Running Eagle

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Running Eagle was a heroic Native American Woman of the Blackfeet tribe and is known for her success in battle.

Running Eagle
Pitamakan
Piegan Blackfoot leader
Personal details
Born Southern Alberta Canada
Died After 1878
Cause of death Killed by Flathead tribe while stealing horses for a battle
Known for Rescued her father after an enemy tribe shot his horse
Nickname(s) Brown Weasel Woman

She was born "Pitamakan" during Hudsons Bay Trading era in Southern Alberta Canada. She was called "Brown Weasel Woman" and she was the oldest child of five. The tribe she was born into was the Piegan Tribe of the Blackfeet Nation (there were three total tribes in the Blackfeet Nation.) When she was young, she preferred to play with the boys over the girls, and when she was 12, she began to wear boys clothing. She wanted to do the things her brothers were doing, and against her mother’s wishes, her father began to teach her. Pitamakan’s father was a very important warrior in their tribe and he taught her how to hunt and fight. Soon, she was good enough to go out on hunting expeditions and shoot a buffalo on her own.

On one particular hunting expedition, the group was attacked by the Assiniboine, an enemy tribe of theirs. As Pitamakan fled along with the rest of the hunting party, her father’s horse was shot down. As soon as she saw this, she turned around and raced straight into enemy fire. She dropped the fresh meat from her horse and hulled her father on with her, saving his life. After this victory, she was celebrated and she was allowed to sing the Victory Song, and a Scalp Dance was done in her honor. Although many celebrated her victory, there were also those who shunned her behavior as a woman. Some of the tribe worried that the other women would follow her lead and leave their duties as wives.

Soon after, her mother fell ill and Pitamakan had to help care for her. Around the same time, her father died in a battle against the Crows. After hearing of this, her mother succumbed to her illness, leaving Pitamakan in charge of the family as the eldest child. She did not like life as a caretaker, so after a while, she took an old widow into her home to care for her siblings and do the housework.

Carrying her father’s old rifle, she tagged along on a raid to a Crow camp to help take back horses that were stolen from them. It is said that the party leader spotted her, and tried to make her go back home, yet she refused. He then threatened to call off the raid if she did not comply, and she replied that she would continue on to the Crow camp alone if that were the case. With that, her stubbornness won. During the raid, she successfully captured 11 horses for the tribe. On the way back to camp, as she kept watch while the men rested, she spotted two enemy Indians try to make off with their stolen goods and she took them down herself. Once again, she was celebrated by most for these heroic acts, yet some still looked at her with disdain.

Because of the disapproval by some, her elders suggested that she go on a Vision Quest, which includes going to a remote area for four days and fasting. During this time, one waits for the spirits to show them their destiny in a vision. Pitamakan agreed, and when she returned, she said she had had a vision of the sun. It included the sun promising to give her great power in battle, as long as she never slept with a man. After she shared this vision, she was then invited to a 2nd war party, and invited to participate in the Medicine Lodge Ceremony to share her tales. Usually, only men were allowed to participate in this ceremony. The tribe’s Chief, Lone Walker, bestowed the name "Running Eagle" on her because of her greatness. This was a name only given to the greatest warriors, and it was the first time it had ever been given to a woman. She was also asked to be a part of the Braves Society of Young Warriors.

After she gained the respect of her whole tribe, she continued to lead many successful war parties and hunting expeditions. She never married, and although she led war parties and wore men’s clothes, it is said that she also cooked for the men and repaired their moccasins.

Her life ended sometime after 1878 in a battle against the Flathead warriors. The Flathead warriors had heard that a woman was leading the war party, so they targeted her immediately, and clubbed her from behind. It is rumored among the Blackfeet that she died in battle because the Sun stopped protecting her after she broke her vow and slept with a man in the war party. She died a successful warrior and a hero, doing what she loved. Today, the Pitamakan Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana is named after her. Montana is the site where many of her Blackfeet predecessors still reside on a reservation in modern-day America.

An Oglala Sioux named Running Eagle participated in Battle of the Little Bighorn. He should not be confused with the aforementioned Running Eagle.

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Hungry Wolf, Beverly The Ways of My Grandmothers
  • "Circle of Honour: Running Eagle"
  • "A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports 1700-1859", URL accessed 08/27/06
  • Bright, William. Native American Placenames of the United States. Norman: U of Oklahoma, 2004. Print.
  • Lisa, Laurie. Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Ed. Gretchen M. Bataille. New York: Garland, 1993. Print.
  • McManus, Sheila. "Pitamakan." Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered History in America. Ed. Marc Stein. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004. Biography in Context. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  • "Piegan Blackfeet." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
  • Waldman, Carl. Biographical Dictionary of American Indian History to 1900. New York: Facts on File, 2001. Print.