To commemorate Veterans Day, we're sharing this story from Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, above, who grew up on the Apsáalooke (Crow) Reservation in southeastern Montana hearing the stories of his grandfather White Man Runs Him and the other aged veterans of the Indian wars.
Raiding an enemy’s horses is a tradition that survived even into 20th-century warfare, and during World War II, Dr. Crow got the chance to capture an enemy's horses in the finest tradition of a Plains Indian warrior. Now in his 90s, he tells his story of modern horse-raiding.
In World War II, I managed to have captured fifty head of horses. These were not ordinary horses. They belonged to SS officers, you know? During the last days of the war over there, there was a lot of confusion, so a bunch of these SS officers got on their horses and took off. . . . They were heading back to Germany. And here’s that old sneaky old Crow Indian now following them, watching them. So they camped for the night. I sneak in there and took all their fifty head of horses, left them on foot. So I got on one, looked around there and I even sang a Crow victory song all by myself. Crows do that when they think they’re all by themselves, they do things like that. So I sang a victory song.
—Joe Medicine Crow
Native Americans have served in the U.S. military since the American Revolution, and by percentage continue to serve more than any other ethnic group in the armed forces. For these reasons and more, Veterans Day is an especially significant holiday for many tribal communities across the country.
In 2009, Dr. Crow was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for his services. He will join fellow Native veterans at the museum on Dec. 2nd for a symposium to talk about his experience fighting for the U.S. military . The talk will be webcast live at www.AmericanIndian.si.edu/webcast.
Audio and transcript re-published with permission from the museum's online exhibition, A Song for the Horse Nation, as part of the museum's partnership with StoryCorps for Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month and the StoryCorps National Day of Listening.
A Song for the Horse Nation, which will be on view from October 29, 2011, through January 7, 2013, is curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota). The accompanying book, edited by Her Many Horses and the scholar George P. Horse Capture (A’aninin), is available at the museum’s shops and the museum’s Web site.
For the online exhibition, visit http://nmai.si.edu/static/exhibitions/horsenation/
For an online overview, visit http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=905.