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DAKOTA IMAGES | Marcella LeBeau

DAKOTA IMAGES | Marcella LeBeau

Marcella Rose Ryan LeBeau (Wígmuŋke Wašté Wíŋ, or “Pretty Rainbow Woman”) of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, was born in Promise, South Dakota, on 12 October 1919.

LeBeau completed her nursing degree at St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre. The following year, she enlisted in the United States Army Nurse Corps. During World War II, she served in England, France, and Belgium. On D-Day (6 June 1944), LeBeau landed in Normandy and treated wounded soldiers in tents. She arrived in Liege, Belgium, in December 1944 for the Battle of the Bulge. She concluded her military career as First Lieutenant.

After her military service, she married Gilbert LeBeau, with whom she had eight children. She worked for the Eagle Butte Indian Health Service for thirty-one years before retiring as director of nursing. A founding member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Community, she served on the tribal council from 1991 to 1995, leading the tribe’s effort to become the first in South Dakota to approve the Smoke-Free Air Act (2015).

LeBeau received multiple honors and medals for her service, including the World War II Victory Medal, a Medal of Honor from Belgium (2004), and the French Legion Medal of Honor (2004). In 2006, she was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame and received a lifetime achievement award from South Dakota State University. The Daughters of the American Revolution conferred the Women in History Award to LeBeau in 2016. Five years later, she was inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame. She passed away on 21 November 2021 in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, at the age of 102. In addition to her remarkable service during the war, LeBeau inspired many to pursue careers in nursing and made noteworthy contributions as an important health policy leader.