Wambli Autepewin, (translates to Eagle-Woman-That-All-Look-At) was known as a woman of honor in both Native American Indian and white societies for her attempts at peaceful compromise between these two different ways of life.
Eagle Woman was born in 1820 in a Sioux lodge on the east bank of the Missouri River, south of what is now Pierre, SD. Her parents were from different sub-divisions of Teton (Lakota) Sioux: her father was chief Two Lance of the Two Kettle tribe, and her mother was Rosy-Light-of-Dawn, a Hunkpapa. Eagle Woman spent her youth with her tribe, primarily in western South Dakota, learning the traditions of Sioux life. As the daughter of a distinguished chief, she understood that "leadership could be earned and retained only by integrity, wisdom, generosity and selfless dedication to the good of the tribe". During her first marriage in 1838 to Honore Picotte, a prestigious Canadian-born trader at Fort <'xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Pierre, Eagle Woman adopted the ways of the whites while living at the fort. During Picotte's long absences, she kept company with her tribal family. Eagle Woman bore Honore Picotte two daughters.
Honore Picotte retired in 1848 and moved to St. Louis, leaving Eagle Woman in the care of his protégé in the Indian trade, Charles Galpin. By 1850 the young trader took Eagle Woman as his wife. "The union developed into complete and mutual devotion...they both profited from their contrasting heritages by familiarizing the other with the best features of their own.” Together they had three sons and two daughters.
Eagle Woman, now known as Mrs. Galpin, acted as a hostess at Fort Pierre. She charmed visitors with her smile, warmth and intelligence, despite the fact that she rarely spoke English.
In 1854, relations between Indians and whites in the Fort Pierre area turned violent. The Galpins played a central role in bringing about an uneasy peace. When the Civil War caused a decline in business at the fort during the 1860’s, the Galpins traveled widely in South Dakota establishing new trading ventures.
During one of these trips, a band of Santee Sioux who had led the Lake Shetek massacre in Minnesota, intercepted the Galpins transporting ten white miners near Grand River. Surrounded by hostile Santee shouting "Kill them!", Mrs. Galpin remained calm and admonished the warriors, bravely saying, "I have traveled a long distance, have come clear through the enemy's country in safety and unmolested. And now, when almost home, I am surprised to be treated in this unfriendly manner!" Some of the warriors recognized her as Eagle Woman, and out of respect, allowed the Galpin party to leave safely. As they were leaving they discovered that white women and children were being held captive by the Santee. They arranged for the release of the captives when they reached Fort LaFramboise, near Pierre, SD.
In 1865, Mrs. Galpin intervened in an Indian attack on a white soldier. Mrs. Galpin ran to the ambushed soldier where he had fallen from his horse, three arrows in his body. She flung her great shaw over him to protect him from the attacking Indians coming to take his scalp. She held the wounded soldier in her arms and yelled at the attackers: "This man belongs to me now! You cannot touch him!" When nearby Fort soldiers approached, the Indians fled.
In 1866, Mrs. Galpin "had the opportunity to pursue her growing conviction that peace between Indians and whites deserved effort even if that meant a risk to her husband and herself." Traveling alone, the Galpins visited Sioux camps along the Little Missouri River and in a series of councils, Mrs. Galpin convinced the bands to negotiate a peace. Though peace was short-lived, the negotiations temporarily diffused Indian-white tensions in the region.
In 1868, the renowned Jesuit missionary, Father Pierre Jean De Smet, was commissioned to seek out Sitting Bull and his hostile camp to ask that they give themselves up to living on reservations. For this dangerous mission, Father De Smet knew that Mrs. Galpin would be an invaluable mediating partner at the Indian councils. De Smet wrote that "Mrs. Galpin, being of Sioux birth and a near relation to several war chiefs, exercises great influence among her people." De Smet and the Galpins traveled with a party of eighty Sioux chosen by Mrs. Galpin. As they approached Sitting Bull's camp, several hostile warriors rode out and threatened to kill the whites. Mrs. Galpin is credited with saving the life of De Smet during the dramatic negotiations. Trying "in every way that she could devise, to get them to come in and settle upon the reservation" Mrs. Galpin implored her kin to make peace.
Sitting Bull did not find the terms for peace acceptable. But out of respect for De Smet and the Galpins, he sent a delegation of lesser chiefs. These chiefs signed the Fort Laramie Treaty which created a "Great Sioux Reservation", which later became the state of South Dakota west of the Missouri River. Because these tribes were giving up their way of life, Mrs. Galpin adopted a new mission: “to help the Sioux to learn and to adapt.” Her entire family was recruited into this effort.
The Galpins resettled at the Grand River reservation, where they often shared their trade goods to keep the starving Sioux alive. Racial tensions continued to escalate. At one time, when the Grand River Agency store was completely surrounded by 5000 angry Indians, Mrs. Galpin walked with uplifted hands out alone from the stockade and into their midst. Then with her powerful voice she soundly scolded them for their cowardliness in coming in such large numbers to kill a handful of white men. She concluded her tirade with, "Have I not told you that the white men are as thick as the blades of grass' I have been to the lodge of the Great Father. I know what I say! Now break up your council of war. Leave here - and I will make you a great feast." One of the white men whose life she saved that day was Captain William Harmon, who later married Mrs. Galpin's daughter Lulu Picotte
When Charles Galpin died in 1869 after a brief illness, Mrs. Galpin took over the Grand River trading post and became the first Sioux businesswoman in the territory. She continued to use her influence to assist the starving Indians who the government expected to become self-sufficient farmers on poor reservation land.
In 1872, Mrs. Galpin was entrusted to select 13 chiefs to visit Washington D.C. and accompanied the delegation from the Grand River Agency, as an interpreter. The government said it wished to discuss compliance with the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, but its real purpose was to impress the Sioux with the power, size and sheer material achievements of white society.
Between 1874 and 1876, Grand River government traders competing with Mrs. Galpin tried to run her out of business. Despite this pressure, Mrs. Galpin continued to help her Sioux people by giving away many of her trade goods. She also assisted the very people attempting to close her business keep the peace when the Black Hills gold rush escalated racial tensions
In 1873, the government moved the Grand River agency north to the Standing Rock Reservation, and Mrs. Galpin took her trading post north as well. She continued to intercede in racial difficulties, always doing what she could to help her people adapt to their vastly changed circumstances.
In Mrs. Galpin's final years, she helped her daughter Louise Picotte DeGrey organize the first Indian day school at Standing Rock. Her daughter Alma married H.S. Parkin, who was a member of the North Dakota legislature and owned the Cannonball Ranch. William and Lulu Harmon moved to Montana, ran a cattle ranch, and provide Mrs. Galpin with four grandsons.
Mrs. Galpin, the Eagle-Woman-Who-All-Look-At, died December 18, 1888 surrounded by her daughters at the Cannonball Ranch, in North Dakota. She is remembered for her diplomatic talents and dedication to seeking fair treatment for both her Native people and the whites.