Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Renowned Native American WWII veteran Marcella LeBeau dies

Marcella LeBeau.png
Cheyenne River Reservation
Marcella LeBeau in 1944 and 2011

Native American war hero Marcella Rose LeBeau has made her journey to the spirit world.

News of her death broke Monday on social media, and several people close to LeBeau confirmed the death to SDPB. LeBeau was 102.

LeBeau was born in 1919 and grew up in Promise, South Dakota, as a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She was given the name Wigmunke’ Waste Win’, or Pretty Rainbow Woman, by her grandmother. LeBeau credits her father for guiding her and stressing the importance of education. That paved the way for her to become a registered nurse.

She grew up in an era of adversity during a time when her culture was being eradicated at the hands of the U.S. government. She was a boarding school survivor and like many Native Americans and people of her generation, she answered the call to serve her country during World War II in the United States Army Nurse Corps.

During that time, LeBeau used her expertise to save the lives of those who stormed Normandy on D-Day and during battles including the Battle of the Bulge. She went on to be honored by the country of France with its highest military honor, the French Legion of Honor Medal.

LeBeau took her talents back to her tribe where she went on to become a major advocate of Native American Health. She became the director of nursing at Eagle Butte Indian Health Services.

LeBeau also served on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council in the early 1990s and was highly regarded for her health policy leadership.

LeBeau is a member of the South Dakota Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Women in History Award from Spirit of the Prairie Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

LeBeau often gave speeches about her experiences and never forgot those that she served with. She often ended those speeches with a prayer like the one that follows here.

“O Great Spirit, guide my hand as I collect sand from this hollowed ground. Great Spirit accept now my prayer for the brave and courageous soldiers who saw the horrors of war here this day 60 years ago to 1944," said LeBeau."Great Spirit, please also accept my prayers for Lieutenant Harry, Sergeant George Sweitzer. Great Spirit keep us ever mindful of the great sacrifices made to liberate France and bring peace to our world by these fallen men. O great spirit now hold my hand and walk with me up the cliff of Omaha Beach filled with emotion. No words can ever express.”

Details are pending on Marcella’s celebration of life and funeral.