Last updated on 4/13/07

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Fur Traders James Aird and
Pig’s Eye Parrant tell the story of


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Two Mdewakanton Indian (Dakota Sioux) women,
mother (1765 to 1844) and
daughter (1793-1849),
both named Grey Cloud
Whose Lives Changed the Course of
Upper Mississippi River History
(an island in the Mississippi bears their name)

Who were these two powerful female Mdewakanton Indian (Dakota Sioux) women, mother (1765 to 1844) and daughter (1793-1849 both named Grey Cloud fur traders who were buried side across the river from the Mall of America and why were their bodies dug up? How did being members of one of the leading political families of the era (their father/grandfather was the Great Chief Wabasha) effect their daily lives? What was it like when they were girls growing up here? Why does an island in the Mississippi River bear their name? And, why did Necothundah? (1764 to 1836) the bother of the first Grey Cloud, have to prove himself worthy of being chief by catching a special eagle? Why did he barely survive the quest? Did he become a chief like his father? Why, when the husband of the first Grey Cloud James Aird (1757-1819) died, did she loose her home and choose to live at Black Dog’s Village? And what became of Margaret Aird, who the Indians called the second Grey Cloud.

Duke’s telling as James Aird and Pig’s Eye Parrant of these interrelated stories is based on many conversations with descendents and relatives of the two Grey Clouds and Wabasha II, as well as Ho-Chunk storytellers, and is also based on what is known about these persons from the non-Indians who knew and wrote about them during their lifetimes.

James Aird was born in Scotland in 1757. He decided to come to North America become a fur trader. He arrived with four boatloads of trade goods arrived at the Summer Planting Village of the Great Chief Wabasha and his followers in 1776 near St. Anthony falls. Here he stands beside his home in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Built in the 1770s, he and his wife Grey Cloud lived there and his daughter Margaret, the second Grey Cloud, was born there. Their home is the oldest structure in Wisconsin still on its original foundation. James Aird is buried on a bluff top overlooking the Mississippi River near his home.

Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant was born in Canada in 1777 and became James Aird’s steersman in 1799 for Aird’s Mackinaw Boats. Aird used these boats to carry his fur trade goods and bales of fur. After Aird’s death in 1819, Parrant became a fur trader, and then started a Tavern and Store in 1837. He moved his tavern and store to where downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, is and when Steamboats started stopping there people called it Pig’s Eye’s Steamboat Landing, but soon the name was changed to St. Paul. Parrant left the Upper Mississippi River in 1844 to die alone in the wilderness.

Marpiyarotowin (Grey Cloud) was born in 1765 when her father, the Great Chief Wabasha and his followers lived in the summer at St. Anthony Falls, on the east bank of the Mississippi River (across from where downtown Minneapolis is now. Wabasha’s hunting grounds was the land north of there between the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers.) She married James Aird in 1776 according to Mdewakanton Dakota Sioux Indian customs, and then was also married by a Catholic Priest in 1783. She died at Black Dog’s Summer Planting Village (located across the Minnesota River from where the Mall of America is now) in 1844 and was buried there. She was among the most powerful fur traders of her era making a fortune for herself and her husband and daughter.!

Margaret Agnes Aird Mahpiyahotewin (Little Grey Cloud) was the only child of James Aird and Grey Cloud. She was born at her parent’s home in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in 1784. She married Aird’s partner Thomas Anderson in 1805. They had two children, Angus Malcolm Anderson was born in 1806 and died in 1840 in Canada, and Jane Jennie Annacinahawin Anderson, who was born in 1810 and died in 1904. Thomas refused to become an American Citizen after the war of 1812 and so they divorced. With Jane’s permission Tom took Angus and Jane with him to Canada. Jane returned in 1838 looking for her mother Margaret and found her and her second husband Hazen Mooers at her mother’s trading post where Little Rock Creek entered the Minnesota River. In 1840 they turned the trading post over to Joe La Framboise and moved to the island which is still bears Margaret’s Indian name, Grey Cloud Island. Like her mother, Margaret was a powerful fur trader. Margaret died in 1849 and was buried beside her mother at Black ‘Dog’s village’s cemetery. Due to modern highway construction and adjacent development, the entire Indian cemetery was dug up and the remains reburied. The bodies of the two Grey Clouds, including their sunglasses that were buried with them were reburied in the Lower Sioux reservation.