Paying my respects to Chief War Eagle
By Gubernatorial Candidate Marco Battaglia
“TERRITORY, It’s just the body of the nation
The people that inhabit it make its configuration
PREJUDICE, Something we all can do without
Cause a flag of many colors is what this land’s all about”
Wambdi Okicize is commonly known as Chief War Eagle. Chief War Eagle is best remembered as a person who believed in peace and worked his whole life toward that goal. Because of his leadership among the tribes, the Indians and the whites learned to work together without having to resort to violence. As I was touring around Western Iowa last week I was able to stop by Chief War Eagle’s burial site. Other members of his family are also buried there, including Dawn and Blazing Cloud. The vibes and the views are breathtaking. An impressive monument honors the great chief, and depicts him with the eagle feather bonnet and ceremonial pipe, symbolizing his brave leadership and his commitment to peace. Housing projects on the east base of the bluff also bear his name. I was also able to chat with Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna and watch him perform live in Sioux City. Belladonna is part Iroquois on his mother’s side. I spoke to a number of people present at the concert that were from the Winnebago Reservation and it was just an unforgettable trip all around.
The War Eagle site is awesome. The 31-foot monument of Chief War Eagle overlooks three states from atop a bluff along the Missouri River in Sioux City. His contribution to the peaceful settlement of what was later to become Sioux City has gone down as most excellent and beautiful American history. War Eagle was born a Santee Sioux in a dim Minnesota forest about 1785. He left his own tribe, the Santee, to avoid bloodshed in a fight as to who would be chief. As a young man, War Eagle spent considerable time working among the white Americans. During the War of 1812, he carried messages for the United States government, and worked among the native peoples to promote the cause of the United States against the British.
War Eagle eventually was elected chief of the Yankton Sioux. He established and maintained a good feeling among the Yanktons for the early white traders. It was during the 1830s that War Eagle was pilot on the upper Mississippi and dispatches for the early trappers up and down the river. Later, his warriors escorted U.S. mail between trading posts. During this time, War Eagle met and became a very good friend of Theophile Bruguier, a well-educated trader who came from Canada and was one of the first white traders in Sioux City. Bruguier found a fascination with Indian life and culture. He deserted the white man’s civilization and joined the Sioux tribe. Many lasting bonds were created between War Eagle and area American settlers, which set a tone of friendship that spread through the area. War Eagle refused to send his warriors on attacks against whites and this brazenness in the face of hostile and overwhelming odds marked him as a man of great courage.
Once when Sioux tribes gathered at what is now Riverside for the New Ulm, Minn., attack, War Eagle refused to let his warriors join the warring Indians. And when the Sioux were on the warpath and camped in what is now Stone Park on their way to the Spirit Lake massacre, War Eagle adamantly refused to allow his warriors to take part. War Eagle received a silver medal from President Martin Van Buren in 1837 in honor of his work in Washington, D.C. to negotiate peace treaties. War Eagle was especially proud of this Peace Medal. That visit to Washington marked the largest gathering of chiefs and warriors of different nations and tribes in history. Several treaties were signed, and these resulted in peaceful settlement of Indian tribes along both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Aside from the wonderful monument, Chief War Eagle is also memorialized with human rights awards bearing his name, given to recipients in Sioux City that continue to demonstrate his spirit today. I believe that many Iowans would love to continue to live in the spirit of the great chief.
Marco Battaglia writes for the Iowa Free Press and is a proud member of The Fourth Estate. Marco Battaglia is running to be Iowa’s 44th Governor, and the first since James W. Grimes not to be from the Democratic or Republican parties. Marco Battaglia firmly believes that Iowans deserve the freedom to choose for themselves how they work the land.
learn more at www.marcoforgovernor.com