Cloud Woman (Mahkpiahotowin)
Margaret Aird Anderson Mooers
Grey Cloud Woman (Margaret Aird Anderson Mooers) was
born in 1793 at Prairie Du Chien on the Mississippi River. Her father, James
Aird, was a prominent fur trader at the time of her birth. Her mother, also
named Mahkpiahotowin, was a member of the Dakota tribe. She was of noble lineage
as the daughter of Wabasha I and sister of Wabasha II, powerful Dakota
chieftains. Most historical accounts point to her unique family position being
beneficial in her possibly being a major facilitator in trading between tribal
members and white traders even at a young age.
Grey Cloud Woman married Captain Thomas Anderson, a
Prairie Du Chien fur trader, in 1805 and had three children, Jennie, Angus, and
Mary. Captain Anderson was forced to leave his family around 1815 when British
fur traders were expelled from the United States territory.
Grey Cloud Woman’s second husband was Hazen Mooers, an
American who was sent to Minnesota to work with the American Fur Company after
serving in the War of 1812. They married in 1820 and had two children John and
Jane, who were born at fur trading posts in Minnesota.
After years of traveling throughout the state to
various trading posts, in approximately 1838, the family moved to Spirit Wood
Island, what is now called Grey Cloud Island. Historical accounts surmise the
move was made in order for Grey Cloud Woman to be closer to relatives in a large
Dakota Village directly across the river, while Mr. Mooers could establish a
trade center. The story handed down indicates that Andrew A. Robertson re-named
the Island in honor of his mother-in-law in 1840 because of her prominence
within the white and Indian communities. The family lived at Grey Cloud Island
for ten years before moving to Little Six village on the Mississippi River. The
reason for the move was because Mooers was appointed an "Indian Farmer" which
provided him land there to farm.
Grey Cloud Woman died on July 20, 1849, appropriately
enough, at Black Dog Village, a village of her Dakota relatives. Family
traditions state that she was buried near the village and the burial site of her
mother in what is now Eagan, Minnesota.
No pictures or written descriptions of her appearance
have been found although she was described in a historical memoir as "by no
means inattractive". Perhaps the most interesting and most telling bit of
research to describe the prominence of Grey Cloud Woman was a story told in 1858
by Thomas Anderson Robertson, a grandson of Grey Cloud Woman. He and his father
had accompanied a treaty agent who tried to bully some Yankton tribal members
into a deal they did not want to make. The Yankton men showed their displeasure
by taking the group’s horses and Thomas had the task of trying to get them back.
After giving the men each a knife and some tobacco, Thomas shared with them his
lineage including the name of his grandmother, Grey Cloud Woman. They knew her
right away and said, "she had fed many of them the winter of the great famine
when so many of them starved to death getting back from their winter hunt". With
that, the horses were immediately returned to Thomas and his party.
Even with a limited amount of specific data regarding
her life, it is apparent Grey Cloud Woman is an important part of our local
heritage and a highly regarded citizen in the early history of our area.