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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

Marine Corps.

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

military uniform.

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.


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