Medicine Crow (framed) by Steve Henderson
Medicine Crow, a member of the Crow people whose territory extended through Montana, Wyoming, and into North Dakota, was born in 1848. By the time of his birth, his father had died in what historians speculate to be a smallpox epidemic. His mother later married the noted medicine man, Bull Goes Hunting, who factored greatly in Medicine Crow’s growing up.
Legend tells that Medicine Crow saw many prophetic visions. One of them, experienced when he was 18, and after four days and three nights of fasting, foretold the passing away of the buffalo, as well as the coming of the white man with his cattle, horses, steamboats, and thirst for land. Other visions foretold the arrival of the railroad (“something black with round legs”) and planes (“wagons flying in the sky”).
A strong and determined warrior, Medicine Crow commanded 10 successful war parties, and was instrumental in fighting against the Lakota Tribe of the Plains, as well as the Nez Perce of the Pacific Northwest. As a scout for the U.S. government, he joined with the U.S. army to fight against other Native American tribes, traditional enemies of the Crow, who were resistant to the white man’s incursion.
Known for his distinction of having “thrown away” six wives, Medicine Crow exhibited the traits of humanity throughout time and place, with bravery and fearlessness interspersed with the less admirable traits of aggression and power. His alliance with the white man against Native American people from a different region is a troubling element of his personal history, and while one admires his devotion to his own tribe, one hesitates to bestow accolades without caveat upon one who used his skill and ability to attack tribes that wished, like his own people, to be left alone by the invasion of settlers from the east.
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