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Crow historian ties songs into big battle
Joe Medicine Crow, second from left, shakes hands with Crazy Horse, left, played by Leland Rock of Billings follwing Medicine Crow's tribute to Custer and Crazy Horse before a reenactment performance near Hardin Sat., June 24, 2006. At right is organizer Dive Riley.

Joe Medicine Crow knows about the Battle of the Little Bighorn and sings the praises of the men who led the battle.

Medicine Crow is a historian and member of the Crow Indian Tribe. His grandfather was a scout for Lt. Col. George Custer, and Medicine Crow tapped his family and cultural history to write the script for the Custer's Last Stand Reenactment, which was performed this weekend near Hardin. The last performance is today at 1:30 p.m.

On Saturday afternoon, Medicine Crow stood in the shade of the performance grounds' grandstands and sang a tribute song to Custer and Crazy Horse. Wearing a cowboy hat and beaded bolo tie, Medicine Crow played a hand drum and sang praise songs. He sang each verse in the Crow language and then in English.

Lonnie Custer, who played Lt. Col. Custer for the first time this year, followed the Crow elder's instruction and raised his hand as Medicine Crow sang: "Will everyone look at me. I fought at the Battle of the Little Big Horn." Another verse proclaimed "I fought the mighty Sioux and Cheyenne."

Leland Rock, who has played Crazy Horse for six years, danced and waved his war staff as Medicine Crow sang. Some of the verses of the Crazy Horse praise song are: "I am the one who is not afraid of the white pony soldier" and "I fought the mighty pony soldier Yellow Hair." Rock raised his voice in high-pitched cries as Medicine Crow sang.

Each verse of both songs ended with "Look at me. Remember me always."

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Medicine Crow earned warrior chief status in World War II by counting the four coups of touching the enemy, leading men in battle, killing the enemy and stealing horses. He was the first man from the tribe to earn a master's degree and has received several honorary doctorates.

The author of several books, Medicine Crow's most recent writing was published this year with Herman Viola for the National Geographic Society. Aimed at children, but which the society states will interest all ages, the book is called "Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond."

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