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Grey 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.