Dakota Datebook

Eagle Woman That All Look At-Part 3

Friday, January 2, 2004

This is part 3 of our story on Eagle Woman That All Look At, who in the 1860s, lived at Fort Rice on the upper Missouri with her husband, Major Charles Galpin, a licensed trader.

Eagle Woman was well liked at the fort, and Captain Adams even described her as “one of the finest women in the world.” Her charisma and beauty couldn’t have hurt among the more than 300 soldiers, but she was above all respected for her integrity, strength and sense of justice.

Conditions at Fort Rice in 1864 were bad and getting worse. General Sully wrote “The great amount of sickness and death at Fort Rice is terrible. Eleven per cent of the command have died this winter.” Interestingly, the soldiers assigned to Fort Rice were mostly prisoners of war from the South. The Civil War was going on, but POWs could become “galvanized Yankees” and serve in frontier outposts. Unfortunately, these men arrived in weakened condition, and many were now dying from typhoid fever, chronic diarrhea, dropsy and consumption.

Increasing skirmishes with the Lakota posed another problem. One day, Lieutenant Benjamin Wilson was ambushed while on a logging detail. Three arrows knocked him off his horse – one in the shoulder, one in the thigh, and another in the back.

Eagle Woman saw it happen from her window and ran outside. She understood what would happen next and threw her shawl over Wilson as three men circled back. In her native tongue she yelled, “This man belongs to me now! You cannot touch him!”

They circled her, but she knew if she held her ground, they would back off. She had done it with the Lakota in Montana. And she had once stopped a war party at the Grand River Agency by promising that if they’d stop fighting, she’d cook for them.

It worked this time, too, and the Santee galloped away. Eagle Woman yelled for help and held Lieutenant Wilson’s head in her lap. He tried to pull his arrows out but ended up breaking them off instead. In the post’s hospital, his condition was pronounced serious because the arrow in his back punctured his lung.

Like a lot of people of that time, most of the soldiers had come to grips with death. But with Wilson, it went deeper — like Eagle Woman, the young Lieutenant was cheerful and well liked by the entire garrison. Morale plummeted as he lingered.

A week later, Lieutenant Wilson’s last request was for Eagle Woman to be brought to his bedside. He thanked her for saving him from being scalped. He died holding her hand.

Eagle Woman That All Look At was the daughter of a Yankton Nakota chief, the widow to two husbands and a respected trader of goods. She was a mother and a go-between for the U.S. government, Father De Smet and Sitting Bull. She was chosen by President Grant to select and accompany thirteen chiefs to Washington for talks. She was the savior of a wounded soldier. And she was – as her father had named her – a woman who all looked at.

Eagle Woman was with her daughter, Alma Parkins, when she died on December 18th, 1888, at the Parkins Ranch near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Her other daughter, Lucille Van Solen, started the first school on Standing Rock Reservation; Solen, North Dakota, is named after her.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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