Mr. President, I rise to share the news with the Senate that Joseph Medicine Crow, a Crow war chief and American hero has passed away. Joe Medicine Crow was 102. I know it meant a lot to students of Western and American history to see the attention he has received as numerous publications have written about him and his life and his countless contributions to the Crow people and to our nation.
If you have a chance to read the tributes to Joe Medicine Crow, and I hope you do, you will fully understand what an amazing individual he was. Historian for his people and an important part of American life, he accomplished more in his life than I could ever describe in these remarks.
As I read the articles that were so well researched they reminded me of meeting and getting to know him when he was on the board of All American Indian Days. That was a gathering that would draw tribal members from all over the United States. They would come to share their history, culture, traditions, sports, dances, and arts and crafts. I know that gathering meant a lot to him because one of his top priorities in his life was to ensure that the legacy of the Crow and all tribes would never be forgotten and their way of life would be passed down from generation to generation.
In an effort to bring us all together as one and overcome the racial divides that separate us, a man named F. H. Sinclair, a columnist who was known by his nickname of “Neckyoke Jones” came up with the idea of gathering all the tribes together in Sheridan, Wyoming to demonstrate their talents and abilities. I grew up there and I was fascinated by the event.
As you can imagine, it took a substantial amount of money to organize and plan the event each year, but it paid big dividends for those who were able to attend and all those who heard about. It was a source of great pride for us all to have this time when we would all come together and celebrate the culture of the tribes and individuals who were so near to us. It provided the kind of exposure and interaction that is so necessary to bring people together and overcome prejudices and bias.
I could see the difference the gathering made and the impact it had on those who attended. Events like that and the opportunity they provide helps us to get to know people who come from different cultures and backgrounds and helps us to understand and appreciate each other. It removes the boundaries that are created by fear and a lack of understanding. It fosters and increases the feeling of community that makes our cities and towns better places to live.
I remember how Joe also helped with the Miss Indian America Pageant that was a part of All American Indian Days. It was a competition of young women who were chosen by their tribes based on their knowledge of their tribal culture, their history, and their traditional dress.
My mother, Dorothy Enzi, worked with Joe and Suzie Yellowtail on the particulars that needed to be worked out to put on the pageant. My mother would then chaperone the winner to events during the year.
Joe Medicine Crow had a great affection for Wyoming and a love of our land that was never surpassed. In addition to the Crow, Joe Medicine Crow was well known to the Wyoming Arapahos and Shoshones. In so many ways Joe Medicine Crow was an ambassador for his tribe and his way of life. He was an inspiration to us all.
Joe Medicine Crow referred to his life as living “in two worlds.” In one, he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for 32 years. Then he would return and fit right back into the other and the culture that surrounded him. It didn’t bother him that his life was lived “in two worlds.” In fact he said he “enjoyed them.”
The tributes to him and the way he lived his life have already started coming in from those who knew him, family and friends. He was a military hero, serving in the Army during World War II. He was not only a student of history, he was a historian who helped to preserve the stories and the culture of the Crow. He also had a great respect for all the traditions of his people. I will always find a sense of pride and inspiration in the words he used to describe Wyoming. He said that although sage can be found in so many places, the most sacred sage had to be collected on the tribal lands in Wyoming.
Joe Medicine Crow was given 102 years of life and he made the most of every day. He has a record of which we can all be very proud. That is why I hope you will seek out the stories about him that made him such an important part of our history.
In 2009 President Barack Obama presented him the highest honor awarded to a civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I know it must have meant a great deal to him to be so recognized – not for himself – but for what he knew it would mean to current and future generations.
Now he has passed on from this life and left behind more accomplishments and achievements than we could possibly imagine. His life was like that. One hundred and two years of making a difference every day – a difference that will always be remembered and will never be forgotten.