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Born in 1806 to the Gros Ventres, at the tender age of 10, Pine Leaf was kidnapped by a raiding party of Crows at the age of 10 and was adopted by a Crow warrior who raised her among his people.

 She showed a disposition to assume traditionally male activities, and her foster father evidently encouraged her pursuits, as he had lost his sons to death or capture. She earned acclaim for her horse riding, marksmanship, and ability to field-dress a buffalo. However, unlike other Two-Spirits, she wore traditional female clothing rather than adopting men’s garments.

Idealized illustration of “Pine Leaf,” possibly identified with Woman Chief, from James Beckwourth’s autobiography.

When her father died, she assumed leadership of his lodge. She gained renown as a warrior during a raid by the Blackfoot on a fort sheltering several families. She reportedly fought off multiple attackers and was instrumental in turning back the assault. She subsequently raised her own band of warriors and raided Blackfoot settlements, taking off many horses and scalps.

Idealized illustration of “Pine Leaf,” possibly identified with Woman Chief, from James Beckwourth’s autobiography.


When her father died, she assumed leadership of his lodge. She gained renown as a warrior during a raid by the Blackfoot on a fort sheltering several families. She reportedly fought off multiple attackers and was instrumental in turning back the assault. She subsequently raised her own band of warriors and raided Blackfoot settlements, taking off many horses and scalps.

Western visitors who met the Woman Chief, including Edwin Denig and Rudolph Kurz, were fascinated with her. Typically, they considered her an exotic figure among the patriarchal Crow and likened her to the Amazons of European myth. Their accounts are now considered biased, though they provide valuable details about her life.


James Beckwourth wrote about a Crow warrior named Bar-chee-am-pe, or Pine Leaf, who may be the same person as the Woman Chief. Some details of Pine Leaf’s life match what is known of Woman Chief, though Beckwourth’s account appears to be greatly exaggerated, if not entirely fictional. Beckwourth claimed to have met Pine Leaf while living with the Crow in the 1820s.

He wrote that she was a formidable warrior who vowed to kill one hundred enemies before she would marry. He further claimed to have had a romantic relationship with her and to have proposed marriage. Among those challenging Beckwourth’s account was Bernard DeVoto, who wrote that Beckwourth is reliable save for three areas: numbers, romance, and his own importance.

Crow woman - A modern depiction of Pine Leaf

Beside Woman Chief there were other known Warrior Women of the Crow Nation, including Akkeekaahuush (Comes Toward The Near Bank, c. 1810 – 1880) and Biliíche Héeleelash (Among The Willows, c. 1837 – 1912), the latter a prominent war leader.

Responses to "Pine Leaf: A Two Spirit Woman War Chief of the Crow people You should know"

  1. Interesting ! Always glad to learn about our native brothers and sisters !

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