Community mourns the passing of former sheriff, Sundance chief

Thursday, May 23, 2019
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Larson Medicine, former Big Horn County Sheriff passed away May 13. Medicine Horse served Big Horn County from 1990 to 2006. Medicine Horse was the first Native American elected sheriff in the state of Montana.


A revered Sundance leader, respected law enforcement officer and former Big Horn County Sheriff, Thomas Larson Medicine Horse Jr. left this world on Monday, May 13, 2019 at the age of 79.

Medicine Horse’s mother Isabel Hill and father Thomas Medicine Horse Sr. raised him traditionally. He received his Apsáalooke name on the fourth day of his life, Bacheewassee, First Man, after Adam in the Christian creation story.

Medicine Horse spent his youth on the Crow Indian Reservation, attending schools in Crow Agency and Hardin. He went on to receive his GED when he was 27.

He met his wife Patti in 1985, during his time working with Vision Quest, a social service program that works with disadvantaged youth taking the guidance from the principles of the Apsáalooke culture.

“He always said he went to Arizona to find a wife,” his wife said. “I had only been there a few days, and I was reading a book and noticed that he was looking at me.”

She went on to say that Medicine Horse asked her what she was reading.

“I told him, and we went out during our free time and we have never separated,” she added. “We were always there to support one another and that love was timeless.”

Working for Vision Quest, Patti said her and her husband were always together.

“We were like two halves of a whole,” she said. “I don’t think that everybody gets to have that. I was very lucky to have found him.”

Patti said her husband was happy with the life that he lead and his legacy of helping people.

“That was our goal to move forward helping people,” she said.

Medicine Horse built his career in law enforcement, but he found his peace in traditional Sundance practices.

His obituary reads that he stopped counting how many Sundances he participated in back in 1999, and at the last count he participated over 75 times.

The Sundance is a difficult ceremony to perform, it requires days of dancing while fasting without food or water, and many practitioners only vow to participate in four dances in their lifetime.

Medicine Horse retired as a Sundance chief in 1999, only to return in 2002. He received the name, Suua Iipche Auk Kulah, Thunder Who Carries The Pipe, during this time.

Over the course of his lifetime Medicine Horse had 12 children and adopted several others as his own, including his nephew Ben Cloud.

“As I was a growing up my father had died when I was 12 years old and Larson pretty much was my father figure along with Don Medicine Horse.” Cloud wrote in an email to the News. “If my mother needed help, they were there to discipline, encourage, but most of all pushed me hard to get my education. I believe that being hard on me was the key for my success in whatever I did and forever grateful to for that. I earned my rights through hard work and never did depend on anyone.”

Cloud went on to write he told his brothers this past week, as they were reflecting, that Medicine Horse made an impact on all their lives.

“We earned our rights to conduct ceremonies, speak in public, be pipe carriers and the biggest for me was being named his replacement in the Crow Shoshoni Sun Dance since 1999 and still carrying it, until I pass it on,” Cloud wrote.

He continued, Medicine Horse always made it a point to make time for everyone in the family or others who needed his counseling or healing.

“Taking the time to show us how to run our ceremonies and learn all that is needed to help people.” Cloud wrote. “He made sure we were able to obtain our power through fasting alone on the mountain. Putting us to the edge of fear so, we no longer feared death. He was a very humble person.”

Cloud said Medicine Horse even requested to not be transported in a hearse, the family transported him to his final resting place in the back of his Dodge truck.

Medicine Horse started his career as a law enforcement officer in 1967 as a jailer/police officer for the Crow Tribal Police force.

He then attended the first class at the U.S. Indian Police Academy in Roswell, New Mexico in 1969. Years later, he would be asked to speak at the graduation for the 100th graduating class the U.S. Indian Police Academy, an accomplishment Medicine Horse would call one of the highlights of his life.

He would go on to complete several training courses that enhanced his skills as an officer. He received commendation from the American Legion for his service to his community in 1980.

He retired from tribal law enforcement and went to Arizona to work for Vision Quest in 1984.

In 1986, he was appointed Big Horn County Undersheriff, he brought his wife up to Montana and began his career in the sheriff’s office.

Medicine Horse successfully ran for Big Horn County sheriff in 1990. He was the first Native American to be elected as a sheriff in the state of Montana, serving four terms

Funeral services were held last week in Crow Agency.

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