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Marcella LeBeau (1919–2021), decorated WWII combat nurse & Lakota elder

by Linnea Crowther

Marcella LeBeau was a nurse who served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War II and went on to advocate for Native American health.

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LeBeau served as an Army nurse in Belgium, England, and France, including treating soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge. She was later awarded a medal of honor by Belgium. When she returned to the U.S., she worked as a nurse on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in South Dakota, serving for 31 years until her retirement as director of nursing at Indian Health Services. She served on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council, where she worked to ban smoking from tribal chambers. The reservation became the first community in South Dakota to pass a clean air law. In 2019, LeBeau worked with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Deb Haaland on the Remove the Stain Act, a measure to revoke the Medal of Honor from the soldiers who participates in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. LeBeau was also known by the Lakota name Wigmuke Waste Win, meaning Pretty Rainbow Woman. She was featured in the 2019 documentary “Angels in Our Midst,” about U.S. military nurses in World War II.

Tributes to Marcella LeBeau

Full obituary: Rapid City Journal


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