Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird, the last war chief of the Crow Nation, died Sunday. Nicknamed CrowJoe, he was a writer, historian, and activist. During his life, he received the Bronze Star Medal and the Légion d'honneur for his wartime service and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. The Washington Post has more.
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.
After the war, Crow led a distinguished life as an educator, tribal historian, and advocate. He was 102.
(Image credit: U.S. Department of the Interior)