Biographies of Great Native American Chiefs


hy uh WAH thuh or hee uh WAH thuh

Hiawatha was an Iroquois Indian leader in pre-colonial America. He probably lived during the 1500's. He helped establish peace among the five major Iroquois tribes: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga. The five tribes lived in what is now upper New York state and formed an alliance called the Great Peace or Iroquois League.

According to legend; Hiawatha fill into great grief and became a cannibal after his five daughters were killed through witchcraft. He was cured by a prophet named Deganawida, who was on a mission to unite the Iroquois. With Hiawatha as the spokesman, the two men went from tribe to tribe, persuading them to make peace.

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made Hiawatha famous in his poem The Song of Hiawatha (1855). But he confused Hiawatha with the Chippewa or Ojibwa, culture hero Nanabozho.

(by Robert E Powless)

Sitting Bull
(1834? - 1890)

He was a famous medicine man and leader of the Hunkpapa band of the Teton Sioux Indians. Many people think he was the leader of the Indians at the battle of the Little Bighorn, on June 25, 1876, in which Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer died. Actually, Sitting Bull acted only as the leading medicine man in the preparation for the battle. The year before, he had received a vision that all his enemies would be delivered into his hands. In the spring of 1876, Sitting Bull led a sun dance at which he told the Indians to change their way of fighting. Instead of showing off to prove their bravery, they should fight to kill, or they would lose all their lands to the white people. This new tactic led to the victory over Custer.

After the battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and his followers were driven into Canada. He returned to the United States in 1881. After two years in confinement at Fort Randall in South Dakota, he lived on the Standing Rock Reservation in that state. There, in 1890, he helped state the Ghost Dance. The government thought this was an attempt to renew the Indians wars, and sent Indian police officers to arrest Sitting Bull. In the process, he and his son were killed.

Sitting Bull was born in what is now South Dakota. As a boy, he was as known Hunkwani, which meant Slow. However, after showing great bravery in a fight against the Crow Indians, he received the name Sitting Bull. His father chose the new name.

(by Beatrice Medicine)

Crazy Horse
(1844? - 1877)

Crazy Horse was an Oglala Sioux Indian chief. In 1875, the United States government ordered Crazy Horse and other Sioux to enter a reservation. They refused. In 1876, Crazy Horse led the Sioux and Cheyenne, who defeated General George Crook in the Battle of the Rosebud in Montana. Eight days later, he led the Indians in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and his command were wiped out.

As a boy, Crazy Horse was named Curly. After his first great was deed, his father, who was himself named Crazy Horse, gave his name to the boy. Crazy Horse had light skin and hair. He had a quiet manner. He had a quiet manner. He had unusual spiritual powers. The Sioux called him their "Strange One".

In 1877, Crazy Horse voluntarily surrendered to American troops. Crazy Horse was killed in 1877 at Fort Robinson, Nebr., by a soldier while the chief was being forced into a jail cell. A gigantic figure of Crazy Horse is being sculptured out of a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

(by Jerome A. Greene)

(1720? - 1769)

A chief of the Ottawa tribe was an important American Indian leader during the 1760's. Pontiac tried to unite the tribes of the Great Lakes area and of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys in order to maintain Indian control of those regions.

During the French and Indian War (1754 - 1763), Pontiac led his tribe in fighting with the French against the British. But he opposed the claims of both sides to the territory west of the Allegheny Mountains. After the British achieved major victories over the French in 1760, they sent a small force to take over the abandoned French forts near the Great Lakes. Pontiac let the British pass through the area. But after he got promises of help from French traders and officers, he made plans with other tribes of the region to attack the posts.

In the spring of 1763, the tribes captured nine British forts in what became known as Pontiac's War. Pontiac led the attack on Fort Pontchartrian, at what is now Detroit. He besieged the post for about five months. However, France sent no help to Pontiac and his forces, and the Indians could not continue the war without more guns and ammunition.

Pontiac was probably born in northern Ohio. He became a priest of a religious group called the Medewinin or Grand Medicine, Society. Pontiac agreed with the Indian holy man known as the Delaware Prophet, who preached that Indians should abandon all trade with white people. Pontiac was mysteriously killed at an Indian religious center located in Cahokia, Ill.

(by Rhonda R. Gilman)

Little Turtle
(1752 - 1812)

He was a Miami Indian chief in what is now Indiana and Ohio. He fought United States troops to protect the tribe's lands His forces defeated General Josiah Harmar's troops in 1790, and drove back forces led by General Arthur St. Clair in 1791. Historians once believed Little Turtle was the Indian leader at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794). In the battle, Major General "Mad Anthony" Wayne's troops defeated nearly 2,000 Indians near what is now Toledo, Ohio. But recent research indicates Little Turtle was not in command. In 1795, Little Turtle and other Indians signed a treaty that opened southern Ohio to settlement. He was born near the Eel River in what is now Indiana.

(by Terry P. Wilson)

(? - 1618)

Powhatan was the Indian chief in the romantic story about John Smith and Pocahontas. Smith was a soldier who had helped establish the first permanent English colony of North America, at Jamestown in what is nor Virginia. Powhatan was ready to kill Smith when Pocahontas, the Indian's favorite daughter, stopped him and saved Smith's life. No one knows if this story is true. Powhatan is also famous for building the Powhatan Confederacy of Virginia.

(by James Axtell)

Quanah Parker
(1845 - 1911)

Quanah was chief of the Comanche Indians, who led his people against white settlers in an attempt to stop the slaughter of buffalo in the tribe's homeland in Texas. Quanah surrender to the United States Army in 1875. In June 1875, Quanah's band moved to a reservation near Fort Sill, in what is now southwestern Oklahoma. Quanah encouraged his people to get an education and to farm the land. He also persuaded the Comanche to increase their income by leasing pastureland to white ranchers. Quanah obtained full U.S. citizenship for every member of his band long before other Indian chiefs did so for their people.

Quanah was born near what is now Lubbock, Texas. He was the son of a Comanche chief Nokoni and of Cynthia Ann Parker, a white captive. The name comes from the Comanche kwaina, meaning fragrant. Quanah, Texas, was named for him.

(by W. Jean Hurtado)

Captain Jack
(1837 - 1873)

Captain Jack was a leader of the Modoc Indians. He led his tribe against the United States Army during the Modoc War (1872 - 1973)

The tribe lived mainly in the Lost River Valley and around Tule Lake, on the California-Oregon border. In1864, the government moved the Modoc to the Klamath Reservation in Oregon, but they could not support themselves there. Captain Jack led part of his tribe back to the Lost River Valley in 1872.

Fighting broke out when the Army tried to force the Modoc to return to the reservation. The Indians fled to an area near Tule Lake in California. At a peace Council, Captain Jack killed General E. R. S. Canby when the general said he could not withdraw his troops from the area. Captain Jack fled, but the Army captured and hanged him.

Captain Jack was born near what is now Tulelake, California. His Indian name was Kintpuash.

(by W. Jean Hurtado)

(koh CHEES or koh CHEEZ
(1800? - 1874)

He was an American Indian chief who fought white settlers in what are now Arizona and New Mexico. He led the Chiricahua band of the Apache Indians. The name Cochise means firewood in Apache.

During the 1850's the Chiricahua were friendly with the whites. The peaceful relations ended in 1861, when Cochise was falsely accused of kidnapping a settler's child. The United States Army captured Cochise and several members of his tribe and ordered him to return the child. Cochise escaped, but the troops seized six Chiricahua and threatened to kill them if the child was not returned. Cochise then took several whites as hostages and offered to exchange then for the captured Apache. The Army refused, and so Cochise hanged his hostages. He then went to war against the settlers.

In 1867, the frontiersman named Thomas J. Jeffords went to Cochise's camp and persuaded him to let mail carriers pass through the Indian land. In 1869, Jeffords led General Oliver O. Howard to Cochise to discuss peace. Cochise agreed to stop fighting and moved his band to a reservation in Arizona.

(by Edgar Perry)

(1720? - 1777)

A Shawnee Indian chief became a central figure in Indian wars in Ohio during the late 1700's. He became alarmed when a conflict between other Ohio Indians and Virginians led to an invasion to an invasion by two armies of Virginians in 1774. Cornstalk feared the Virginians would overrun Ohio, and so he led a Shawnee army against one of the Virginian forces. His warriors were defeated at the Battle of Point Pleasant in October 1774. The battle ended what was called Lord Dunmore's War, named after Virginian's governor. In 1777, Cornstalk was visiting Point Pleasant when other Indians killed a settler. A mob took revenge by killing Cornstalk, his son and three other Shawnee. These murders led to years of warfare in Ohio, Cornstalk was probably born in Pennsylvania.

(by Michael D. Green)

MAS uh soyt
(1580? - 1661)

Massasoit was a chief of the Wampanoag tribe of Indians who lived in what is now southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He made a treaty with Governor John Carver of Plymouth Colony in the spring of 1621, shortly after the Pilgrims landed in America.

He agreed that his people would not harm the Pilgrims as ling as he lived. In turn, the Pilgrims guaranteed to protect the Indians and their rights. Massasoit kept the peace all his life.

In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims harvested their first crop of Indian corn and invited Massasoit and about 90 of his people to share the first Thanksgiving feast. The Indians brought five deer to add to the feast, which lasted three days.

When Massasoit died, he was succeeded by his elder son, Wamsutta, whom the colonists called Alexander. Massasoit younger son, Metacomet called King Philip by the colonists, succeeded Alexander.

(by James Axtell)

Ten Bears (17952-1873)

Also known as Ten Elks, Paria Semen (also Paeea-wa-semen, Pariaseamen, Parooway Semehno, Parrywasaymen or Parywahsaymen) was an eloquent poetic speaker and adroit negotiator who effectively represented his Comanche followers. Although he was apparently never active as a great warrior, he was still held in high esteem by the tribe, who choose him to be their delegate at many peace conferences with the Whites. His early years were seemingly uneventful; he was born about 1792 on the Southwestern Plain and by middle age had come to be a leading speaker for the Comanche.

He visited Washington D.C. in 1863, but failed to win significant concessions from the authorities. He signed the 1865 treaty at the Little Arkansas River and two years later was present as a speaker at the Council at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, which resulted in a treaty whereby the Comanche agreed to go on a recently established reservation in the southwestern section of the Indian Territory.

Though he was always a peacemaker, Ten Bears was equally determined as a Native American patriot who resented the White man's intrusion. During a long and eloquent address at the Medicine Lodge conference, he stated, "You said you wanted to out us upon a reservation&I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath&I want to die there, and not within walls."

But the Whites were not there to negotiate; they were there to dictate. Previous treaties had "not made allowance for the rapid growth of the White race," and the Comanche, Kiowa and other tribesof the Central Plains were forced to sign a treaty whereby they gave up most of their lands in exchange for a reservation. The days of free hunting were over and the tribes were expected to become peaceful farmers.

Ten Bears set off on another futile journey to Washington D.C., with other leaders from the Southern Plains, always hoping that this time it would be different, that the White man would honor his promises, but it was not to be. He returned to the hated reservation, where he died at Fort Sill a few weeks later, in 1873.


es Educational Publications
Copyright © 2021 All Rights Reserved