An Honored Warrior Woman

Terrance Guardipee Depicts an Honored Warrior Woman

In the Homelands of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe lies the Backbone of the World. Travel the Going to the Sun Road, and you’ve entered the sacred landscape called Badger-Two Medicine. We might know it as Glacier National Park in Montana. Each peak, waterfall, hidden valley has an Indigenous name and particular significance. One such beautiful valley and waterfall honors a great Blackfeet woman. Her warrior society and leader name was Running Eagle.

Brown Weasel-Running Eagle, born in the early 1700’s in the heartland of the Amskapi-Pikuni, became one of the most famous women in Blackfeet history. As a young girl, she asked her father for a bow and arrow and to teach her to hunt bison. During one such hunt, an enemy war party injured her father and killed his horse. Brown Weasel turned back, picked up her father and escaped, considered one of the bravest deeds a warrior could perform; facing the enemy and rescuing a person left behind.

Later, the death of her parents made her the head of the family lodge, and Brown Weasel knew she must take full responsibility for her brothers and sisters. She became one of the few women who participated in war parties, protecting horses from raiders and bison hunts. Her bravery in the face of newly-arrived guns in the hands of her tribal enemies, her success as a hunter gained her deep respect and honor. Her name was granted as Running Eagle, a name carried by several famous warriors before her. She was a member of the War Bonnet and Crazy Dog Society. Alas, Running Eagle was killed at age 27, struck down by Flathead warriors during a raid over the Continental Divide. Her place of vision quest and final burial is named for her, and considered a holy place for Blackfeet.

Award winning Blackfeet Ledger Painter Terrance Guardipee records this leader in traditional pictorial fashion; instead of buffalo hide, he uses antique ledger papers.

When tribal members became prisoners of war, and the buffalo were killed to near-extinction, a few storytellers and keepers of the history of the Plains Peoples persevered with the narratives. They were granted old ledger paper--pages from role books, trading posts, bank accounts or mining records-- crayons or charcoal. The evolution of this art form of historical and cultural documentation was revived in the 1990’s and now still  continues--a glimpse of the past into the present, “back to life and shining.”

Terrance uses spiritual images, correct symbolism, and depicts his tribe’s and family’s history with pride and gratitude.  In these two pieces at Raven Makes Gallery, Terrance depicts Running Eagle as a member of the War Bonnet Society, and as the Leader of the Crazy Dog Society.