Published on February 17, 2012 by Christian
The historical novel, Woman War Chief, tells the true story a female Native American warrior who rose through the ranks of her tribe to became a Crow chief. Born in the Atsina tribe in 1800, the girl named Shining Sun was abducted by some River Crow hunters. For the rest of her life she lived with the River Crow, people who were also known as the Sparrow Hawks.
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Ten years old when captured, the precocious girl lied to her Crow captors, telling them she was actually a Crow child who had been previously abducted by the Atsina. Because she could speak some of their language, most of them believed her. She then convinced her mentors that she would become a better hunter and warrior than a lodge woman. Renamed Pine Leaf, she lived her full and eventful life in the Wyoming and Montana territories, mostly around the Yellowstone River Valley.
About 1828, a black mountain man named James Beckwourth (a.k.a. James Beckwith), a trapper on contract with the American Fur Company, decided to live with the River Crow. Pine Leaf competed with and fought alongside Jim for nearly ten years. Near the end of this time, she and Jim had a stormy relationship which ended when Jim left the Crow. Jim later dictated Woman Chief’s early exploits to historian Thomas Bonner. Several Web sites contain information about James Beckwourth; visit www.beckwourth.org to read more about this famous mountain man.
A fierce warrior and successful hunter, Pine Leaf became famous among other Native Americans, foreign trappers, traders, explorers, and just about anyone north west of St. Louis at the time. After her fighting prowess and prudent decisions elevated her to positions of authority, her people changed her name from Pine Leaf to Woman Chief. Eventually she became a war chief and a major figure in the Crow Nation. She knew many legendary figures like Bill Williams, Kit Carson, John Fremont and Jim Bridger. All of these people are mentioned in the book, Woman War Chief, because they all figured in Woman Chief’s life.
After the Horse Creek Peace Treaty of 1854, Woman Chief decided to visit the Atsina, the tribe of her original family. Edward Denig, in charge of the Fort Union Trading Post, warned her not to make the trip. Her own people warned her not to go because of the bad blood between the two tribes. But she was determined to visit them, and as always, she did what she had a mind to. The treacherous Atsina greeted her in an unexpected manner.