HELENA –

More than 70 years ago, Minnie Spotted Wolf of Montana broke through both social, gender, and ethnic barriers by becoming the first Native American woman to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

The story of a member of the Blackfeet Nation from the Heart Butte area who made Marine Corps history in World War II was even told at the time in comic book form.

“You can find history just about anywhere,” said Montana Historical Society reference historian Zoe Ann Stoltz. “A good story is a good story.”

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And Minnie Spotted Wolf’s story is one of the best.

A member of the Blackfoot Nation, Spotted Wolf lived and farmed with her family in Glacier County near Heart Butte, south of Browning.

When World War II broke out, she tried to enlist in the military. Her desire to serve was discouraged.

“There’s a quote from her that says the enlistment officer had told her that war was not for girls,” said Stoltz.

Spotted Wolf’s dream didn’t go away, and she was accepted into the Marine Corps in 1943.

Shortly before entering boot camp in August of  1943, her father was killed while trying to train a young horse. Spotted Wolf almost didn’t join the Corps because she was concerned for her family.

However, her mother and sister insisted that she continue following her dream.

The website of the Armed Forces History Museum notes: “The physicality of ranch work prepped Minnie for the rigors of boot camp.  She is quoted as noting Marine boot camp as ‘hard, but not too hard’.”

Spotted Wolfs’ story was featured in a rare and now hard to find edition of “Calling All Girls” magazine in graphic novel format.

Stoltz says the young women’s magazine was very popular with young women in the 1940’s.

Ruth Ferris, a teacher from Billings who was researching Spotted Wolf’s story, obtained a copy of the magazine and donated it to the Montana Historical Society.

Stoltz says it’s an invaluable resource.

“When you look at this wonderful graphic, there’s no stereotypes. It’s done in a very, she’s portrayed in a very mainstream, to me, respectful way,” Stoltz said. “As a very courageous young woman, which she was.”

After four years of service in California and Hawaii, Spotted Wolf, came home and earned a degree, and taught elementary school for 29 years.

“You have a generation that, on so many levels spent their youth fighting for this country and then when the fight was over, they came home and continued to give to this country.”

Spotted Wolf passed away at the age of 65 in 1987 in Browning.

 

REPORTER: Dennis Carlson
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