Pine Leaf Woman Chief

Two-Spirit Native American Chief Who Led With Peace

This week, Sam brings us the story of a Native American 2-spirit chief, Pine Leaf Woman Chief!

Pine Leaf was a teenager when her warrior father was killed by the Blackfoot Tribe. Still, she rallied a small army and led a retaliatory raid, killing and taking prisoner those who attacked her people. She became known as Woman Chief, and set out to make peace treaties with the surrounding tribes.

Check out the full episode to learn more!

Episode Transcript

(please excuse any errors, spelling or otherwise – audio transcription is tricky)

Sam Eggers 0:57
Hello, and welcome to BROADS YOU SHOULD KNOW, the podcast about amazing and noteworthy women in history. I’m Sam Eggers.

Sara Gorsky 1:05
I’m Sara Gorsky.

Chloe Sky 1:06
And I’m Chloe Skye.

Sam Eggers 1:07
You guys. So I’m so excited to talk to you today about an awesome BROAD that I came across. I was – you know, sometimes when you’re looking for your BROAD for the week. You have like six BROADS –

Sara Gorsky 1:20

Sam Eggers 1:20
– that you’re deciding between and you’re like, kind of looking at all of them. And you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know who I should do – I don’t know.” And you’re really torn. so that was me picking this BROAD. And the reason I was hesitant to pick her is because there isn’t as much information out there as I would like there to be.

Sara Gorsky 1:34
It happens. It’s common.

Sam Eggers 1:34
Which happens so often with our with our BROADS, yeah. And it can be so frustrating. But I wanted to bring her in any way because I think that what we do know about her is really, really cool. And so I’m really excited to share with you guys today, Pine Leaf, who is also known as Woman Chief, and she is a Native American woman. Have you guys heard of her before?

Sara Gorsky 1:56

Chloe Sky 1:57
Nuh uh.

Sam Eggers 1:58
Okay, so let’s let’s jump in then to Pine Leaf. So all cards out on the table: We don’t know if Pine Leaf and Woman Chief are the same person.

Sara Gorsky 2:09

Sam Eggers 2:09
No idea. And we don’t even know if Pine Leaf is a real person. We do know that Woman Chief is very real. And so I’m going to start out talking to you about her. So Woman Chief was born in 1806, to the Native American tribe called the Gros Ventres Tribe. And that is in what is now Montana. And this tribe is also known as the White Clay Tribe. I’d never heard of them before. But the Gros Ventres people, they are still in northern Montana on a reservation, which is called the Fort Belknap Reservation. We don’t know what her name was at birth in Gros Ventres Tribe, because when she was 10 years old, she was captured by the Crow Nation Tribe during a raid. And what’s interesting is she was captured, but she was adopted by one of the Crow Nation warriors, and she became a complete daughter to this warrior. And …

Sara Gorsky 3:02
I think that it was common, wasn’t it? To like capture children, like your own.

Sam Eggers 3:08
Yeah. And it’s so interesting to me they weren’t like second – seen as, you know, they’re not like second class citizens within the tribe or anything. Like I think it’s just now you’re part of our tribe, and you’re raised as one of our own, you know,

Chloe Sky 3:19
They just had a better understanding that all humans are the same.

Sara Gorsky 3:22
I think when they were children. When they were adults, if you couldn’t marry them, I think they became slaves more often.

Sam Eggers 3:27
Yeah. And so yeah, so she’s only 10 years old. And so she now is part of the Crow Nation Tribe. And we know that she was a tomboy, and that her adoptive father is really supportive of that. Apparently, he had had sons and the sons died. And so when he adopted her, he really encouraged that she was sort of into what would be considered more like, you know, tomboy activities and that sort of thing. And so Woman Chief was referred to as a Two Spirit. And this is a term that I’d never heard of before. That I just thought think is so interesting. Have you guys heard of this?

Sara Gorsky 4:01
Yeah. Mmm hmmm.

Chloe Sky 4:02
Yeah, they just talked about it on Lovecraft Country.

Sam Eggers 4:05
I don’t watch Lovecraft Country. Oh, man. Okay, well…

Sara Gorsky 4:08
I’ve heard of it, though. Yeah, it’s fascinating. And like one of the more lovely things I’ve ever heard.

Chloe Sky 4:14
I love it so much. It makes me so happy.

Sam Eggers 4:16
Yes! So if audience members you’re like me, and you hadn’t heard about before, so this is an indigenous sort of umbrella term and it includes not only LGBTQ identities, but also sort of a spiritual element. So the gender roles and gender structures aren’t so rigid in Native American culture, they’re much more fluid and apparently, it’s very common for there to be sort of seen as there’s like four genders. And that would be seen as like feminine woman, masculine woman, feminine man, masculine man. So someone who is seen as a Two Spirit might be someone who is – today what we’d say trans or homosexual, or just asexual or fluid, but it’s not like those terms were assigned in Native American culture, it was sort of seen as this person was a Two Spirit and frequently these people were were seen as the spiritual people in the tribe, so maybe they would be the shaman or the healer.

Chloe Sky
It also applied to to intersex people.

Sam Eggers

Chloe Sky 5:16
People born with both sets of genitals.

Sam Eggers 5:19
Oh, interesting. I had never heard this before. This like blew my mind.

Sara Gorsky 5:22
Isn’t it so lovely though, and such a better approach than like gender identity.

Chloe Sky 5:28
Yeah, than trying to pick one and force your child into it before they have any understanding. Yeah, I agree.

Sam Eggers 5:34
Oh, it’s so cool. And, um, and so when so when I heard about this, so when I was reading this about Woman Chief – that she was considered a – she was a Two Spirit I looked it up a little bit and there was also there was also like a famous Two Spirit woman warrior who was assigned male at birth. And her name was Ash Tish, and she was a shaman who sort of became this fierce warrior. And apparently, a lot of Native Americans who were considered Two Spirits faced a lot of discrimination once Native Americans were forced onto reservations.

Sara Gorsky 6:06

Sam Eggers 6:06
They were, you know, just treated horribly by American counterparts who saw it as sort of deviant behavior and had no understanding in their culture of what it was.

Chloe Sky 6:16
It sounds like white people.

Sara Gorsky 6:17
Yeah, that sounds, like… accurate.

Sam Eggers 6:19
It tracks for what we’d expect. But anyway, going back to our wonderful Woman Chief, so everything’s good in the tribe. She’s a teenager now. And her warrior father, who is also very, very high up in the tribe, he dies. And right after he dies, there’s a raid on the Crow Nation by the Blackfoot Tribe, and she is not having it. Woman Chief is like, “My dad died. Now the Blackfoot have come and they’re raiding us.” And so she’s like, “fuck it. I’m gonna raise a band of warriors and from my tribe, and we’re gonna go and we’re gonna retaliate.”

Sara Gorsky 6:54

Sam Eggers 6:54
And so she, she goes, she leads the warriors and when she gets to the Blackfoot Tribe it’s completely successful, right? She like, captures tons of horses, she kills tons of people, she comes back with, like, everything, she comes back, and everyone’s like, “holy shit, this woman is just – like, she’s incredible.” And so they asked her that they want her to represent their lodge in the Council of Chiefs. And this is when she’s given the name, apologize for my pronunciation, Bíawacheeitchish, and that means Woman Chief.

Sara Gorsky 6:56

Sam Eggers 6:56
And so she, she, like takes to it and everyone thinks she’s an amazing leader. She eventually takes four wives. She makes her Lodge, very wealthy and important. And she gets really involved in diplomacy in the area. So even though she would have like, raised this group of warriors, she wants to negotiate peace with a lot of the tribes. And she even negotiates peace with her, her former tribe, the Gros Ventres Tribe. And so, by all accounts, she’s an incredible leader. She’s strong, and she’s brave. Unfortunately, despite the fact that she arranged this peace treaty with the Gros Ventres Tribe. Eventually, she’s ambushed and killed by a party of their raiders. And this is in either 1854 or 1855.

Sara Gorsky 8:14

Sam Eggers 8:14
So that’s what we do know. That is like, we know Woman Chief, we know she was an awesome leader. But why do people call her Pine Leaf, right? Like, what’s this? So enter? Enter James P. Beckworth. So…

Chloe Sky 8:31
I already, I already don’t like the sound of this guy.

Sam Eggers 8:35
So James P. Beckworth – he writes a book. Well, he actually doesn’t write a book he, like, dictates a book to a guy who writes it. And this book is called the life and adventures of James P. Beckworth. Mountaineer, Scout, Pioneer and Chief of the Crow Nation.

Sara Gorsky 8:49
Chief…of the Crow Nation?

Chloe Sky 8:50

Sam Eggers 8:52
Yeah, you’ll see. So big disclaimer here…

Chloe Sky 8:56
Fucking fragile white man egoes, I can’t. I can’t with…

Sam Eggers 9:02
You know what’s interesting, though? I looked up James P. Beckworth. Because I was like, “What is this douche look like?” I can’t tell. It’s an old timey picture, and you know, back in the day, people lived like, rough lives. So I’m looking at this guy, and I can’t tell – I don’t know if he has any Native American blood. I don’t know if he’s black. I don’t know if he’s white. I can’t tell. I have no idea.

Sara Gorsky 9:24
Oh, interesting. He actually – I just looked at him up too – he almost looks indigenous.

Sam Eggers 9:31
I know, I can’t tell.

Sara Gorsky 9:32
And he does have other names that are indigenous names. Interesting.

Sam Eggers 9:38
Yes. I don’t know if he was given them like after coming out as a scout and then the tribe, you know, kind of they – because the tribe eventually accepts him?

Chloe Sky 9:47
A lot of places list him as African American. So, I mean, it’s possible that he, like, either already lived here, because black people lived here before we brought slaves over or he was an escaped slave who took up with the Native Americans and became accepted.

Sara Gorsky 10:04
Okay, I don’t want to talk too much about this douche hole. But tell us, Sam, what’s important to the story? Cause we want to focuse on Pine Leaf.

Sam Eggers 10:11
That’s true. We want to focus on Pine Leaf.

Chloe Sky 10:12
Yeah, okay.

Sam Eggers 10:13
Yeah. So okay, so people now really like challenged this. They don’t know if he’s just exaggerating. Like, they know that he was there he was in the tribe, but he sort of, like it’s all about his own importance, right? Like, he’s very much the star of his own story. And so they don’t know if it’s just total horseshit or not. But we have other accounts from other people about Woman Chief. So, we do know that, you know, very much that she is real, but his accounts of Pine Leaf are a little confusing. So he says really good things about her, you know, he says that she’s like the bravest woman that ever lived. She had great intellectual powers. He said, she was endowed with extraordinary muscular strength, wit, the activity of the cat and the speed of the antelope. So you know, he said, “Her features were pleasing.” And then he tells the story about how he’s like, “Oh, she had a twin brother. He was a great Brave, and and then he was struck down, and Pine Leaf was left to avenge his death when she’s like, 12. And she says that I will, you know, I won’t marry until I’ve killed 100 men.” So he kind of like creates this like fanciful story about her,

Sara Gorsky 11:19

Sam Eggers 11:20
So it’s a little bit like, okay, I mean… but he also says, you know, that she’s really brave has a lot of good things to say about her. Now, he already has multiple wives in the village. And one of these wives is apparently Pine Leaf’s best friend. But he’s like Pine Leaf, I think you need to marry me

Sara Gorsky 11:37

Sam Eggers 11:37
And Pine Leaf is just like, “Look, I told you, I have to kill a hundred guys before I can marry you. And also, you know what? We’ll get married as soon as the Pine Leaves turn yellow and fall from the trees.” Which, you know, he finally is like, “Oh, right. They never turn yellow. They don’t fall from the trees.” But he keeps like going after her. And so she’s like, “Okay, fine. You know what, I’ll marry you if you go out and you find me a redheaded Indian.” It’s like he can’t because like.

Chloe Sky 12:06

Sam Eggers 12:07
They didn’t…you know? So it’s like this. This kind of stuff is in his book, right? And but then he says eventually, after many years and adventures, that she finally accepts and marries him, but they apparently –

Sara Gorsky 12:19

Sam Eggers 12:19
…But then he’s like, “Oh, we were only married for five weeks. And then I left the tribe.” So the whole thing is like, I don’t know. So he’s like, created this like, amazing warrior woman who sounds really cool, who was like all sassy and be like, “ooooh”, like pushing him away, and then finally has to accept him. And it just it all seems like a bunch of horseshit.

Sara Gorsky 12:39
This guy sounds like he made up everything, so that everyone knew he had the biggest dick in the west.

Chloe Sky 12:46
Yeah, that’s kind of the vibe I’m getting.

Sam Eggers 12:50
But what’s interesting is that in, in that sort of in the analysis of this text is that this Pine Leaf character has been linked to a Woman Chief. But there apparently, there were multiple warrior women of the Crow Nation around kind of the same time, which is just so cool to me that that was just so common, but there were multiple women warriors and women chiefs that it could have been someone else. Apparently, there’s a woman named Comes Toward the Near Bank, who lived around like 1810 – 10 1880. And then there’s another woman named Among the Willows, who lived a little bit later and so they’re not sure.

Sara Gorsky 13:29

Sam Eggers 13:30
But, we do know woman. She was amazing. And we do know she really lived and even if Pine Leaf was NOT real, I certainly like hearing about her even as a fictional character.

Sara Gorsky 13:44
She also, like, sounds clever as fuck. Even if she ended up having to marry him for whatever reasons. I – you know, probably not his dick – probably his size of his gun, but like, but she sure gave him the runaround. I love that, like, “when the pine leaves turn yellow…”

Sam Eggers 14:01
She’s like, “great, then we’ll do it, then I’m yours.”

Chloe Sky 14:04
It’s gonna be a new permanent turn of phrase in my life.

Sam Eggers 14:07
Exactly. And I’m also now just such a huge fan of the Crow Nation, like I had no idea about two spirit and now – and then also, there are like multiple woman warriors. I just think it’s so cool. I’m a huge fan.

Sara Gorsky 14:20
I love it. Thank you, Sam! Thank you for bringing us all this.

Sam Eggers 14:24
Yes, thank you guys. Thanks, everyone for listening and for joining us for an amazing BROAD and we hope you’ll join us next time.