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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cheyenne Warrior Woman

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E’hyoph’sta of the Southern Cheyenne was born about 1826
and died in August 1915, on the Tongue River Reservation in Montana.
Of all the Plains' manly-hearted women, the most ruthless may have been
E’hyoph’sta, better known as Yellow-Haired Woman. The daughter of
Cheyenne Chief Stands in Timber and the niece of the old Bad Faced Bull.
Unlike most women warriors, she first entered battle intending to die
rather than achieve revenge for a loss. Her husband, Walking Bear,
had been killed by an accidental discharge of his own gun in 1867.

In 1868, during the Southern Plains Campaign, Major George Forsyth
led a volunteer company of fifty-one “Plainsmen” out to find and report
the locations of Indian camps so the they could be found by regular army
units and placed on reservations. E’hyoph’sta’s first battle was an attack
on this force by the Cheyenne. This took place on September 17, 1868,
on the Arickaree Fork of the Republican River in Colorado,
at a low river island later known as “Beecher’s Island”.

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After surrounding the scouting party on the low island, warriors of the
Cheyenne Dog Society, (Dog Soldiers, as they were commonly known),
kept the small force under siege for eight days. E’hyoph’sta,
riding a horse her father had given her, joined in the mounted charges
against the scouts.

Four times she charged along with the swirl of warriors toward the small
group of soldiers and civilians on the island. Each time she came back
with more holes in her dress from the near misses of their bullets.
But there was no blood on it. She would not be hurt or die this day,
even though she wished for death. Her husband Walking Bear had been
killed the year before. Now, even her father understood her desire to die,
and he had provided her with the horse she rode into battle.
By the end of that autumn day in 1868, E’hyoph’sta was firmly set upon
the warrior path and on her way to becoming a renowned and respected
member of her husband’s Cheyenne military society.

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E’hyoph’sta’s next battle was against the Shoshone on Beaver Creek,
a stream near the Big Horn Mountains in Montana. One account told by
a warrior named Wooden Leg places the action in 1873. Several plains
tribes had gathered for their annual autumn buffalo hunt, which were also
times for major horse raids. Members of the Cheyenne camp and the
nearby Shoshone camp were out raiding when they ran into each other
and fighting began. After one attack, the Cheyenne chased and trapped
a Shoshone war party in a deep ravine. At the end of four days the
Shoshone were either dead or captured. One captured Shoshone warrior
was about to be questioned by the Dog Soldiers when E’hyoph’sta
came up and said she would interrogate him. She raised the Shoshone’s
arm and stabbed him twice in the arm pit, killing him. She then took his
scalp. For this act and two other coups counted during the four days
of fighting, she was admitted to the Dog Soldier Warrior Society.

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This information was taken from Journal of Indian Wars,
Volume 1, No. 3, article titled:”Daughters of the Lance:
Native American Women Warriors.”
By Rodney G. Thomas. For more information see:
“The Fighting Cheyenne” by George Bird Grinnell
University of Oklahoma Press, 1915.
Mr. Grinnell interviewed E’hyoph’sta in 1908 and 1912.


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