Owl Woman lived a life filled with triumph and tragedy. She was a Cheyenne Native who caught the eye of Colonel William Bent, and became his first wife. The Colonel established Bent’s Fort in Southern Colorado. Bent’s Fort was the largest structure that the plains Indians had ever seen. Built around 1832, constructed with adobe walls and reaching 18 feet at the height of it’s towers, it still stands today near the Santa Fe Trail near modern day La Junta.
Gray Thunder was not only the tribal chief, but the father of Owl Woman. The Cheyennes and the Arapahoes were allies, and they became William’s friend. He was initiated into the tribe during the wedding ceremony.
During the heat of the summer and cold winter months, the Bents joined their in-laws 35 miles below the fort near present-day Lamar under the sheltering Cottonwoods. Owl Women’s in-laws also lived at times around Bent’s Fort, which put a strain on the trading business due to poor relations with other tribes such as the Kiowa, Comanche and Prairie Apache.
Owl Woman’s first daughter was born at the fort in 1838 in January. She was named Mary after William’s sister. She bore their first son around 1840, but he was later killed by Comanche.
During the fort’s busiest year, 100 employees lived there and worked as traders, hunters, teamsters and laborers. It was a time and place of peace, between the white and Native Americans.
Owl Woman passed away when she gave birth to her fourth child. William gradually accepted Owl Women’s sister, Yellow Woman as his wife. in Novemer of 1864, Yellow Woman was asleep when attacked at Big Sandy Creek by Colonel Chivington. Yellow Woman managed to escape, but was killed a year later by Pawnee government scouts in Montana. The once-great trade empire dwindled with the dominance of white settlers.
Despite her many hardships, Owl Woman endeavored to aid relations between the Native Americans and the white man throughout her life. It is because of these efforts that she was named to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.