Chief Leonard Crow Dog, renowned spiritual leader, passes on to the Spirit World

Chief Leonard Emmanual Crow Dog, Sr.
August 18, 1942 - June 5, 2021

Washington, D.C. – June 07, 2021 – The National Indian Gaming Association joins the rest of Indian country in mourning the loss of Chief Leonard Crow Dog. This most renowned spiritual leader was respected by many throughout the world. Chief Crow Dog passed on to the spirit world shortly after midnight on Saturday, June 5, 2021, surrounded by family at his home.

Shortly after hearing of his passing, National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., issued the following statement, “Chief Crow Dog was one of the most powerful spiritual leaders of our time. He loved our Native People and the Creation. He helped us understand that our rights flow from the Creator, Wakan Tanka. His spiritual guidance has helped our Indian nations to stay on the path of sovereignty, human understanding, and the cause of Mother Earth.

Decades ago, Chief Crow Dog warned us that we must care for Mother Earth or we would bring about our own downfall. He foresaw that the destruction of Mother Earth would fall back upon the Children of the Earth.

Leonard Crow Dog had a true and strong vision, and his leadership gave us the strength to carry on, to always defend our sovereignty, our traditions, and ways of life. He helped us achieve important milestones--the Indian Self-Determination Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and many others.

In his later years, he stood by our side as we carried the fights that he and other AIM leaders fought in the 1970s. He always cared for our Native children and grandchildren and the coming generations. He was a good and kind man.

He has always been a strong advisor to tribal leadership. He also encouraged my daughters, whom he called his granddaughters, to always continue their work with the environment in an effort to protect Mother Earth. I will journey to be with the family during this difficult time. Prayers to his family and all Indian Nations as we mourn the loss of this great Spiritual Leader.”

Chief Leonard Crow Dog was born in 1942 into a Sicanju Lakota family on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He was a descendant of a prestigious traditional family of medicine men and leaders. He leaves a vast legacy. He sought to unify Native people of all nations through his writing and teachings. Crow Dog was dedicated to keeping Lakota traditions alive. Among them, he practiced traditional healing and led Sun Dance ceremonies.

He became well known during the Lakota takeover of the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1973 by the American Indian Movement (AIM).

The takeover of Wounded Knee had special meaning for Crow Dog because his great-grandfather, Jerome Crow Dog, had been a ghost dancer and saved several dancers from the massacre at Wounded Knee after receiving a vision. Soon after the takeover, the federal government began prosecuting AIM leaders for various charges. In September of 1975, 185 FBI officers, federal marshals, and SWAT teams showed up at Crow Dog's Paradise looking for Leonard Peltier and took Crow Dog to the maximum-security unit at Leavenworth.

The National Council of Churches took Crow Dog's case and raised $150,000 for his appeal. When his defense team went before a judge to apply for a sentence reduction, there was a long table stacked with letters and petitions from all over the world in support of Crow Dog. Because of the tremendous outpouring of support, the judge ordered that Crow Dog be immediately released after serving nearly two years of his sentence.

Chief Crow Dog provided testimony to the United States Supreme Court that help lead to the Amendment of the Freedom of Religion ruling.

Leonard also co-authored “Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men.” The book recounts family history through four generations of the Crow Dog family.

His traditional services included a Native American Church Meeting on Sunday with traditional Lakota Services and burial on Monday, June 7, 2021, at Crow Dog's Paradise near Rosebud, SD. Chief Crow Dog will be missed, and we are proud to have known him.