Illustration of Fallen Leaf from “The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth,” by James Beckwourth and edited by Thomas D. Bonner, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1856. | Image Source: www.indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com
Too often the battles fought by our American Indian warriors in history involve the acts of valor committed by men. However, these same types of acts performed by the women warriors of the past hold no less merit. For this reason, we have put together a list of Native women warriors who stood their ground.
Pine Leaf (Woman Chief)
Though Pine Leaf was known as a Crow Warrior, she was born into the Gros Ventre Nation. She was captured by the Crow Nation at about age 10, so she grew up Crow. Known as a fierce warrior who garnered prestige in battle, she eventually gained position on the council of chiefs as a war leader and hunter. She was later named “Woman Chief,” and like many of her fellow male chiefs, also took several wives—though many references cite as many as four wives—exact numbers aren’t verified. Regardless, those marriages have made her an icon in the two-spirit community.
A skilled warrior of the Chiricahua Apache, Lozen was the sister of Victorio a prominent Chief. Of his sister and her exploits in battle Victorio has said: “Lozen is my right hand… strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.” Fighting against the horrible conditions of the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona, Lozen fought alongside her brother while evading capture by the military. Lozen, regarded by the warrior Kaywaykla as extraordinary, he said: “She could ride, shoot, and fight like a man; and I think she had more ability in planning military strategy than Victorio did.” She fought in countless battles for decades including alongside Geronimo in the last campaign of the Apache Wars.”
Buffalo Calf Road Woman
During the 1876 Battle of the Rosebud in Montana, Buffalo Calf Road valiantly rode into battle alongside her husband Black Coyote. As American troops under the leadership of General Crook (with Crow and Shoshone allies) fought the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux, Buffalo Calf Road charged into the center of the battle to save her brother Chief Comes in Sight, whose horse had been shot out from under him. Her act was considered to be one of the greatest acts of valor during that battle. Her people named the battle, “The Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother.”
Moving Robe (Tashenamani)
During the Battle of the Greasy Grass in Montana where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was defeated, one of the foremost warriors leading a counterattack against U.S. Cavalry troops was Native woman warrior Moving Robe (Tashenamani), Sioux. Her actions were so formidable, they were recorded in history through the documented words of Lakota warrior Rain in the Face: “Holding her brother’s war staff over her head, and leaning forward upon her charger, she looked as pretty as a bird. Always when there is a woman in the charge, it causes the warriors to vie with one another in displaying their valor.”
During the 1858 Battle of Spokane Plains in present-day Washington State, Yakama leader Kamiakin was nearly killed when an artillery shell blew a branch off a tree knocking him off his horse. Kamiakin’s wife Colestah, who was well-known as a medicine woman and warrior, fought valiantly at her husband’s side armed only with a stone war club. Though she was armed with just the club, she was able to rescue her husband, and later nursed him back to health.
Running Eagle (Brown Weasel Woman)
Though some accounts vary on Brown Weasel Woman, who was named Running Eagle due to her prowess in battle, this woman warrior has several stories of bravery, including avenging her husband’s death after he was killed by Crow warriors. To avenge him she became a Blackfeet warrior. According to legend, the Sun Spirit said it would grant her great power in war, yet she was not to have sexual relations with another man. She then became a respected leader, and led many successful raids, but because she was intimate with a member of her war party in Flathead territory, she lost her war power and her life. Read more about her in Plains Indian History and Culture: Essays on Continuity and Change by John Canfield Ewers.