A Woman to Know: Eagle Woman That All Look At

Have I not told you that the white men are as thick as the blades of grass? — Eagle Woman That All Look At

Have I not told you that the white men are as thick as the blades of grass? — Eagle Woman That All Look At

(image via South Dakota Historical Society)

Eagle Woman That All Look At, also known as Wambdi Autepewin to her Sioux family and Matilda Piccote Galpin to white Americans, had many roles in her 68-year life. She worked as a translator for her Lakota tribe, as a fur trader with the American Fur Company after her first husband abandoned her, as a peace activist in the Western Plains and, eventually, as the first female Sioux chief.

In 1874, when white prospectors discovered gold on Sioux land, Eagle Woman played a vital part in mediating conflict between the Native Americans of the Black Hills and the white settlers encroaching on their territory, but the Americans continued to thwart peace efforts and renegotiate boundaries.

Eagle Woman and her friend Sitting Bull didn’t support the founding of the Standing Rock Reservation, preferring the U.S. government leave the Sioux lands alone and the tribe autonomous. But eventually, they were forced to sign the reservation into creation, lest, Eagle Woman worried, the tribe face annihilation. She did end up signing a treaty in 1882 — the first treaty ever signed by a Native American woman — that provided a school for Sioux children and expanded the boundaries of Sioux land.

Eagle Woman lived out the remainder of her days on the Standing Rock Reservation, advocating for peace and helping her family transition to reservation life. She described her mission to her daughter: “to help the Sioux learn and to adapt.” When she died in 1888, she was honored for her work as an activist, mother and chief.

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