The oldest living Crow Indian veteran has been nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Joe Medicine Crow was nominated for the honor by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. The medal is the highest civil award an American can receive.
Medicine Crow, 94, is recognized as a warrior by his tribe for completing all four actions of counting coup while in battle as an Army soldier in World War II. The first member of the Crow Tribe to earn a master's degree, Medicine Crow is a noted tribal historian and author of several books on Crow culture.
Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., joined Tester in nominating Medicine Crow. During an announcement this morning, Simpson called Medicine Crow a "renowned figure" who is included in narratives of the West in major museums around the world.
Visit exhibits about the West, Simpson said, and "It's Joe. It's his voice. It's his face."
Simpson has known Medicine Crow and his family for more than 40 years, including decades working on the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., and its Plains Indian Museum.
"He can tell a lot of stories," Simpson joked. "Some of 'em are true.
"The best one is when he stole all the horses from the Nazis. Hell, I love that one."
Here are the coups that Medicine Crow counted, according to an interview he gave to The Gazette in 2006.
• He led a war party by taking a detail of soldiers, under fire, to retrieve dynamite to use for attacking German guns.
• He touched the first fallen enemy and stole his weapon when Medicine Crow and a German met on a street in France. Medicine Crow knocked down the German and kicked his rifle away, counting coup twice.
• He entered an enemy camp and stole horses when he sneaked into a farm where German SS officers were holed up for the night. Medicine Crow stealthily entered a barn and corral, mounted a horse and, with a Crow war cry, ran the horses toward the Americans.
This morning, Medicine Crow told the story of stampeding the horses and said that as he rode off "the fireworks started" behind him as soldiers started shooting. He galloped off into the hills.
"Being an old farm boy, I sure enjoyed riding a horse," Medicine Crow said. "I even sang a song."
Medicine Crow also sang for the people at the announcement ceremony, and was joined in the chieftain's honor song by his grandson, Scott Russell, secretary of the tribe, and Darrin Old Coyote, tribal vice secretary.
Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees are selected for their contributions to the country's culture, history and security.
Tester said he believes the only other Montanans to be awarded the medal are Mike Mansfield, a longtime Montana senator and ambassador, and Martha Raye, an award-winning actress who was born in Butte.
"Joe is a remarkable Montanan," Tester said.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civil award. President John F. Kennedy used an executive order to re-establish the Medal of Freedom as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. The medal may be awarded by the President "to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House.
Tester's nomination, along with a packet of support letters from various political leaders, is being delivered to the White House today, Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy said.
The president will decide who receives the honor, Murphy said. There's no date for a decision, but Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees are usually announced beginning in summer.