Joe Medicine Crow talks to then-candidate Barack Obama during Obama's 2008 visit to Billings, Mont. (Billings Gazette/James Woodcock)
Finally, the kind of celebrity we can get behind. Crow War Chief Joe Medicine Crow, who is 95, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor – from President Obama in just a couple of weeks. Read the AP story here.
Medicine Crow, who wore war paint under his World War II uniform, and stole horses from a Nazi camp while singing Crow battle songs, already holds a Bronze Star and the French Legion of Honor, and has been nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal. He became the first in his tribe to receive a master’s degree, and is its last surviving war chief.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Wyoming’s Alan Simpson nominated him for the medal. “Anyone who’s had the honor of meeting Joe knows he’s an American hero,” Tester says. “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.”
Medicine Crow will receive the medal from a relative. Obama became an honorary mem-ber of the tribe while campaigning in Montana.
Retired Brig. Gen. “Bo” Foster was awarded the French Legion of Honor Chevalier last night, apparently only the third Montanan to receive France’s highest award. Foster, 97, received the actual medal from Chantal Davoine-Moser, who represents the French Consulate, at a packed ceremony in Missoula. Read more about it here.
Foster joins Staff Sgt. Frank Stoltz of Miles City and Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, a Crow tribal historian, who received their Chevalier awards in 2008. According to this account, among Medicine Crow’s battlefield feats was a midnight raid to steal the horses from a battalion of German officers. He told historian Ken Burns that he sang a traditional Crow honor song as he rode off. He also told Burns he had a German soldier by the throat, but released the man when he cried for his mother.
This time, to Caleb Shields, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Saturday’s University of Montana commencement ceremonies.
Shields, a former Fort Peck tribal chairman, is coordinating a comprehensive book, “The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000.” You can read about his many accomplishments here.
Our former colleague Jodi Rave’s final story for the Missoulian – a profile of Mandan elder Edwin Benson, the last person alive whose first language is Nu’eta – ran in today’s paper. The story is both sad and inspiring. Please read it here. Benson, 78, will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of North Dakota on Saturday.
Also, this week kicks off the University of Montana’s SpectrUM Discovery Area’s tour of reservations with its Weather exhibit.
The exhibit opened Sunday at Salish Kootenai College. Read the story here.
And last, but hardly least, the Cobell vs. Salazar trust case is back in court today. The government launched its arguments by saying it owes nothing – yep, that’s a big fat zero – to a half-million Indian people and their heirs whose trust lands were managed (or, as the plaintiffs contend, mismanaged) by the government. Lead plaintiff in the case is Browning’s Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet. Read the story from this morning’s court proceedings here. We’ll be updating it throughout the day.
I was not aware, until I read this story in today’s Missoulian here on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ 23rd annual River Honoring, that in the 1970s and 1980s, several dams were planned for the Lower Flathead.
One of those proposed dams, right on the edge of the Flathead Reservation, would have flooded miles upstream. The tribes and other groups fought that dam and at least four others in the 1970s; as well as one proposed in the Buffalo Rapids area in the 1980s. Other reservations faced similar dilemmas. In Arizona, the Fort McDowell-Yavapai Nation successfully opposed the Orme Dam planned at the confluence of the Salt and Verde rivers in the 1970s. It would have supplied water to Phoenix, but flooded much of the Fort McDowell Reservation. As in Montana, an annual celebration on the reservation marks that project’s defeat. (See the tribe’s Web page on Orme here.
Other tribes were not so lucky. Tourism sites tout Lake Sakakawea as a recreation area, but few people boating and fishing on it realize the 1950s-era Garrison Dam that created the lake flooded more than 200 miles of tribal lands, driving people from their homes. It’s a terrible thing to think about, and all the more reason to be grateful for the efforts along the Lower Flathead and to celebrate along with the tribes. “We don’t like to turn away anyone that wants to come,” says Germaine White, education and information specialist with the CSKT Natural Resources Department. In recent years, they’ve centered the River Honoring around schoolchildren, the idea being that it’s never too early to begin honoring our waters.
Last year, I joined a great group of people for a bear honoring at Greenough Park here in Missoula. The group is meeting again this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. See details for three-day schedule below. A bear food buffet, powwow and Glacier Park tour and more is scheduled! Come and check it out.
Great Bear Foundation’s
10th Annual International Multicultural Bear Honoring
May 1-3, 2009
Dear Friends of the Bear,
It’s time to Honor the Bears! GBF is holding our 10th Annual Multicultural Bear Honoring, and all are welcome to participate. This is a celebration of the bears and springtime, reminiscent of traditional Native American and First Nations spring ceremonies. The bears’ return to the sun after a long winter’s sleep coincides with the return of warm weather, new plant and animal life, ease and prosperity. We honor the bears for their many reminders to us, their mysterious and powerful presence in our lives, and their will to persevere in this modern, industrialized world. Native Americans have valued the bears’ roles in springtime, and so should we.
Friday, May 1 – Greenough Park, Missoula, Montana
4:00-5:30 P.M. Bear Walk- Join Dr. Jonkel on A walk through Greenough Park where we will look for bear signs and denning sites while learning interesting facts along the way.
For anyone following the blogs on Indian news reporting — I will not provide a map – here is a bit of information about me. No, I don’t speak fluent Hidatsa, nor Lakota (my dad does, though).
Fact: The majority of Native people do not speak their language, a result of government assimilation practices.
Here’s a post from a Lakota relative, Mary Lee Johns, about my tribal ties:
…Now to answer Awé, a member of the Crow Tribe.
It is obvious you don’t know the history of Jodi Rave. I am taking my time out of a busy day to take this opportunity to provide you with some of her background so you will no longer refer to her as a “Pan-Indian member of the Hidatsa tribe”.
1. Jodi is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribe of North Dakota. Her Mother, Gertrude Spotted Bear was a Mandan and Hidatsa from Twin Buttes, N.D. on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Her Father, Carlin Rave is a Lakota (Minicoju and Itazicho) from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
2. Her Aunt Alyce Spotted Bird served as the Three Affiliated Tribe’s first Chairwoman. Her mother’s brother presently serves on the Three Affiliated Tribal Council.
Because I am more aware of who her father’s people are I will take my time to provide you a short version of the family history. If those who know of her Mandan history I’m sure if asked they can provide this to Awé.
1. Jodi comes from the Fights the Thunder, Poor Buffalo, Dupris, and Traversie Tiyospae’s (family group). She has relatives on the Ft. Peck Reservation as well as the Northern Cheyenne. A member of her family is married into the Crow tribe.
2. Jodi’s great, great grandfather Fights the Thunder, his three son’s and other relatives fought in both the Battle of the Rosebud and at Little Big Horn were one of those sons, Bear With Horns was killed. His brother, Spotted Eagle was one of the important leaders that sat with Sitting Bull when he negotiated with the U.S. when they were trying to force the Lakota to return to the U.S. from Canada.
3. Her great, g.g. grandfather Frederick Dupris and his son’s which includes her great, g. grandfather Edward is one of the four families that is given the credit for saving the buffalo from extinction. Edward served many years on the first tribal council on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
4. Her great, g.g. Grandmother Mary Bruguier Traversie’s brother was Johnny Bruguier also known as Big Leggings one of Sitting Bull’s interpreters. Her great, g. Grandmother Mary Traversie Dupris was one of the first school teachers on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
5. Her grandmother Aurelia Dupris Reddest was a teacher for the BIA and was asked to teach in the most remote schools on the reservations in South Dakota because she could teach in fluent Lakota and in English. She was assigned to Bridger (were the descendents of the massacre of Wounded Knee are located) Little Eagle (were the descendents of Sitting Bulls people are located) and Wamblee (one of the most traditional communities of the Oglala are located). You can still find her students in various places in tribal governments from these areas.
6. Eunice Larabee, her grandmother Aurelia’s younger sister served on the Cheyenne River Tribal council for 12 years. She was instrumental in forming the Lakota TB Health Association the fore-runner of the CHR program. The national Indian Health Service acknowledged the important role she played in eradicating TB from the Aberdeen Area and acknowledges her in the creation of the CHR program.
There are many more things I can say about this family but I only wanted Awé to understand Jodi’ is so far from being a so-called Pan Indian then she herself is. Jodi on both sides of her family comes from people who have worked tirelessly in defending the rights of Indian people. She was raised in both families to understand tradition and her culture and not once in her life has she ever been anything other then a Mandan/Lakota.
As far has Awé’s statement regarding her as an “Indian Reporter” she is. The only National Indian Reporter whose job is to write about Indian issues. She has readers from all over the U.S. as well as an international following and has received many prestigious awards in her career. If people are angry because of what she reports they should look to themselves and ask why. They may find that they need to spend time working on their issues.