Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, Ph.D., turned 100 on Oct. 27.

He is a founding member of the Plains Indian Museum, warrior, author, anthropologist, tribal historian and member of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West family.

“When I was born, on Oct. 27, 1913, there were no doctors or nurses around with their instruments, just a medicine woman who specialized in child delivery,” Dr. Medicine Crow says in his book, “Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond” (2003).

“With incense of burning cedar and the singing of sacred songs, I came into the world. I was singing, too, but they probably thought I was wailing.”

Raised by an extended family, and the grandson of legendary warrior and leader, Medicine Crow, Dr. Medicine Crow was the first member of the Crow Nation to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree and also the first member to graduate with a master’s degree (from USC in anthropology) in 1939.

His exploits as an Army warrior in World War II qualified him for the title war chief in the Crow Tribe. He fulfilled the four coups required to achieve that status: capture an enemy’s horse; touch the first fallen enemy in battle; take away an enemy’s weapon; and lead a successful war party. Dr. Medicine Crow’s story was included in the Ken Burns’ documentary, “The War.”

“Medicine Crow was a great warrior. He inspired me to live to protect the tribe and to be a statesman,” Dr. Medicine Crow said. His grandfather traveled to Washington, D.C., on several occasions to speak on behalf of the Crow people and other Natives.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama made several stops in Montana. During a meeting in Billings for veterans, Dr. Medicine Crow stated, “When you get to the White House remember we Indian people since 1492 have been at the bottom of the ladder in America. We want you to bring us up to level … recognize us as first-class citizens.”

In 2009, Dr. Medicine Crow was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama. In 2010, a national conference of tribal leaders was to meet in Washington, D.C. When it was noted that Dr. Medicine Crow was not on the attendance list, the president requested that he be there. Again, Dr. Medicine Crow was following in the footsteps of his grandfather.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday celebration at the Center of the West, this poem was written by advisory board member Craig Johnson, and read by Dr. Medicine Crow’s friend, retired senator Al Simpson:

“Joseph Medicine Crow,” by Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire novels

Stand my friends, Joseph Medicine Crow is walking past.

To see the things that those walnut stained eyes have seen.

To hear the things that those leathery ears have heard.

To feel the things that that still-beating heart has felt.

Stand my friends, Joseph Medicine Crow is walking past.

Stand my friends, history is walking past.

(Story by Anne Marie Shriver, courtesy of Buffalo Bill Center of the West.)

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