Posts Tagged ‘Joe Medicine Crow’

Two tribal leaders watch Thursday morning as speakers dedicate the Bonnie HeavyRunner space in the new Payne Family Native American Center at the University of Montana. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Two tribal leaders watch Thursday morning as speakers dedicate the Bonnie HeavyRunner space in the new Payne Family Native American Center at the University of Montana. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Joe Medicine Crow, who counted coup on German soldiers during World War II, counted coup again this morning on the University of Montana’s Payne Family Native American Center as part of daylong ceremonies officially dedicating UM’s newest building.

“Now I have counted coup on this door to open it up so people can come in and join us,” said Medicine Crow. Traditionally, warriors would count coup on a new lodge, or tepee, before it was used and Medicine Crow and other veterans duplicated that tradition this morning.

The day began as hundreds of people from Montana’s seven Indian reservations and the landless Little Shell Band of Chippewa wound their way from the Adams Center to the new building on the Oval in a “coming home” walk.

Students from the Nkwusm Salish language immersion school in Arlee drummed and sang at the head of the procession, which also included UM President George Dennison.

“It’s an honor because they had so many other people, but they chose us to lead,” said Coral Sherman, 12, a student at the school.
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This will be a light posting day as I’ll be covering dedication ceremonies for the Payne Family Native American Center at the University of Montana (See below). The ceremonies begin at 8:30 Mountain Time this morning with a Coming Home walk led by children from Arlee’s Salish language revitalization school. Check Buffalo Post and Missoulian.com for updates, and follow Missoulian on Twitter for a real-time accounting of the day’s events:

The main entrance to the building and rotunda faces east, in the tradition of the tepees it’s designed after. (TOM BAUER/Missoulian)

The main entrance to the building and rotunda faces east, in the tradition of the tepees it’s designed after. (TOM BAUER/Missoulian)

Crow author and historian Joe Medicine Crow, Blackfeet activist Elouise Cobell and Gov. Brian Schweitzer will be among the speakers Thursday at ceremonies marking the formal opening of the University of Montana’s Payne Family Native American Center – the first of its kind at any American university.

The day’s events, which will include many Native American traditions to honor and dedicate the new center, are open to the public and include tribal leaders and community, state and campus representatives.

“The Payne Family Native American Center underscores our commitment to serve all Montanans, not just some,” UM President George M. Dennison said. “It also places the University of Montana in a unique leadership position nationally and is a source of tremendous pride for everyone involved.”

The formal dedication ceremony will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the UM Oval directly in front of the center. Seating will be provided. The ceremony will begin with an opening convocation by Medicine Crow. Other speakers include Cobell, Schweitzer and UM Native American studies alumnus Jon Swan.

Student-led tours of the center will be available from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6:30 to 8 p.m. The new center will house UM’s Department of Native American Studies, American Indian Student Services and related campus programming.

The university also will host a reception for tribal dignitaries, campus partners and donors. Terry Payne, a UM alumnus and Missoula businessman, is the center’s lead donor. Other key donors include First Interstate Bank and the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, a nationally recognized organization headquartered outside Minneapolis.

For a complete schedule of the day’s events, click here.

Gwen Florio

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As if the horrific shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, weren’t bad enough, critics of President Barack Obama are seizing upon his remarks that day as he closed the long-scheduled White House Tribal Nations Conference.

The shootings occurred across the country from the conference, and in his closing remarks to tribal leaders, Obama paid tribute to a group that includes many veterans – including Crow historian, teacher and war chief Joe Medicine Crow, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – and also to the victims of the still-unfolding tragedy.

“I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration,” the president said that day, “but as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.” He went on to offer his prayers for the victims’ familes. (Read the full transcript here.)

But in those very words, as Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso lays out in excellent detail here, lay the seeds of a manufactured controversy.

Some cable news commentators immediately pounced upon the president, saying he should have canceled the tribal nations summit and concentrated on the Fort Hood tragedy.

Fox News’ Glenn Beck twisted the entire scenario into an insinuation that the president supports reparations for Native Americans, a suggestion guaranteed to rile his conservative listeners. (See previous post here.)

Capriccioso reports that the backlash has stunned and angered many in Indian Country.

“The reaction of those commentators tells me that they just don’t get it,” Chris Stearns, a former senior official in the Clinton administration and current Seattle Human Rights commissioner, tells Capriccioso.

The Navajo Nation citizens adds that “the idea that the president should just drop American Indians from his agenda and close the door on us is the exact opposite of where he is coming from.”

As we’ve said before, it’s an insult to the Fort Hood victims and their loved ones, and to Native Americans as well, to politicize this tragedy in this particular way. We hope we don’t have to keep saying it.

Gwen Florio

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President Barack Obama reaches around the head dress of Chief Joseph Medicine Crow to place a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Barack Obama reaches around the head dress of Chief Joseph Medicine Crow to place a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Joe Medicine Crow – teacher, historian and a veteran who wore war paint into battle during World War II – today received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Here’s the White House statement: “As a warrior and living legend, history flows through Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow High Bird. Born on a reservation and raised by traditional grandparents, he became the first member of his tribe to earn a master’s degree. For his valiant service in World War II, he was awarded the status of Crow War Chief, and his renowned studies of the First Americans and contributions to cultural and historical preservation have been critical to our understanding of America’s history. Joe Medicine Crow is a symbol of strength and survival, and the United States honors him for his dedication to this country and to all Native Americans.”

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who joined Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson in nominating Medicine Crow for the honor, is among the many offering congratulations.

“Joe’s incredible life is chock-full of historic occasions. Today is no different,” Tester says. “Montanans will be talking about Joe and the stories of his heroism for generations. He earned the Medal of Freedom a long time ago as an American warrior, as a teacher, as a lifelong student of history and culture, and as a role model for his tribe.Today Joe is honored as a role model for all of America.”

From Gov. Brian Scwheitzer: “Joe is an inspiration and deserving of this prestigious honor for he is an example of a hero, scholar, historian and mentor for the Crow people, all Montanans and all Americans.”

Medicine Crow, 95, became a Crow war chief, the only one remaining, after performing four “war deeds” fighting Nazis in World War II. He earned a Bronze Star and the prestigious French Legion of Honor.

We’ll post updates about the ceremony itself as soon as that information becomes available.

Gwen Florio

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Joe Medicine Crow talks to then-candidate Barack Obama during Obama's 2008 visit to Billings, Mont. (Billings Gazette/James Woodcock)

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.

Gwen Florio

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