Remembering: Joseph Medicine Crow

If this were Japan, Joseph Medicine Crow, or High Bird (1914–2016), would have been considered a living cultural treasure, for he was a unique individual by any standard. The first member of the Crow Nation to graduate from college, he was working on his doctorate in anthropology at the University of Southern California when World War II interrupted his studies and he enlisted.

Although offered a commission because of his advanced education, Medicine Crow declined on the grounds that a warrior must first prove himself in battle before leading men into combat. As he later confided to me, it was the worst mistake he ever made, because the U.S. Army did not follow the principles of the Crow people. Medicine Crow entered and left the Army as a private. No matter. Descended from a long and famous line of Crow war chiefs, Private Medicine Crow went on to distinguish himself on the battle fields of Europe.

I first met Medicine Crow in 1973 when he came to the Smithsonian Institution to do research on Crow history. We struck up a friendship that deepened over the years and culminated in his adoption of me as his brother. He named me One Star, after the grandfather who raised him. I came to appreciate High Bird, the name the Crow people accorded Medicine Crow upon his return from World War II, more and more during my many visits to his beloved Crow country. And thanks to him, after each visit I would walk away with an increased appreciation for the Crow people and their place in history.