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
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
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.