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Crow Veteran nominated for Medal of Freedom

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    Crow Veteran nominated for Medal of Freedom

    Crow Veteran nominated for Medal of Freedom
    by Becky Shay, Gazzette Staff
    The Billings Gazzette - Billings, MT - 18 March 2008
    Crow veteran nominated for Medal of Freedom

    Joe Medicine Crow was nominated for the honor by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. The medal is the highest civil award an American can receive.

    Medicine Crow, 94, is recognized as a warrior by his tribe for completing all four actions of counting coup while in battle as an Army soldier in World War II. The first member of the Crow Tribe to earn a master's degree, Medicine Crow is a noted tribal historian and author of several books on Crow culture.

    Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., joined Tester in nominating Medicine Crow. During an announcement this morning, Simpson called Medicine Crow a "renowned figure" who is included in narratives of the West in major museums around the world.

    Visit exhibits about the West, Simpson said, and "It's Joe. It's his voice. It's his face."

    Simpson has known Medicine Crow and his family for more than 40 years, including decades working on the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., and its Plains Indian Museum.

    "He can tell a lot of stories," Simpson joked. "Some of 'em are true.

    "The best one is when he stole all the horses from the Nazis. Hell, I love that one."

    Here are the coups that Medicine Crow counted, according to an interview he gave to The Gazette in 2006.

    • He led a war party by taking a detail of soldiers, under fire, to retrieve dynamite to use for attacking German guns.

    • He touched the first fallen enemy and stole his weapon when Medicine Crow and a German met on a street in France. Medicine Crow knocked down the German and kicked his rifle away, counting coup twice.

    • He entered an enemy camp and stole horses when he sneaked into a farm where German SS officers were holed up for the night. Medicine Crow stealthily entered a barn and corral, mounted a horse and, with a Crow war cry, ran the horses toward the Americans.

    This morning, Medicine Crow told the story of stampeding the horses and said that as he rode off "the fireworks started" behind him as soldiers started shooting. He galloped off into the hills.

    "Being an old farm boy, I sure enjoyed riding a horse," Medicine Crow said. "I even sang a song."

    Medicine Crow also sang for the people at the announcement ceremony, and was joined in the chieftain's honor song by his grandson, Scott Russell, secretary of the tribe, and Darrin Old Coyote, tribal vice secretary.

    Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees are selected for their contributions to the country's culture, history and security.

    Tester said he believes the only other Montanans to be awarded the medal are Mike Mansfield, a longtime Montana senator and ambassador, and Martha Raye, an award-winning actress who was born in Butte.

    "Joe is a remarkable Montanan," Tester said.

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civil award. President John F. Kennedy used an executive order to re-establish the Medal of Freedom as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. The medal may be awarded by the President "to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House.

    Tester's nomination, along with a packet of support letters from various political leaders, is being delivered to the White House today, Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy said.

    The president will decide who receives the honor, Murphy said. There's no date for a decision, but Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees are usually announced beginning in summer.


    Medicine Crow honored for WWII service
    by Becky Shay, Gazzette Staff
    The Billings Gazzette - Billings, MT - 25 June 2008
    Medicine Crow honored for WWII service

    For Joe Medicine Crow, Wednesday was "it'chik." That's Crow for "very good."

    The Crow warrior chieftain was awarded the Bronze Star with valor from the U.S. Army and made a knight of the French Legion of Honor during ceremonies Wednesday. The awards recognize his service with the Army during World War II.

    Medicine Crow counted four coups during the war and became a warrior chief when he returned home. He sat stoically through the events, sometimes accepting the arm of his brother, William, also a veteran, while standing. At 94, Medicine Crow is the oldest living veteran of the Crow Tribe.

    "In my old age, I feel that all the things I did in Europe have finally been recognized and given awards for, so I am quite pleased," Medicine Crow said after the ceremonies.

    The French consul general based in San Francisco awarded Medicine Crow the Legion of Honor, which he called the highest distinction of his country.

    "The French Republic recognizes his great heroism during World War II as well as his outstanding accomplishments since," Pierre-Francois Mourier said. "France has not forgotten - France will never forget - your sacrifices."

    Before the presentation, Mourier talked about the land that once belonged to his country. He said France's decision to sell the land that is now Montana "was not the wisest decision, but it's too late now."

    Montana was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, in which the United States bought more than 800,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River from France for about $15 million.

    Mourier read a history of Medicine Crow's life, including his doctoral-level education, his work as a "remarkable author" of five books and his successful government career. He saluted Medicine Crow's wife, Gloria, and noted that they have been married 60 years.

    "As we say in French, 'Bravo,' " he said.

    Medicine Crow's great-great-grandfather, Pierre de Shane, was French. He came to America, traveled West, married a Crow woman and was adopted into the tribe. While Mourier and Medicine Crow share French heritage, "I can always dream I have Crow blood," Mourier said.

    Retired Army Lt. Gen. Paul Funk awarded the Bronze Star to Medicine Crow.

    Throughout his life, Medicine Crow has shown "the fixed resolve not to quit" and the tenacity of an excellent soldier, Funk said.

    Among the other dignitaries was Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who wore a beaded buckskin vest for the event. Schweitzer has been adopted into the Crow Tribe. Like Medicine Crow, he is a member of the Bad War Deeds Clan. The clan got its name after others alleged that the coups they counted in battle were not valid, Schweitzer said. There is no doubt that Medicine Crow's coups are legitimate, he said.

    "The coups that he counted on the battlefield in France was counted by the people who were with him there that day," Schweitzer said, and the other coups are a documented part of history.

    In a booming voice, Medicine Crow recounted his four coups:

    • He led a war party by taking a detail of soldiers, under fire, to retrieve dynamite to use to attack German guns.

    "My (commanding officer) says if anyone can get through, you can," Medicine Crow recalled. "That young lieutenant knew an Indian warrior was pretty versatile."

    • A photographer from "Stars and Stripes" photographed Medicine Crow as he leaped onto German soil and led a charge.

    "I was the first American soldier to jump into Germany and an Indian warrior at that," Medicine Crow said.

    • He touched the first fallen enemy and stole his weapon when Medicine Crow and a German met on a street in France. Medicine Crow knocked down the German and kicked his rifle away, counting coups twice.

    • He entered an enemy camp and captured horses at a farm where German officers were holed up for the night. Medicine Crow stealthily entered a barn and corral, mounted a horse and, with a Crow war cry, ran the horses toward the Americans.

    "I took off for the hills," Medicine Crow said.

    "Boy, these were pretty horses, great big thoroughbreds," he said, noting that the Germans used the horses for "showing off and parading."

    Enjoying his reminiscing, Medicine Crow said "and another thing," then told of helping liberate a concentration camp near Poland. His unit was in the area when locals told them of the camp. Medicine Crow and his commanding officer took a Jeep to the camp. The guard let them enter unchallenged and they were met "by a Jewish inmate wearing a green and white pajamalike outfit," he said.

    The Germans ran.

    "The two of us stampeded a bunch of SS guards," he said.

    On Wednesday, in Crow tradition, he led the dance while an honor song was performed for him by a Crow drum group. Medicine Crow wore his war bonnet, traded his Army uniform jacket for a buckskin vest and carried a staff with an eagle feather.

    Medicine Crow said one of the things he received in a blessing before going to fight in World War II was an eagle feather. He put that feather in his helmet while fighting in Europe. "That was my strong Indian medicine that brought me back," he said.

    Schweitzer and Mourier also laid a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier at the Custer Battlefield Museum, where the events took place.

    Dennis Clark, the chief of curriculum development for the Center for Army Tactics, presented Medicine Crow with a plaque and announced that his legacy will be passed along in a program for American Indian officers. The college, at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, is near Haskell College, one of the universities from which Medicine Crow graduated.

    Letters were read from Montana's congressional delegation, and the Montana National Guard provided a flyover in a Chinook helicopter. Honor guards were provided by the Montana National Guard and the Patriot Guard Riders.

    Medicine Crow also has been nominated to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That honor is expected to be bestowed this summer.


    Crow tribal historian to receive Medal of Freedom
    by Lonra Thackeray, Gazette Staff
    The Billings Gazzette - Billings, MT - 30 July 2009
    Crow tribal historian to receive Medal of Freedom

    Crow tribal historian Joe Medicine Crow has received many honors in his long and illustrious life, but none can top the one President Barack Obama will bestow on him at the White House on Aug. 12.

    The 96-year-old author, scholar and World War II veteran is among 16 people selected to receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

    "Obviously, I am quite surprised that I was selected for such a high and distinguished award," Medicine Crow said through a spokesman, Christopher Kortlander of Garryowen. "I am humbled and honored to join the ranks of the renowned citizens who have received this medal over the last 62 years."

    In announcing the recipients Thursday, a White House press release said Medicine Crow's "contributions to the preservation of the culture and history of the First Americans are matched only by his importance as a role model to young Native Americans across the country."

    "You know that President Obama is my clan nephew now," Medicine Crow noted. "I met him here on the Crow Reservation when he was adopted by the parents of our current chairman, Mary and Hartford "Sonny" Black Eagle."

    Obama was campaigning for president last year when he made a stop on the Crow Reservation.

    "I sang Senator Obama a praise song, and now I know the song worked. Now that Barack Obama is the president of the United States, he is entitled to the victory song that was given to me by my grandfather, White Man Runs Him, who was General Custer's scout."

    Medicine Crow gained his warrior chief status while fighting in Europe during World War II. Last year, he was awarded the Bronze Star by the U.S. Army for his war service. At the same time, the government of France made him a knight of the French Legion of Honor.

    Born in 1913, Medicine Crow was the first of his tribe to earn a master's degree, which he received from the University of Southern California in 1939. The title of his thesis was "The Effects of European Culture Contacts upon the Economic, Social and Religious Life of the Crow Indians."

    He was working on his doctoral dissertation at USC when World War II ended his academic career. USC awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2003. He also received honorary doctorates from the University of Montana and Rocky Mountain College.

    Over the years, Medicine Crow has written several books on Crow history and culture, including his latest, "Counting Coups," published by National Geographic, Kortlander said.

    Kortlander, founder of the Custer Battlefield Museum at Garryowen and a longtime friend of Medicine Crow, said he will accompany the Crow honoree to Washington next month.

    "He is approaching 97 years of age and continues to be mentally sharp as an arrow," Kortlander said. "I am so proud for Joe that President Obama recognized him with this high honor."

    Medicine Crow was nominated for the Medal of Freedom by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and retired Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., in March 2008.

    "Anyone who's had the honor of meeting Joe knows he's an American hero," Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said Thursday. "Joe earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom a long time ago. His lifetime of hard work, his devotion to the Crow Tribe and his dedication to this country will always be remembered."

    Tester said he plans to attend the ceremony.

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