Famous Crow

Apsáalooke Crow Chiefs, Leaders, and Medicine Men

Mid 1400s

No  Vitals or No Intestines (Shíipdeetash) – His vision of the sacred Tobacco seed led to a migration from Spirit (Devils) Lake to Crow Country.
Red Scout (Chíitdeehisshish) – Brother of No Vitals. Based on his vision of corn seed, his band settled on the Missouri River to become the Hidatsa.

Late 1400s

One Eye (Ishtúwatash) or Raven Face (Iispeelatchísh) –

Early 1500s

Paints His Shirt Red (Axúachisshish) –

Mid 1500s

Red Fish (Búahisshish) – During the time of this leader, the Apsáalooke came to have a ready supply of obsidian. Undoubtedly, this meant the Crow people gained control the obsidian mines in present-day Yellowstone Park during this period.

Late 1500s

Running Coyote (Búattaaxalusshish) Through instructions received in a vision, this leader developed the buffalo jump for procuring meat.

Early 1600s

One Heart (Daasáwatash) – Under this chief, the population of the Crow people had grown and was prosperous. This Crow leader was killed by One Eye for murdering his brother.

Mid 1600s

White Moccasin Top (Isahpíishchoosish) –

Whose Heart Is Never Good (Daxpitchée DaasítchileetashBear ) – Following a dispute over the distribution of a buffalo paunch, this leader separated his group from the Hidatsa and joined the Many Lodges (Ashalahó)  in Crow Country. His followers became the historic River Crow band.

Late 1600s

Young White Buffalo (Chíilapkalishtachiash) – During the time of this leader, the Crow obtained their first steel knives from the Hidatsa. This Crow leader was also the first to bring horses to the Apsáalooke people.

Early 1700s

Plays With His Face (Iisaakiiwaanníash) – A fearless leader who once escaped certain death at the hands of the enemy by jumping off a cliff, and using his buffalo robe like a parachute.

Mid 1700s

Red Plume [Feather At The Temple] (Itchuuwaaóoshbishish), was born ca. 1750, died in 1836. – A Mountain Crow leader during fur trading days and a signer of the 1825 Friendship Treaty. Traders and trappers called him Long Hair because of his extraordinarily long hair, approximately 25 feet long. At his death, his hair was cut off and maintained by tribal leaders. The long lock of hair is now curated by the Chief Plenty Coups State Park at Pryor, Montana.

Late 1700s

Sore Belly or Rotten Belly (Eelápuash,1795-1834) – A River Crow leader, a contemporary of Red Plume. He refused to sign the 1825 Friendship Treaty.

 In The Middle Of The Land (Awé KúalawaachishSits ), also known as Blood Woman (Káamneewiash)and Blackfoot (Iché Shipíte), lived from 1795-1877). He was the principal Crow Chief in the mid-1800’s. He used the metaphor of the four base tipi poles to describe the borders of Crow Country.


Red Bear (Daxpitcheehísshish) was born around 1807 and lived into the 1860s. A noted Mountain Crow chief and warrior during the 1840’s and 1850s. 

Twines His (Horse’s) Tail or Rotten Tail (Chíischipaaliash) was born about 1800 and lived to 1867. He was leader of the River Crow band during the 1840’s and head chief of the Crow Tribe during the 1850’s and 1860’s. Rotten Tail was an outstanding medicine man and war party commander (pipe carrier). 

White Temple (Itchúua Chíash), also known as Iron Bull (Uuwatchiilapish) lived ca. 1820-1886. He was an important warrior and second ranking chief to Sits In The Middle Of The Land. 

Pretty Eagle (Déaxitchish) was born in 1846 and died in 1905. He was a reservation-era leader who was recognized by 1890, along with Plenty Coups, as head chief of the Crow Tribe. 

Plenty Coups  or Many War Achievements(Alaxchiiaahush), also known as Buffalo Bull Facing The Wind (Chíilaphuchissaaleesh) lived from 1848 to 1932. He was a Mountain Crow leader, visionary, diplomat, and recognized as the last principal chief of the Crow Tribe. When he died, his land was donated to make Chief Plenty Coups State Park. 

Two Leggings (Issaatxalúash), also known as Big [Whooping] Crane (Apitisée) was born in the mid-1840’s and died in 1923. He was a prominent River Crow chief, war leader, and reservation-era chief. 

Medicine Crow (PédhitšhÎ-wahpášh) or Raven  (Peelatchiwaaxpáash) – A prominent Kicked In The Belly chief, war leader, and reservation-era chief.

1900s to present

Joseph Medicine Crow  (PédhitšhÎ-wahpášh) , also known as High Bird, () was born October 27, 1913. He was a Crow tribal historian and official anthropologist for the tribe, and a noted author.

His books have included Crow Migration Story, Medicine Crow, the Handbook of Crow Indian Laws and Treaties , Crow Indian Buffalo Jump Techniques, Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, and From the Heart of the Crow Country: The Crow Indians’ Own Stories. He also authored a children’s book entitled Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird: Tales of the People.

His book Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, written about his life, was chosen by the National Council for the Social Studies as a “Notable Tradebook for Young People” in 2007.

Joseph Medicine Crow is the last member of the Crow tribe to become a war chief. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal, and the Légion d’honneur. On July 17, 2008, Senators Max Baucus, Jon Tester, and Mike Enzi introduced a bill to award him the Congressional Gold Medal.

Joseph Medicine Crow received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the U.S.A.’s highest civilian honor) from President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009.

Joseph Medicine Crow deat at age 102

Crow Tribe of Montana


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Joseph Medicine Crow was the last member of the Crow tribe to become a war chief

In traditional Crow culture, warlike endeavors were key to becoming a chief and leader. Four acts of bravery and display were considered prerequisites for leadership; their achievement reflected divine guidance and grace. First, one had to be the first to strike or touch the enemy in battle. There could be only one first striker in a battle, and the race to attain that honor created the fury of the attack on the enemy.

Second, one had to take a weapon from the enemy in battle. With the coming of gunpowder, the taking of a rifle was a prime honor.

Third, one had to take a horse in battle, either from the enemy horse herd or, better, from the doorway of the owner’s lodge.

Fourth, one had to lead a successful war party and demonstrate leadership prowess in a demanding situation. The achievement of all these honors qualified one to be a chief, but it remained for the camp, the clan, the band, or other group to select its leader from the pool of eligible candidates. The head or principal chief was selected by a council of chiefs.

Joseph Medicine Crow joined the army, becoming a scout in the 103rd Infantry Division. Whenever he went into battle, he wore his war paint beneath his uniform and a sacred eagle feather beneath his helmet. Medicine Crow completed all four tasks required to become a war chief.

(1) He touched a living enemy soldier when he turned a corner and found himself face to face with a young German soldier.

(2) The collision knocked the German’s weapon to the ground. Mr. Medicine Crow lowered his own weapon and the two fought hand-to-hand. In the end Mr. Crow got the best of the German, grabbing him by the neck and choking him. He was going to kill the German soldier on the spot when the man screamed out “Momma.” Mr. Crow then retrieved the German’s rifle and let him go.

(3) He also led a successful war party and

(4) stole an enemy horse, (actually 50 of them), making a midnight raid to steal the horses from a battalion of German officers. As he rode off, he sang a traditional Crow honor song.

In the last days of the war, Joseph Medicine Crow helped liberate a concentration camp in Poland. He and his commanding officer drove a jeep through the front gates.

He is the last member of the Crow tribe to become a war chief.

Joseph Medicine Crow was also made a Knight in the French Legion of Honor, was the first person in his tribe to go to college and graduated with a Masters Degree in anthropology. He received three honorary PhDs, authored nearly a dozen books on native american military history, stayed married to the same woman for over 60 years, and has been the official historian of the Crow tribe for more than 60 years.

In August of 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest honor awarded to American civilians – for his combined military service and all the work he has done to help improve the lives of the people of the Crow people. The 95 year-old Medicine Crow personally led the ceremonial dance after the presidential ceremony.