She Was a Rancher and a Patriot!
In honor of Native Heritage month, I am highlighting some extraordinary Native American women (there are so many more!). Minnie Spotted Wolf is one woman from They Roared, my second book, which is in final edit and will be going to print very soon.
“I grew up cutting fence posts, driving a two-ton truck, and breaking horses.”
Photo courtesy of her daughter Gerardetta England
Minnie Spotted Wolf was born in 1923 in western Montana, near the
community of Heart Butte. She was a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. Her
parents owned a ranch, and Minnie grew up helping with the myriad of
chores that were required on the property. She cut fence posts, trained
horses and she was a natural! She assisted with raising sheep and cattle and
driving a 2-ton truck. Ranchers must be tough and master many things.
When the United States became involved in WW II, Minnie wanted to join
the military to help in the global fight. When she was eighteen, she decided
to join the service. She was tough, strong, and determined. Raised and
working on a farm made her a perfect candidate and she felt she would be
an asset in the fight.
Minnie met with a recruiter, who was very patronizing and discouraging. He
said that the military was just “not for women.” She was disappointed but
did not give up. Once again, we see the dedication, strength, and
determination of these women! Minnie was accepted into the USMC Women’t
Reserve, which was established in 1942. When Minnie received word of her
acceptance, while very excited, she almost declined because her father had
been in a serious horse-riding accident, and was dying. Her mother and
sister encouraged her to follow her dream and enlist.
Despite the discouraging remarks of the recruiting officer, which were still
echoing in her head, Minnie had no difficulty adjusting to military life. Her
life on the farm had prepared her well for boot camp - “It was hard, but not
too hard.” She gained 15 pounds and was no longer a “skinny kid”. Private
Minnie Spotted Wolf was the first Native American woman to enlist in the
When Minnie completed boot camp, she served at military bases in California
and Hawaii, handling tasks men had previously done; driving trucks loaded
with heavy equipment with ease and grace, although she was diminutive and
weighed in at only 110 pounds. Vehicles Minnie drove included the
International M-5H-6, which had a five-thousand-pound capacity and a six-
wheel drive, and Chevrolet heavy-duty trucks, built to carry armament and
ammunition. Her extraordinary abilities handling vehicles earned her the
esteemed assignment driving generals and many other high-ranking visiting
Throughout her time in service, she excelled and was noticed in the various
transportation-oriented duties she performed. There was a lot of media
coverage of her, and Millie became a bit of a celebrity, as well as an
inspiration, becoming a role model for many. There was even a mainstream
media comic book that featured her, One Little Indian (see below).
In 1947 Minnie retired from the military and returned to Montana, where
romance found her. She fell in love and married a farmer, Robert England,
and they had four children. She was living the farm life again, which she
loved, but Minnie had often dreamed of becoming a teacher, and now she
was free to pursue that dream. In 1955, she earned an A.A. in elementary
education, and later a B.S. degree in elementary education. Millie taught for
almost thirty years at reservation schools in her home state.
Minnie had great pride in both her heritage and her military career. In an
interview with the Great Falls Tribune, her daughter, Geradetta England,
said: “She wasn’t in the military just for herself but for the Indian people.
She wanted others to know who she was and where she came from.” Also,
according to her daughter, “she could outride guys into her early 50s.”
Minnie died in 1988. She was 65 years old, and was buried in her
In August 2019, a section of U.S. Highway 89 in Montana was dedicated in
her honor, as Minnie Spotted Wolf Memorial Highway.
Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society.