This article originally ran in the Sioux City Journal on April 17, 1976.
The Fourth of July, 1976, has a dual significance in Sioux City.
Not only will local residents celebrate the nation's Bicentennial, but also the first anniversary of the dedication of the War Eagle Monument.
The 31-foot monument of Chief War Eagle overlooks three states from atop a bluff along the Missouri River in Sioux City.
The July 4 dedication, which attracted 1,000 Indians from throughout the Midwest culminated a two-year project to replace a decaying and vandal-prone stone monument with a more ‘fitting tribute to the Indian leader who befriended Sioux City's early settlers.
War Eagle's life was a series of triumphs and defeats, but his contribution to the peaceful settlement of what was later to become Sioux City has gone down as exciting and beautiful American history.
War Eagle was born a Santee Sioux in a dim Minnesota forest about 1785. A wanderlust prompted him to desert his own tribe. He mounted his pony, left camp and followed many a stream before he came to the camp of the Yankton Sioux on the banks of the Missouri River near the mouth of the Big Sioux River.
His fearlessness and strength so im-pressed the Yanktons that they adopted him into the tribe and admitted him to the councils with great pomp and circumstance.
For a warrior, War Eagle's conversion to friendliness for the white man is a matter of conjecture. In those days, the only trace of the white man was Sgt. Charles Floyd's remains where now a monument stands. The hills and plains east of the river were battlegrounds for tribal warfare.
Because of his daring and leadership, War Eagle eventually was elected chief of the Yankton Sioux but he established and maintained a good feeling among the Yanktons for the early white traders.
The combative Sioux were always on the warpath. War Eagle's tribe was known to other tribes as the "bad ones" because of their marauding tactics. Their customs indicated they were without fear of neighboring tribes.
Yet history says 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 went to Washington with other chiefs during the administration of President Martin Van Buren in 1837, and in token of his friendship to the white man was presented with a flag and a bronze 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.
It was during the 1830s that War Eaglewas 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.
So great was his friendship with War Eagle that he was adopted into the tribe and eventually married the chief's daughter, Dawn. According to Indian custom, he automatically acquired as wives two other daughters of the chief.
Bruguier lived with the Yanktons 10 years, wearing the clothes of the Indians, eating the same food and sleeping in tepees. He hunted with them, went on forays with them, learned their language and accepted their customs. One of his wives married another trader, but Bruguier retained the other two and between them had 13 children.
All of Bruguier's children were well educated, and as they matured he spent thousands of dollars educating them in Jesuit schools.
One day, wearied with regrets and dark thoughts, Bruguier climbed the summit of a steep hill alone to take council with himself. He was tired of Indian life. He fell asleep and dreamed of a wonderful spot where he would like to build a cabin and retire.
He told War Eagle of his dream and the chief took him to a place where the Big Sioux joins the Missouri at what is now Riverside, and Bruguier eventually built his cabin there. It was the first white man's dwelling in the area that later became Sioux City.
War Eagle settled down to live with his white son-in-law. The building of the cabin by a white man was a colorful event in the territory. The Riverside area, until then, was covered with Indian tepees and cabins were looked upon with scorn, as they represented the homes of the invading white man.
During the building, War Eagle was busy with his warriors, keeping other tribes away, though it took constant raiding to do so. Soon afterwards, other traders started building and the colony began to grow.
The Bruguier cabin naturally became a rendezvous for the Yanktons. They camped frequently around the cabin and held councils near the old Council Oak tree.
The last fight of War Eagle occurred when he rode with a band of Sioux to take care of other Indians who were raiding near Sergeant Bluff.
The chief, believed to be about 66 years old, became ill and died in Bruguier's cabin in 1851. His dying wish was to be buried on the bluff overlooking what are now Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota areas.
Bruguier directed the burial of his father-in-law which was done partly according to Indian custom and partly to white man's custom.
In the area surrounding the grave, the white settlers established a flourishing river city, and, retaining the name of the Indian tribe led by War Eagle during his many contributions to peace, called it Sioux City.