Native American historian Joseph Medicine Crow died Sunday at the age of 102. According to Big Horn County coroner Terry Bullis, Medicine Crow died in hospice in Billings, Montana, although few details of his death were available Monday, KULR reported. Medicine Crow was the last remaining war chief of the Crow Tribe of Montana.
"Today, Lisa and I join Montanans to pay respect and celebrate the rich life of Dr. Joe Medicine Crow," Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement Sunday, according to NBC News. "Joe was a Crow War Chief, veteran, elder, historian, author and educator. His legacy will forever serve as an inspiration for all Native Americans — and all Montanans."
Medicine Crow, who was taught to be a warrior at a young age by his grandfather, became a war chief during World War II due to his heroic acts, which included "stealing horses from an enemy encampment and hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier whose life Medicine Crow ultimately spared," according to the Associated Press. President Barack Obama presented Medicine Crow with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Later in life, Medicine Crow became a heralded historian and the first person in his tribe to earn a master's degree.
"I always told people, when you meet Joe Medicine Crow, you're shaking hands with the 19th century," Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Indians curator emeritus Herman Viola told the Associated Press.
Many Montanans held Medicine Crow in high regard, and remembered his achievements in the wake of his death. "Today, Montana lost a treasure," Sen. Jon Tester told KULR in a statement. "Joe Medicine Crow was a soldier and a scholar, but above all was a fierce advocate for Native American families. When you spoke with Joe Medicine Crow, it was impossible not to be inspired. I know his legacy will motivate generations of Montanans to follow in his footsteps and live a life dedicated to serving other."