Dakota Datebook

Eagle Woman That All Look At

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Today begins a 3-part series on Eagle-Woman-That-All-Look-At. She was the daughter of Two Lance, chief of the Upper Yankton Nakota, who felt she was destined to gain some of the same respect and admiration the tribe had given him. Eagle Woman married Honore Picotte, a French fur trader at Fort Union. When he died, she married another trader, Major Charles Galpin, who called her Little Eagle. Other whites called her Matilda or Mrs. Galpin.

In 1862, Eagle Woman accompanied Major Galpin on a trading expedition among the Blackfeet Indians in Montana. As they were returning home, Santee Indians returning from a bloody battle in New Ulm, Minnesota, fired on them in their keelboat. The Santee pushed out in small boats, surrounded Galpin, Eagle Woman, and the crew, and towed them to shore.

Four aggressive chiefs – Black Hawk, Across-the-River, White Lodge, and Chase-the-Ree – were among the group. Another man recognized Eagle Woman as a fellow Yankton. He paddled closer and whispered, “Sister, I will try to save you.” Eagle Woman showed no emotion as she awaited their fate. Finally, one of the chiefs said, “Eagle Woman, we spare the daughter of Two Lance. We have scalps enough. You and your lodge may go.”

From this experience, Eagle Woman realized the escalating distrust and fear Indians felt toward whites. So it wasn’t welcome news when Father De Smet asked Major Galpin to bring Eagle Woman as interpreter on an expedition to find Sitting Bull in Montana. The government had asked the priest to persuade Sitting Bull to give up and move to a reservation. Eagle Woman knew that Father De Smet’s black robe would probably offer him protection, but her husband would be a target. Yet, she also realized this was an opportunity to prevent further bloodshed; she agreed and helped persuade 70 friendly warriors near Ft. Rice to come along for protection.

The journey was difficult in the heat of a parched summer. Streams had dried up, their horses began weak, and Father De Smet became ill. Then, three days from Sitting Bull’s camp, a band of Lakota dropped down onto them from a cliff and cut Eagle Woman and the two white men off from their group.

They were told that Sitting Bull was willing to talk to Father De Smet and was waiting at his camp on Powder River. Privately, Chief Four Moons told Eagle Woman that they would probably kill the two white men, and that she should stay apart from them. But she refused.

Three days later they reached a camp of 600 tepees and five thousand Lakota on the banks of the Yellowstone River. Father De Smet and Major Galpin were led away to a tepee, but Eagle Woman spent the rest of the day going from tepee to tepee as a sign of respect and friendship. When she finally returned that evening, she was relieved to see the major and the priest not only safe but well fed and resting.

The following morning, the three were led to a council chamber constructed of ten tepees where Sitting Bull, Four Horns, Gall, Sitting Buffalo and others waited…

Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of our series on Eagle Woman That All Look At.

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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