Joe Medicine Crow Dies At Age 102, Last Surviving Plains War Chief Dedicated Life To Inspiring Others

Joe Medicine Crow, the last surviving Plains Indian war chief, died Sunday at age 102. He was a renowned historian for Montana’s Crow Tribe and lived the majority of his life on the Crow reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana.

Medicine Crow is most famous for wearing war paint during his service in World War II. In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Dr. Joe Medicine Crow received Medal of Honor.
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Crow War Chief Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow. [Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

“Today, Lisa and I join Montanans to pay respect and celebrate the rich life of Dr. Joe Medicine Crow,” Montana Governor Steve Bullock said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “Joe was a Crow War Chief, veteran, elder, historian, author, and educator. His legacy will forever serve as an inspiration for all Native Americans — and all Montanans.”

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Medicine Crow was born October 7, 1913, in a small home outside Lodge Grass and always considered Montana his home. His grandfather, Yellowtail, raised the young man in the Crow warrior tradition. He was put through grueling physical tests, including running barefoot in snow to toughen his feet and swimming in frozen rivers to fortify his spirit.

While growing up, Medicine Crow would hear tales of the Battle of Little Big Horn from people who were actually there. His great uncle, White Man Runs Him, served as a scout for George Armstrong Custer.

“At that time, my grandparents were our teachers,” Medicine Crow said in a 2006 interview.

As reported by the Washington Post, the Native American became the tribe’s war chief for his heroism in World War II. To earn the title, he led several effective raids behind enemy lines and successfully fought hand-to-hand against a German soldier, but did not kill him. He also he stole German horses and disarmed an enemy.

In 1946, Medicine Crow told tribal elders of his deeds during the war, but did not realize they meant anything. Nonetheless, based on those acts of bravery, they told him he qualified for the war chief title and it was granted to him.