#WCW “Pretty Owl” – Oglala Lakota Leader

“Mary Good Road – b. 1835- d. July 22 1940 (did she die at 105?) membership: Bad Face Band of the Oglala Lakota. Mary Good Road was also known as Pretty Woman and Pretty Owl. Mary was born at Lakota Territory in 1835. She was the daughter of Hollow Bear and Good Owl. As of circa 1850, her married name was Red Cloud. She married Chief Red Cloud at near Raw Hide Buttes, Lakota Territory, circa 1850. Mary, as Chief Red Cloud’s wife, resided with him, at North Platte River Region, Lakota Territory, after 1865.
She was listed as Chief Red Cloud’s wife in a census on June 30, 1904, at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Wakpamini District, Shannon Co., South Dakota. Mary died on July 22, 1940 at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, USA.

She and Chief Red Cloud raised 4 or 5 daughters and one son.

Most direct sources report that Pretty Owl was Chief Red Cloud’s only wife; however, as reported by Mrs. James Cook in J. Olson Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem, it would seem that in his younger days the Oglala chief took other 5 (!) wives. 
In his biography of Red Cloud, R. Larson reports the data of a probate document of the South Dakota State Historic Society in which are mentioned the names of Red Cloud and Pretty Owl’s children: Jack Red Cloud (their only son), War Bonnet, Leading Woman, Plenty Horses, Charges at Him and Tells Him. In Red Cloud’s autobiography instead we find just Jack’s and 4 daughters’ names: Wears War Bonnet aka Julia Long Soldier, Libbie Slow Bear, Fanny Chase Alone and Suzie Kills Above. This would leave out 2 or 3 daughters: the wife of One Stab (reported in Fought With Custer: The Story of Sergeant Windolph, Last Survivor of the Little Big Horn), the wife of Big Road (reported in Mike Stevens’ website), “Louisa”, who was the wife of the half-blood Pete Richard (a key witness in the Plenty Horses trial) and maybe, if Judge Eli Ricker’s report is correct, one of the wives of Chief American Horse. I guess only the Red Cloud family can shed some light on this.

Almost all of our sources agree that Pretty Owl had quite a strong personality: even if Mari Sandoz’s description of her being ” not silent as a winter mole” and the hint that “many a man planted his mocassin firm and long on the warpath because there was no peace in his lodge” sound quite unfair, she had indeed a strong personality and didn’t seem ready to share her famous husband with other women. As she said to an old friend, Charles P. Jordan: “When he [Red Cloud] was a young man, I was very jealous of him and used to watch him very closely for fear some other woman would win him from me”. Julia McGillycuddy, daughter of the V.T. McGillycuddy, who was agent at Pine Ridge for 7 years, reports in her father’s biography that in the 1880s Red Cloud did attempt to take a younger wife, but was prevented by Pretty Owl’s threat to kill the intruder – anyway, Julia McGillycuddy is far from being a reliable source. What’s more, at one point both Red Cloud and his wife were baptized Catholics and this would have been a serious obstacle to a polygamous household.

Years later, painter Elbridge Burbank said that at the beginning he had a very hard time in persuading Chief Red Cloud to pose for him and then he “discovered that at Red Cloud’s home, his wife was the boss. Any time the Indian agent or officials wanted something of Red Cloud, they went to his wife.” and remarked “Had I known this, I might have secured his portrait much sooner.” It was also true that Pretty Owl had quite an influence on her husband in political matters: Jeffrey Ostler reports that in 1888 Pine Ridge Gallagher, believing that Red Cloud was reluctant to sign the Sioux bill because his wife opposed it, had W.J. Godfrey paid more a visit to the couple in the attempt of persuading them to accept that resolution, but failed. When Red Cloud, in the Ghost Dance’s final days (January 1891) was abducted by Two Strike’s band, rumors said that it was Pretty Owl who decided to join the hostiles “declaring that she would take the warpath alone, even if her husband wouldn’t join her”, but this seems to be a groundless story.

Pretty Owl is buried next to her husband in Pine Ridge’s Holy Rosary Cemetery.”

Original Source http://www.american-tribes.com/Lakota/BIO/MaryGoodRoad.htm


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