Joseph Medicine Crow, last of the war chiefs, dies at 102

Medicine Crow

Joseph Medicine Crow, in a portrait painted in 2015 by Ben Pease.

Joseph Medicine Crow, the great Crow Indian historian, author and war hero, often called the last living Plains Indian war chief, reportedly died this morning at the age of 102.

His death was reported on the Facebook page of Ben Pease, the artist whose portrait of Medicine Crow is above. In a private message, Pease said Medicine Crow “passed to the ‘Other Side Camp’ Sunday morning.”

Among his many honors, Medicine Crow was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor—by President Obama in 2009. In Billings, the District 2 School Board voted last year to name a new middle school in the Heights—the first public school built in Billings in 30-some years—after Medicine Crow.

A lot has been written about Medicine Crow, including a good piece by Last Best News contributor Adrian Jawort, writing in Indian Country Today on the occasion of Medicine Crow’s 100th birthday.

On the occasion of Medicine Crow’s 101st birthday, Mary Hudetz, a native of Crow Agency and editor-in-chief of Native Peoples Magazine, wrote a fine story about him for Al Jazeera America.

Here’s an excerpt from Hudetz’s story, explaining the core of Medicine Crow’s achievements:

 “He was raised by pre-reservation family members, and he became a walking encyclopedia of Crow history during the 20th century,” said Herman Viola, curator emeritus for the Smithsonian Institution, who met Medicine Crow during the 1970s when he was mining historic Crow photographs in the Smithsonian archives.

“He walked two worlds and was happy to work with the white community to provide a better understanding of Native life and problems,” Viola said.

And you can go here to find all sorts of other information on Medicine Crow, including a biography, photos, film clips, online articles, slideshows and links.

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