Medicine Crow was an expert on the Battle of Little Bighorn

By Alex Heigl
Updated April 04, 2016 01:30 PM
Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The last living Plains Indian War Chief, Dr. Joe Medicine Crow, died on Sunday, family members confirmed to Billings, Montana’s Q2 News. He was 102 years old.

Medicine Crow was born on October 27, 1913, near Lodge Grass, Montana. He was the last living person with a direct oral lineage to 1876’s Battle of Little Big Horn – his grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was a scout with General Custer.

Medicine Crow was the first of his tribe to graduate from college. He was working towards an advanced degree in anthropology when he volunteered for the Army during World War II.

While serving in Europe, Medicine Crow completed the four tasks that were required for the rank of War Chief. He led several scouting parties behind enemy lines, stole German horses, disarmed an enemy and touched an enemy without killing him, known as counting coup.

Medicine Crow’s service also saw him honored with a Bronze Star and the prestigious French Legion of Honor. He was later awarded a Gold Congressional Medal of Honor, an honorary doctorate in 2003 from the University of California and the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House in Washington D.C. in August of 2008.

Crow was a historian and a prolific writer. He authored the official script for the Battle of Little Big Horn that’s still used in official reenactments and he was a frequent guest speaker at Little Big Horn College and the museum commemorating the battle.

Despite his wartime achievements, Medicine Crow was philosophical about war: “No one wins,” he once said. “Both sides lose. The Indians, so called hostiles, won the battle of the day, but lost their way of life. The worst enemies are ourselves.”