- Historic Sites
Deadlier Than The Male
The hair-raising deeds of Throwing Down, The Other Magpie, and Elk Hollering in the Water lead one to believe that the female of the red-skinned species was
June 1965 | Volume 16, Issue 4
After she had helped the men cut up the buffalo, Running Eagle ordered four men to scout ahead, saying, “I’m afraid the Xc/ Percés may be near here.” Two days later the scouts returned and reported that they had seen no enemy signs. But not long after the party resumed its journey they discovered a Xe/ Percé encampment in the Yellowstone River bottom. Unfortunately, a Xc/ Percé horseman saw them at the same time. While he summoned the men of his camp, the Piegans hastily retreated and dug foxholes for protection against a Xe/ Percé attack. Running Eagle dug her hole a little in advance of her companions. From her pouch she took her war medicine—two feathers attached to a flat disk of brass—and tied it in her hair. Then she sang her war song.
When the Nez Percés charged, Running Eagle killed the first man to come within range. Then she cried otit, “Brothers, I got the first one. You lie still. I shall keep killing them.” Inspired by their leader’s courage and calmness under fire, the doughty Piegans repulsed the Nez Percé attack, killing a number of the enemy. As the Nez Percés withdrew to care for their dead and wounded, Running Eagle howled like a wolf and shouted, “Xow we are going to quit fighting.” She led her happy warriors home without a casualty.
Toward spring of the following year, young White Grass again joined a war party led by Running Eagle. On the Sun River they sighted a camp of Hatheads who had crossed the Rockies to hunt buffalo on the plains. Running Eagle confided to her followers, “Last night I dreamed that some horses were given to me. Tonight we shall find them in the Flathcad camp.”
Shortly before daybreak the Piegans silently approached the tepees of the sleeping Flathcads. Running Eagle swiftly gave her orders: “Brothers, catch the horses you can rope outside the camp. I am no good with a rope. I’ll go into the camp and see what’s there.” She sang her war song and prayed to the sun. “Sun, I am not a man. But you gave me this power to do what I desired.” Then she walked quietly into the enemy camp, quickly cut loose five pri/e horses picketed near iheir owners’ tepees, and led them away. Meanwhile, the men of her party roped a goodly number of the loose horses. When Running Eagle returned, the party was ready Io make a last getaway. She then told her comrades, “I’ll lake the lead. I am only a woman. I’m not as strong as you men. Keep any of those who may fall asleep on their horses from falling behind.” For two days and two nights they rode without stopping to sleep. After the party reached their home camp, Running Eagle gave a bay and a roan to her eldest brother and a horse to each of her other relatives.
Running Eagle led several successful raids upon the Elatheacls before those Indians learned that a woman had been a principal cause of their misfortunes. Then they set a trap lor lier by posting n igln guards to look out lor any strange woman in their camp. The next time Running Eagle walked into the enemy village, the guard accosted her and asked her name. Running Eagle could not understand the Flathead tongue. As she hastily backed away, the Flathead sentry lifted his gun and shot and killed her. Some of the old Klackfoot Indians claimed that Running Eagle lost her life because she had broken her promise to the sun. She had fallen in love with a handsome young member of her war party, and she had not resisted his advances.
The name and deeds of Running Eagle were long remembered. 1-orgotten are the names of many other courageous and determined red-skinned Ama/ons who were not content to keep the tepee Rres burning while their men marched oil to war.