Thursday, October 27, 2011

Joseph Medicine Crow

As I've written many times now, The Writer's Almanac is a treasure trove.  You can go to the web site, or better yet, sign up for a free daily email of things loosely categorized as "literary."

Here's an excerpt from today's entry, which bumped what I was going to post:

Today is the 98th birthday of Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird, best known as Joseph Medicine Crow, who was born in 1913 into the Apsaalooke people -- the children of the large-beaked bird -- near Lodge Grass on the Crow reservation in southern Montana. Joseph Crow is the oldest living man of the Crow tribe and the last traditional Crow chief. As a writer, he has produced seminal works on Native American history and reservation life. But it is for Medicine Crow's writings on the victory of the Cheyenne and Lakota warriors led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall over the U.S. Cavalry and George Armstrong Custer that he is best known.

Joseph was the first member of his tribe to attend college and was in the middle of graduate studies in anthropology when World War II began and he joined the Army as an infantry scout. He'd learned from his grandfather that a warrior must have the strength and intelligence to carry out four traditional military acts, a process called "counting-coup," in order to qualify as a chief, and Medicine Crow completed all four during the war. One highly prestigious act was to make physical contact with an enemy and escape unharmed, and on one occasion, he fought and grappled with a German soldier whose life he then spared when the man screamed out for his mother. On another, Medicine Crow led a war party to steal 50 Nazi SS horses from a German camp, singing a Crow song of honor as they rode away.

After the war, Medicine Crow returned to Montana where he was appointed his tribe's historian and anthropologist. He began writing academic works, collections of Crow stories and the Crow creation cycle, nonfiction books for children, and his memoirs, to mention just a few. Medicine Crow's step-grandfather had been a scout for George Armstrong Custer and an eyewitness to Custer's Last Stand along the Little Big Horn River, and as a boy Joseph had heard many stories of the battle; today, Medicine Crow is the last living person to have received direct oral testimony from a participant of Little Bighorn, which he has written about in Keep the Last Bullet for Yourself (The True Story of Custer's Last Stand) and other works.

Medicine Crow has been awarded the American Bronze Star as well as the French Legion of Honor. A White House press release naming Medicine Crow as a recipient of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom praised him for his "contributions to the preservation of the culture and history of the First Americans," saying that those achievements are only matched by "his importance as a role model to young Native Americans across the country."


I gotta check as to Kindle availability for this book.  So much to read and so little time....

 

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