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November 11, 2011

American Indian Heritage & StoryCorps 2011: A Crow Warrior vs. The Nazis

JoemedJoseph Medicine Crow, about to enter the dance arena at the annual Crow Fair, holds a dance stick representing the horses he captured from German SS officers in World War II. (Photo by Glen Swanson.)


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.


Joe Medicine Crow - Click to Play


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.


This is very beautiful I will be sharring THANK YOU

Its humbling to hear how individuals such as Joe Medicine Crow played such an important role in the WW2. I'm so glad those SS guys had their horses taken from them.

Its humbling to hear how individuals such as Joe Medicine Crow played such an important role in the WW2. I'm so glad those SS guys had their horses taken from them.

Such a great honor for our veterans, a day to commemorate the world war II. Cheers!

he deserves the honor that he got. i bet that part of his life was very adventurous. he experienced a very rare moment he deserves all it all.

I think this is a good article.People respect those who gave everything for their country in times of conflict. A fitting tribute. Thank you.

I find this story very intereseting because I am doing a report about Modern Day American-Indian culture and the majority of information that I have found along my gatherings has been along the lines of casinos and indian reservations, and a few mentioning the unique communal approach that the tribes have taken to "share the wealth" and as always, there are some disagreements along the way. Rather than learning about the casino war that goes on between these tribes, it is refreshing to read a bit about the actual culture and recognize them in that dimension.

You provided an impressive article I like it too much. Thanks.

This is a great story. It's nice to hear story from elders about what happened some past years ago.


I love historical articles like this. Would never have linked Native American warriors with WW2.


very interesting post
Thanks so much for the article. I really liked it.

Thanks for the interesting read, we don't hear much about the Indians during World War 2 this is the first article I have come across in fact.

It is very humbling how this man proudly served the same government that did so many bad things to his people.

Incredibly intersting. A wonderful tribute to Joe Medicine Crow to have a record of his amazing story - in his voice - in his words. A true national treasure. Thank you for your bravery Joe Medicine Crow - your heroic story is now part of recorded history.

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