LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 90-year-old Crow Indian historian and war chief has received his doctorate degree from the University of Southern California more than six decades late.
Joseph "Joe" Medicine Crow of Lodge Grass, Mont., on the Crow Indian Reservation, wore a more than century-old war headdress to the commencement ceremony, but removed it for a black mortarboard, raised his hands and gave two exultant cries when he received his honorary Ph.D.
Medicine Crow received a doctor of humane letters for his "outstanding and dedicated scholarship in researching and preserving the history and culture of the Crow Indian tribe," according to a university spokeswoman. He was one of four people awarded honorary doctorates at the Friday commencement.
He joins such luminaries as singer Ella Fitzgerald, director George Lucas, comedian Bill Cosby and writer Art Buchwald as recipients of a USC honorary doctorate. The university annually chooses between three and five candidates whose accomplishments have contributed to society or the school.
Medicine Crow earned a master's in anthropology in 1939 from USC, becoming the first Crow Indian to earn a postgraduate degree. He completed Ph.D. coursework and was writing a dissertation on the cultural transition of a tribe into mainstream society when his studies were interrupted by World War II.
After the war, he tried to return to USC to complete his studies, but found that the anthropology department had been closed and would not soon be reactivated. Medicine Crow then returned to the Crow reservation, and the passing years made his desire to obtain the degree fade.
But he continued his efforts at preserving Crow history. He assisted in the founding of the Little Bighorn Museum, located at the first national Indian monument in the United States. He also collected historical facts and anecdotes in a book, "From the Heart of the Crow Country: The Crow Indians' Own Stories." Medicine Crow's grandfather was one of Custer's scouts at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
A USC-trained architect visiting Montana met Medicine Crow in 2002, heard his story, and set the process in motion for the honorary degree. Medicine Crow also has honorary doctorates from Rocky Mountain College in Billings and Montana State University.
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