grass, Big Horn County, Montana, United States
Death: April 3, 2016 (102)
Billings, Yellowstone County, Montana, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John White Man Runs Him and Amy Yellowtail
Brother of Arliss White Man Runs Him; Private and Private

Managed by: Jonathan Seth Wolfson
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird

Washington Post Obituary

According to Crow tradition, a man must fulfill certain requirements to become chief of the tribe: command a war party successfully, enter an enemy camp at night and steal a horse, wrestle a weapon away from his enemy and touch the first enemy fallen, without killing him.

Joe Medicine Crow was the last person to meet that code, though far from the windswept plains where his ancestors conceived it. During World War II, when he was a scout for the 103rd Infantry in Europe, he strode into battle wearing war paint beneath his uniform and a yellow eagle feather inside his helmet. So armed, he led a mission through German lines to procure ammunition. He helped capture a German village and disarmed — but didn’t kill — an enemy soldier. And, in the minutes before a planned attack, he set off a stampede of 50 horses from a Nazi stable, singing a traditional Crow honor song as he rode away.

“I never got a scratch,” he recalled to the Billings Gazette decades later.

Medicine Crow died Sunday at 102, according to the Gazette. He was the Crow’s last war chief, the sole surviving link to a long military tradition. But he was also an activist, an author, a Medal of Freedom recipient and a vital chronicler of the history of his tribe.

“I always told people, when you meet Joe Medicine Crow, you’re shaking hands with the 19th century,” Herman Viola, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, told the magazine at Medicine Crow’s alma mater, Linfield College.

Medicine Crow was born in a log home near Lodge Grass, Mont., in 1913. He was given the name Winter Man by a visiting Sioux warrior, he wrote in his memoir, in the hope that he would grow up strong, healthy and able to endure adversity.

His upbringing matched his name. Medicine Crow’s maternal grandfather, Yellowtail, raised the boy in the Crow warrior tradition, putting him through a grueling physical education regime that involved running through snow barefoot to toughen his feet and bathing in frozen rivers to strengthen his spirit. From other relatives, Medicine Crow heard stories of the Battle of Little Bighorn from people who were there, including his great uncle, White Man Runs Him, who served as a scout for George Armstrong Custer.

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Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird's Timeline

1913
October 27, 1913
Lodge Grass, Big Horn County, Montana, United States
2016
April 3, 2016
Age 102
Billings, Yellowstone County, Montana, United States