Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#25, Breaking New Ground - Medicine Crow Middle School

President Obama awarding Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Photo Credit: Bacone College

Our district just broke ground for a new middle school.   It is being named after Joe Medicine Crow.  Joe is 101 and an amazing storyteller.  He is a Crow historian, a  decorated WWII veteran.  In 2009 President Obama bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor - Presidential Medal of Freedom on him.

I have been fortunate to hear Joe tell about when he and other committee members worked to have the museum built at the Chief Plenty Coup State Park.  He told us he and other Crow tribal members (English was their second language) worked with a Czechoslovakian architect (English was his second language) to build the museum.  Joe and the others stressed the importance of having the main door facing East.  Everyone agreed and went on their way.  When the committee came back together that fall they went out to the park to find workers in the final stages of the project.  Workers who only spoke English.   The important East facing door nowhere to be seen.

I remember him saying, "Now imagine some Crows trying to talk to that Czechoslovakian, who then had to explain it to the workers.  It was too late to put in a door, so we had them put in a circular window instead.  Someday if they ever build on maybe we will get the door."

When I first heard this story I marveled at the process of building such a structure.  The work, the translations, the frustrations and the celebrations.  I was joyful when I learned the new school would be named in his honor.  I was saddened by some of the comments that some people made.  We are still breaking ground in society.

His autobiography "Counting Coup" by Joseph Medicine Crow, is an amazing story.  (It only tells his early life through WWII.) It is a fast read and recounts how he returned home and recounted his military experience to the elders. As he recounted his experiences it was determined that he had met all four War Deeds and had earned the right to be a War Chief.

Joe is an amazing man, always with a twinkle in his eyes.  He once told me he wanted to live longer than his mother.  She lived to be 113.

It will not surprise me when he accomplishes it.


  1. What an inspirational man and such a great way to honor him.

  2. I always learn something from your posts, Ruth. I do remember President Obama honoring a native American, so perhaps it was Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow? It's wonderful to hear that he is still alive and 'sparkling'. My sister-in-law's father just turned 100 last year, still in his home, still okay. What a lot of memories these men must have.

  3. Pure inspiration. And so many avenues to follow up this story. My heart sank when I read the door wasn't facing east. But I guess being Native American and 100 years old, he's experienced much worse. Still. Thanks for sharing.


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