Native American Indian Chiefs
Facts, information and articles about Native American Indian Chiefs from the history of the Wild West
List of Native American Chiefs and leaders:
Crazy Horse: Crazy Horse will always be remembered as one of the great Native Indian warriors who fought to the last. He will always be remembered as a hero in the last battles against the all-conquering Europeans. Read more about Crazy Horse.
Sitting Bull: Sitting Bull was a hero, a soldier and one of the best leaders of all time, who lived his life fighting for the rights of his people and died defending them. Read more about Sitting Bull.
Sacagawea: Sacagawea was the Native American Woman who served as a guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition. Read more about Sacagawea.
Pocahontas: Pocohontas was a Powhatan Indian who saved Captain John Smith’s life, married a colonist, and served as a peace activist between colonists and Native Americans. Read more about Pocahontas.
Tecumseh: Tecumseh was the chief of the Shawnee Tribe and responsible for forming Tecumseh’s Confederacy. This was a vision to unite the tribes East of the Mississippi as an independent nation. Read more about Tecumseh.
Geronimo: Geronimo was the leader of the Apache tribe. His wife and family were killed by Mexican soldiers and sparked is vengeance and resistance against them. Read more about Geronimo.
Black Hawk: Black Hawk was the leader of a group of Sauk and Fox Indians. He was involved in the War of 1812 and integral to the Black Hawk war. Read more about Black Hawk.
Cochise: Cochise was chief of the Apache Indians covering territory that expanded over New Mexico and Arizona. He maintained peace with Americans for several years until members of his family were killed. Read more about Cochise.
Hiawatha: Hiawatha was the leader of either the Onondagas or the Mohawk tribe of Indians. He was an integral part to gathering the tribes as part of the Iroquois Confederacy. Read more about Hiawatha.
Will Rogers: Will Rogers was one of the most famous performers of the 1930s. He started as a cowboy and then performed with the Wild West show before getting involved with movies. Read more about Will Rogers.
Chief Pontiac: Pontiac was chief of the Ottawa Indian tribe. The tribe was allies to the French during the French and Indian war. Later they were involved in Pontiac’s Rebellion. Read more about Chief Pontiac.
Red Cloud: Chief Red Cloud was leader of the Lakota tribe and a key player in the Red Cloud War. He was known for fighting for the rights of Indian chiefs rather than just fighting the army. Read more about Red Cloud.
Chief Seattle: Chief Seattle was of the Duwamish people and reportedly gave a great speech in 1854 that brought everyone together. He was a large man and a great leader. Read more about Chief Seattle.
Chief Two Sticks
Chief Tall Bull
Chief Spotted Tall
Chief Ely Parker
Chief Black Kettle
Articles Featuring Native American Indian Chiefs From History Net Magazines
Tecumseh, Red Cloud and Sitting Bull: Three Great Indian Leaders
Many brave and wise Indian leaders appeared and gained respect and fame in the late 18th and early 19th century. Only a few of them, however, had the diplomatic skills and charisma to go beyond leading their own bands and their own tribes to form and lead intertribal alliances. Tecumseh the Shawnee, Red Cloud the Oglala Sioux and Sitting Bull the Hunkpapa Sioux all had the right stuff to become legends.
Born around 1768 somewhere near present-day Springfield, Ohio, Tecumseh developed an early hatred for the white man’s steady encroachment into Indian homelands. When he was 6 years old, after invading Virginia frontiersmen killed his father, his mother took him to the spot and cried out to him: ‘Avenge! Avenge!’ At age 12, too young to be a warrior, Tecumseh watched George Rogers Clark and some 1,000 men defeat his people and burn his town. Filled with bitterness, he swore vengeance on the Long Knives.
By the early 1790s, white Americans were traveling down the Ohio River, turning north and settling on Shawnee hunting grounds. Tecumseh led raiding parties on white settlements and helped defeat two armies sent out to subdue the Indians. Officials in George Washington’s administration feared a great and powerful alliance of the tribes, and the president sent Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne out to ‘tame’ the Indians. At the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Tecumseh was the greatest rallying force for the Indians, many times stopping retreats and inspiring them to stand and fight, but he could not prevent a crushing defeat.
Nor could he prevent chiefs of other tribes from signing the Treaty of Greenville, thus ceding all of what is now the state of Ohio and part of Indiana to the whites. After that there was a period of relative peace between 1795 and 1809. But during those years, William Henry Harrison, a military man who became governor of Indiana Territory, used liquor, oratory and ceremonial pomp to persuade various chiefs to surrender 50 million acres.
By 1805, Tecumseh was traveling between the Appalachians and the Mississippi persuading other tribes to join his confederacy. He told Harrison: ‘The Indians were once a happy race, but now are made miserable by the white people, who are never contented, but always encroaching. They have driven us from the great salt water, forced us over the mountains and would shortly push us into the lakes. But we are determined to go no farther.’ His oratory, of course, did not stop the white invasion, and Tecumseh decided to make use of the religious fervor being spread by his younger brother Tenskwatawa, called ‘the Shawnee Prophet.’ He planned to reform bad Indian habits, to abandon everything the white man had brought into the Indians’ lives, and to try to form a huge confederacy that would include every tribe in U.S. territory.
Within three years the brothers had built Prophetsville, a very large town where the Tippecanoe River flows into the Wabash, and had persuaded many chiefs that this was the last chance to stop the white encroachment. But in 1809, some Ohio Valley chiefs signed the Treaty of Fort Wayne, ceding many square miles of land. Tecumseh decided it was time for action and told Harrison he must give back the land. The governor, of course, refused. Tecumseh thought the confederacy was not quite ready for military action and withdrew. He went south to get the final agreement from a number of tribes to join the alliance. British Indian agents were encouraging an Indian uprising against the Americans.
In 1811, Harrison decided to take action while Tecumseh was away, visiting the southern tribes Tecumseh had instructed Tenskwatawa not to fight Harrison, but the strong-arm governor provoked a battle at Prophetstown by moving troops to within 600 yards of the town. Insulted, the young warriors fought on November 7, 1811. Harrison’s troops won the Battle of Tippecanoe, and the next day they burned the great town, center of the confederacy. The Americans had destroyed the great alliance.
Tecumseh rallied many Indians to the British cause and helped capture Detroit during the War of 1812, but he fell on October 5, 1813, at the Battle of the Thames (near present-day Thamesville, Ontario, Canada), while shouting encouragement to his warriors. The leading proponent of Indian unity was gone, and there was no one to replace him to oppose white settlement east of the Mississippi River.
Half a century passed, and whites began to appear in droves west of the Mississippi. Red Cloud, was born about a decade after Tecumseh’s death, and his Oglala Sioux followers were willing to talk with the whites. There could be peace if the white man stayed out of Sioux hunting grounds and stopped using the Bozeman Trail.
The government called a council for the spring of 1866 at Fort Laramie, on the Platte River not far from the Wyoming-Nebraska border. Negotiations seemed to be going well until Red Cloud and his chiefs found out that Colonel Henry B. Carrington had arrived with 700 soldiers to build forts on the Bozeman Trail. The Federal peace commission learned that there could be no peace unless a treaty had the support of Red Cloud, who was respected not only by the Oglalas but also by the Bruls and other Sioux and by their Cheyenne allies. ‘The Great Father sends us presents and wants us to sell him the road, but the white chief goes with soldiers to steal the road before Indians say Yes or No,’ said Red Cloud. He then stormed out of the Laramie meeting.
A real war began, with Red Cloud the head soldier. Red Cloud was the only Plains Indian who could gather so many confederates and keep them together long enough to wage a successful campaign against the white man’s incursions. He gathered 250 lodges of Sioux and Cheyennes in the cause, which provided him with about 500 warriors, and carried on continuous guerrilla warfare along the length of the Bozeman Trail. Seventy white people were killed, 20 wounded, and 700 horses, mules and cattle were taken. The soldiers stuck close to their forts.
The Great White Father had to do something, so in 1868 he sent out a peace commission. Whites, according to the Fort Laramie Treaty, were to be banned from Sioux hunting grounds, and their forts were to be abandoned. After the soldiers left, the Indians had the satisfaction of burning the hated forts. The so-called Red Cloud War had been a victory for the Indians. There was relative peace until gold was discovered in the Black Hills in the mid-1870s and the government failed to keep out the white prospectors. Red Cloud, who had come to recognize the hopelessness of challenging the overwhelming numbers of the white man, did not ‘go shooting,’ and that angered many of his people. Although he came to believe in compromise rather than war, Red Cloud never stopped fighting to protect the Sioux culture. Unlike Tecumseh, he did not go out in a blaze of glory. Red Cloud lived until 1909. But like Tecumseh, he had effectively resisted the white invasion…for a while.
The Hunkpapa leader and holy man Sitting Bull replaced Red Cloud as the chief symbol of resistance on the northern Plains. Born in March 1831 near the Grand River (in today’s South Dakota), Sitting Bull tried to avoid whites until the situation became intolerable. Then he called for action, and many Sioux, Cheyennes and Arapahos were happy to follow his lead.
In 1868 many divisions of the Sioux rejected Red Cloud’s peace with the United States and did something they had never done before — choosing one man to be the leader of all the Teton Sioux. His name was Sitting Bull. Crazy Horse, a leading warrior, was essentially second in command. The Fort Laramie Treaty, however, largely kept an uneasy peace until all Indians were ordered to go to reservations by January 31, 1876, or be deemed ‘hostiles.’
That March, one of the columns of Brig. Gen. George Crook attacked a Cheyenne village not even on the list of hostiles. The survivors made their way to Sitting Bull up in Powder River country, and he gave them food and shelter. He decided the time for patience was gone. Sitting Bull sent messages to all Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho bands. He wanted them to join him.
In the spring of 1876, he sent out small raiding parties to steal good horses, guns and ammunition, while the U.S. Army mounted a campaign to subdue all Plains Indians who were off their reservation. In June, Sitting Bull danced the Sun Dance until he fell unconscious and had a vision of soldiers falling like rain. Not only did he believe in his vision, but so, too, did most of the warriors around him. The Indians would fight the soldiers and be victorious!
On June 17, Crazy Horse fought Crook to a standstill at the Rosebud. Sitting Bull’s vision had not yet come true, but one of the leading white fighting men had been knocked out of the picture. Sitting Bull moved his great allied camp to find more plentiful food for his people and horses. (see ‘Sitting Bull’s Movable Village’ in the December 2000 Wild West). He eventually chose a place along the Little Bighorn River where the grass was good and there was game nearby. That is where Lt. Col. George Custer and the 7th Cavalry found them.
Although Sitting Bull and his allies won a great battle, on June 25-26 at the Little Bighorn, they could not win the war. Most of the Indians, hungry and desperate, returned to the reservations the next year. Sitting Bull instead went to Canada, where he found peace for a while. On July 19, 1881, he, along with 187 followers, turned himself in at Fort Buford, Dakota Territory.
Sitting Bull mostly stayed at the Standing Rock Agency beginning in 1883 and continued to have much influence. When the Ghost Dance movement stirred up the Sioux in 1890, he became — at least in some eyes — a feared figure once more. On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull died in a fight near his cabin on the Grand River when Indian police attempted to arrest him.
Of Tecumseh, Red Cloud and Sitting Bull, which one was the greatest? Tecumseh’s widespread and powerful alliance was betrayed by his brother. Sitting Bull put together the most complete and famous single Indian victory. Red Cloud, however, actually defeated the U.S. Army over a long campaign and temporarily shamed it. The nod probably must go to Red Cloud.
This article was written by J. Jay Myers and originally appeared in the October 2001 issue of Wild West.
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Table of Contents - June 2008 - Wild West
June 2008 Wild West Cover
Cover Story: Ten Myths of the Little Bighorn
By Gregory Michno
Most folks know that not all of George Custer's men were killed on June 25, 1876, and …
Daily Quiz for September 12, 2007He led the attack in the first Battle of Adobe Walls:
Daily Quiz for August 21, 2007This one-time scout in the Apache wars was hanged in Cheyenne, Wyo., for the alleged murder of 14-year-old Willie Nickell on July 18, 1901:
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Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Posse
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By David S. Turk
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By Daniel D. Aranda
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By William Francis Freehoff
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By Gregory Michno
General Nelson Miles and the Expedition to Capture GeronimoGeneral Nelson Miles summoned Lieutenant Charles Gatewood to Albuquerque in July 1886 and ordered the reluctant veteran of the Apache wars to go find the elusive Chiricahua leader down in the mountains of Mexico.
By Louis Kraft
Sioux Chief GallSoldiers gave the Hunkpapa leader his nickname because he was a dashing warrior who effectively teamed up with Sitting Bull in the 1870s. But after his surrender in 1881, Gall stood up for cooperation and peace at Standing Rock.
Spirit Lake MassacreWith most of her family and neighbors at the northern Iowa settlement wiped out, Abbie Gardner clung to life at the mercy of Dakota Chief Inkpaduta and his unremorseful band.
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Reviewed by Alexander Cook
By Larry McMurtry
Simon & Schuster, New York, 2005
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White Justice in Arizona: Apache Murder Trials in the Nineteenth Century (Book Review)
Reviewed by Luc Nettleton
By Clare V. McKanna Jr.
Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, 2005
Indians in the 19th century often could not live by "white men's law," but they could die by it. The author, who teaches American Indian …
Trail of Black HawkOutnumbered and harried through trackless swamps, Black Hawk's starving band of Sauk and Fox Indians made a desperate stand along the Mississippi.
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Soldiers vs. Apaches: One Last Time at Guadalupe CanyonNearly 10 years after Geronimo called it quits following a massive manhunt, the U.S. Army began a smaller campaign against renegade Apaches.
Kiowa Chief SatantaKiowa chief Satanta was one of the most complicated men ever to rise from the Great Plains--a diplomat and orator of his people who did his share of killing.
The Indian Tax Rebellion of 1851When San Diego County officials slapped a property tax on the dirt-poor Indians of the area, the natives complied in 1850, but then trouble came a year later when Major General Joshua Bean instructed them not to pay.
The Tule River WarFrom their earth-and-rock fortification at the base of a small, solitary mountain, the Yokuts of central California were determined to defend their land.
The Battle of White Bird Canyon: First Fight of the Nez PerceAfter young warriors killed some settlers in Idaho Territory, General O.O. Howard ordered Captain David Perry at Fort Lapwai to go get them, telling him, 'You must not get whipped.'
1902 Gunfight at SpokogeeThe long-simmering feud between the Brooks and McFarland clans erupted into gunfire on September 22, 1902, at the new railroad town in Indian Territory.
Lieutenant Casper Collins: Fighting the Odds at Platte BridgeLieutenant Casper Collins and 20 others faced at least 1,000 Indians in the 1865 Running Battle, and on its heels came another lopsided encounter on the North Platte -- Custard's Last Stand.
Chief SeattleDid Chief Seattle really say, 'the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth'?
Apache Captives' OrdealWhen Apache warriors swooped down on the defenseless Oatman family in sunbleached Arizona in 1851, the harrowing nightmare was just beginning for Olive Oatman and her little sister Mary Ann.
War of 1812: Corps of Canadian VoyageursThe Corps of Canadian Voyageurs maintained Britain's frontier during the War of 1812.
Brulé Sioux Spotted Tail's Pledge of PeaceWar and a terrible winter were fresh memories when Colonel Henry Maynadier allowed tearful Spotted Tail to bury his daughter at Fort Laramie, which, in turn, helped convince the Brulé Sioux leader to bury the hatchet forever.
Brulé Sioux Chief Spotted TailSpotted Tail, chief of the Brulés, fought well, but his diplomatic skills were even better.
Butch Cassidy's Surrender OfferTired of being on the run, the Wild Bunch leader considered a number of options before deciding it was best to leave the country.
War of 1812: Battle of Lake Erie -- Oliver Perry PrevailsWith Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship unable to fight, an outmatched British flotilla faced the prospect of a remarkable victory. But Perry only transferred his pennant to another ship and fought on.
The Republic of the Rio GrandeAfter Texas gained its independence from Mexico, some Texans and Mexicans were ready to fight for a new buffer nation.
Chiricahua Chief CochiseAt times cruel, Chiricahua Chief Cochise had courage and was devoted to the truth.
Battle of Pierre's HoleStill bleary-eyed from their annual rendezvous, Bill and Milton Sublette's mountain men were ill-prepared for battle. But the dreaded Gros Ventre--'Big Bellies'--could not be avoided without a fight.
Wounded Knee Massacre: United States versus the Plains IndiansThe intermittent war between the United States and the Plains Indians that stretched across some three decades after the Civil War came to an end on December 29, 1890, at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Battle of Champion's HillWith Ulysses S. Grant's army steadily menacing Vicksburg, Confederate General John Pemberton left the town's comforting defenses to seek out the enemy army. Too late, he found it, at Champion's Hill.
Oregon Trail: Wagon Tracks WestFor the Applegates and their fellow travelers, the Oregon Trail promised a golden ticket to the land of milk and honey. The reality, however, proved to be far grimmer.
The 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment Fought in the Battle of the Little BighornAmong the troopers advancing with Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer on the Little Bighorn in June 1876 were 1st Lt. Charles DeRudio and Privates John Martin and Augustus De Voto.
Mason County WarThe 1875 blood feud, also known as the Hoodoo War and featuring the likes of former Texas Ranger Scott Cooley and up-and-coming legend John Ringo, pitted German settlers against American-born cowboys.
Frederick W. BenteenBenteen, though he displayed daring and audacity during his military career, would probably not be remembered today if not for his supporting role at the Little Bighorn more than 125 years ago.
Battle of Little Bighorn: Were the Weapons the Deciding FactorGeorge A. Custer's 7th Cavalry had Springfield carbines and Colt .45 revolvers; the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians had a variety of long arms, including repeaters. But were the weapons used on June 25, 1876, the deciding factor in the famous battle?
Paddle-wheelers Appeared on the Colorado River in 1852When a steamboat first appeared on the Colorado River in 1852, some Indians were afraid, but they would get plenty of chances to become used to the belching boats during the next 25 years.
Black Kettle: The Cheyenne Chief Who Sought Peace but Found War (Book Review)
Reviewed by Chrys Ankeny
By Thom Hatch
John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, N.J., 2004
Although not as well known as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Cochise or Geronimo, who all had some measure of success fighting white intruders, the …
The Last Stand of Crazy HorseAfter helping his people win the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the daring Oglala leader fought thesoldiers again at Slim Buttes in September 1876 and the Wolf Mountains in January 1877 before finally surrendering at Camp Robinson that May.
Utah War: U.S. Government Versus Mormon SettlersThe federal expedition into Utah Territory in 1857-58, which pitted President James Buchanan's U.S. Army against Brigham Young's Nauvoo Legion, was largely a bloodless affair, but misjudgments, embarrassments and expenses abounded.
African American Troops of Company K, 9th Cavalry Fought in the Battle of Fort LancasterCaptain William Frohock, Lieutenant Frederick Smith and the black troopers of Company K, 9th Cavalry, received an after-Christmas surprise from Kickapoo raiders in 1867.
King Philip's War: Indian Chieftain's War Against the New England ColoniesThree hundred thirty years ago, a great Indian chieftain known as King Philip led a strong native American confederation in a bloody war to obliterate the New England colonies, nearly succeeding in dramatically altering the course of American history.
Lakotas: Feared Fighters of the PlainsThe Teton Sioux, or Lakotas, battled other tribes to become the dominant force on the Northern Plains and then took on the U.S. Army in an effort to maintain their way of life.
Spanish-American War: Battle of San Juan HillAmerican plans to take the heights outside Santiago de Cuba went awry almost from the onset, but the initiative of regimental commanders carried their troops to victory.
Marie Dorion and The Astoria ExpeditionThe only woman on the 1811-12 overland expedition led by Wilson Price Hunt, Marie Dorion endured more hardships than a more famous female Indian traveler, Sacagawea.
Mexican Expedition: 1st Aero Squadron in Pursuit of Pancho VillaTaking part in Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing's 1916 Mexican expedition was a learning experience for the U.S. Army's first air arm -- mainly in regard to its own deficiencies.
Cheyenne Chief Tall BullTall Bull led the Dog Soldiers in battle, but his death at Summit Springs ended Southern Cheyenne power.
Nellie Cashman: Female Miner, Prospector and PhilanthropistAlthough known for her charity, Nellie Cashman was a dedicated and knowledgeable miner who searched the west for the 'Big Bonanza.'
Kit Carson: The Legendary Frontiersman Remains an American HeroThe small but courageous adventurer made his mark on the frontier as a mountain man, guide, scout, Indian fighter and Indian protector.
Fort Laramie: Gateway to the Far WestThe fort, which became a military post 150 years ago, protected and supplied emigrants headed to the West Coast and was the site of several historic peace conferences between the northern tribes and the U.S. government.
Death at Summit Springs: Susanna Alderdice and the CheyennesIn May 1869, Tall Bull's Cheyenne Dog Soldiers carried out a series of brutal raids in north-central Kansas, and though the white soldiers later caught up with them, vengeance could not make everything right.
Louis L'Amour's New MexicoSeven of the popular Western author's many novels are set in the 'Land of Enchantment,' and they offer real history and real geography for adventuresome historic travelers.
Tecumseh, Red Cloud and Sitting Bull: Three Great Indian LeadersDiplomacy, courage and charisma were among the attributes of this trio of great Indian leaders.
Sioux Chief Two SticksTwo years after Wounded Knee, Chief Two Sticks was Ghost Dancing and more.
Warren Earp: The Little BrotherOvershadowed by his older brothers, Warren Earp struggled to live up to the Earp name.
George Crook: Indian FighterAgainst the Apaches in Arizona Territory and the Sioux and Cheyenne in the northern Plains, Crook did his job more effectively than most Army leaders on the Plains.
Sitting Bull and the MountiesAfter the Little Bighorn and other 1876 confrontations with the U.S. Army, the great Hunkpapa Sioux Leader took his people north into Canada, where James Walsh and other scarlet-clad lawmen insisted on enforcing the white mother's laws.
Sacagawea: Assisted the Lewis and Clark ExpeditionDetails of her life remain sketchy, and the time and place of her death are still debated, but the young Indian woman who assisted Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their great journey west has a secure place in history.
War of 1812: Battle of Lake Erie: Oliver Perry's Miraculous VictoryWith Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship dead in the water, the British had apparently won the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. But then the quick-thinking American commander turned the tables and snatched an astounding victory in the bloodiest naval fight of the War of 1812.
Buffalo Bill's Skirmish At Warbonnet CreekThree weeks after the disaster at the Little Bighorn, Buffalo Bill claimed he had taken 'the first scalp for Custer!' And soon the famous scout was doing it all over again on the stage.
Cherokee Stand WatieCherokee Stand Watie exhibited great bravery and strong leadership while fighting for two lost causes.
War of 1812: Turning Point at Fort MeigsAfter a succession of disasters, Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison's stand along the Maumee River became a turning point in the War of 1812 on the Northwestern frontier.
Patrick Connor and the Battle of Bear RiverDisappointed Army officer Patrick Connor wanted to be back East fighting Rebels. Instead, he found himself in the bitter cold along icebound Bear Creek, near today's Utah-Idaho border, with a Shoshone village spread out below him.
Ned Christie: Cherokee OutlawUnwilling to stand trial for a murder he said he did not commit, Ned Christie stood his ground in his Cherokee homeland and became the most notorious outlaw in Indian Territory.