Pi'tamaka (Running Eagle)

Quick Facts
Pi'tamaka was a member of the Piikáni (Piegan Blackfeet) tribe who defied typical expectations for females and become a well-respected warrior and hunter.

Originally named Brown Weasel Woman, Pi'tamaka was born into the Piikáni (Piegan Blackfeet) tribe in the 19th century. As a young girl, she began to show less interest in traditional female roles and more interest in hunting and the games her brothers played. Her father, a well-respected warrior of the tribe, indulged her interest and taught her to hunt and fight.

As she got older, she accompanied the men on buffalo hunts, even saving her father's life during a hunt when an enemy war party attacked them. When her father was killed in battle and her mother became ill, Brown Weasel Woman became the primary caretaker of the family. However, by taking a widow into her family to help with those responsibilities, she was again free to hunt the buffalo.

Soon the lessons she learned in fighting were put to use. When members of the Crow tribe stole horses from her people, a Piikáni war party set out to get them back and Brown Weasel Woman joined them. One version of the story states that the leader of the war party told her to go back, but she refused. When he said that the war party would not continue unless she returned home, she told him to go ahead, and that she would retrieve the horses on her own. With that, the war party - including Brown Weasel Woman - continued on to get their tribe's horses back.

After finding the horses and leading them towards home, they stopped to camp for the night. Brown Weasel Woman stayed awake as a lookout while the others slept. She spotted two Crow warriors attempting to steal back the horses. Stories conflict as to whether she killed one or both of the warriors, but the result was the same: she saved the herd. During another raid, she was part of a group that captured several hundred horses. She eventually gained a reputation as a successful hunter and warrior.

During the summer, when the tribes gathered and the warriors told of their many adventures, the Piikáni chief told Brown Weasel Woman to share hers. This was a highly unusual thing for a woman to be asked, but after doing so, the chief bestowed upon her the name Pi'tamaka (Running Eagle) as a sign of respect and honor.

She continued to hunt and raid as her father had taught her before she died as a warrior at the hands of the Flathead tribe some time after the late 1870s.

Books have been written about Pi'tamaka and Pitamakan Lake in Glacier National Park is named for her.

Last updated: February 25, 2020