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Joe Medicine Crow, The Last Living Plains Indian War Chief, Dies At 102

The Native American historian, author, educator, veteran, and war chief died on Sunday.

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His grandfather, Yellowtail, started to train Medicine Crow to be a warrior when he was only 6-years-old. The training involved grueling physical activity, such as running barefoot in the snow.


In 1939, Medicine Crow earned a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Southern California, becoming the first member of his tribe to ever earn a master's.

US Interior / Via Flickr: usinterior

Crow Nation Members Joe Medicine Crow and Leonard Bends with Deputy Attorney General David Ogden

During World War II, Medicine Crow completed the four tasks needed to become a Crow War Chief, including stealing horses from the enemy and wrestling a weapon away from a Nazi.

"Warfare was our highest art, but Plains Indian warfare was not about killing. It was about intelligence, leadership, and honor," Medicine Crow wrote in his 2006 book Counting Coup.


"(His) life reflects not only the warrior spirit of the Crow people, but America's highest ideals," Obama said at the time.

Montana senator Jon Tester tweeted that "it was impossible not to be inspired" by Medicine Crow.

When you spoke with Joe Medicine Crow, it was impossible not to be inspired.

Gov. Steve Bullock also called Medicine Crow an inspiration.

Facebook: GovernorBullock

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said Medicine Crow's "spirit, humility and life achievements leave a lasting imprint on Montana's history."

Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at

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