Significant Native American Leaders

Significant Native American Leaders

Leader Name

Lifespan

Tribe

Location

Summary

Powhatan (Wahunsonacock)

? - 1618

Powhatan; Confederation of Algonquin tribes

Powhatan proved he could overcome most obstacles to co-exist with the Pilgrims. He also maintained peace with Jamestown settlers for many years, even after his daughter Pocahontas was kidnapped.

Massasoit (Ousamequin)

1580-1661

Wampanoag

Narragansett Bay, Massachusetts

Massasoit cultivated harmonious relations with the colonists, being especially helpful to the Pilgrims in their early travails.

Pocahontas (Matoaka, Rebecca)

1595?-1617

Powhatan; Confederation of Algonquin tribes

Virginia

Daughter of Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas supposedly saved John Smith`s life when he was threatened by tribal members. Her marriage to John Rolfe ushered in eight years of good relations between the Indians and the colonists.

1600s

Canonicus

1600s

Lenape Nation

New England

Selling land to Roger Williams in 1636, Canonicus agreed to fight alongside the colonists in the Pequot War. But in 1675, a Narragansett settlement was mauled in the Great Swamp Fight, greatly reducing Narragansett numbers and influence.

Tamanend; also "The Affable"

1600s

Lenape Nation

New England

Tamanend, adopted by the colonists as a patron saint prior to the American Revolution, signed land treaties with William Penn in 1683 that later comprised Penn`s Woods (Pennsylvania). Chief of the Unami clan, he was immortalized with a statue in Philadelphia. Church bells in Philadelphia were rung to celebrate this "saint" on May 1.

Metacom (known as Metacomet, Pometacom, King Philip)

1638-1676

Wampanoag

Eastern side of Narragansett Bay

Son of Massasoit, Metacom was forced to sign a new peace agreement at Taunton in 1671; Metacom`s dignity and unbending spirit impressed and frightened settlers. Violence led to King Philip`s War. Hostilities ceased when Philip (Metacom) was betrayed, captured, and brutally murdered.

Hancock or King Hancock

?-1712

Tuscarora

New Bern, North Carolina

Chief Hancock assembled 500 neighboring Indians to eradicate settlers for frequently raiding his village, kidnaping women and children, and selling them as slaves. Northern Tuscarora tribe chief Tom Blunt captured Hancock during the Tuscarora War and he was executed by settlers in 1712.

1700s

Blue Jacket

?-1794

Shawnee

Northwest Territory

Considered a leader of an "inferior force," Blue Jacket opposed such labeling and emerged as the war leader of the Shawnee Confederacy. In opposition, General Anthony Wayne`s army moved out of Greenville (Ohio) with 2,000 regulars, known as the Legion of the United States, and 1,500 volunteers July 1794. A great battle took place the following month.

Techumseh

1768-1813

Shawnee

Northwest Territory

Tecumseh saw action at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794). Bitterlydisappointed by his people`s plight, he refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. He joined the British in the War of 1812, followed them as they were pushed back into Canada, and was killed in 1813 at the Battle of the Thames.

Chief Seattle (Sealth)

1786-1866

Duwamish

Puget Sound, Washington

Orator Sealth helped protect the small band of European-American Seattle settlers from attacks by other Indians. Because of his friendship and help, the settlers named their city after him. At the presentation of treaty proposals in 1854, the aging Chief Seattle delivered a widely remembered speech.

Sakajawea (Sacajawea, Tsi-ki-ka-wi-as)

1787?-1812 or 1884

Shoshone

Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington

Captured by members of the Hidatsa tribe as a girl and sold into slavery, Sakajawea and her young son traveled with husband Toussaint Charbonneau, along with explorers Lewis and Clark, on the Oregon Trail in 1805.

Mangas Coloradas ("Red Sleeves")

1791?-1863

Beonkohes Apache

Southwestern New Mexico

Mangas sought friendly relations with the miners at their Pinos Altos camp, who were under constant Indian threat. After they brutally beat him, Mangas and Chief Cochise drove the miners out. Mangas met with a militia officer in 1863, was taken to Ft. McLane, imprisoned, and brutally killed "while trying to escape."

1800s

1800?-1854

Brulé Lakota (Sioux)

Wyoming

Chosen to represent the Lakota at the Ft. Laramie treaty council in 1851, Conquering Bear advocated peace. He was shot after refusing to turn over the Miniconjou Lakota warrior who had killed and eaten a stray cow from a Mormon wagon train.

American Horse, the Elder (Washicun Tashanka)

1800-1876

Oglala Lakota (Sioux)

American Horse served with Chiefs Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull , and others during the Plains Indian War. During the Bozeman Trail War (Red Cloud`s War, 1860s), American Horse rode with Red Cloud, served as a principal military leader at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and was killed in the massacre at Slim Buttes.

Hototo (also: Lean Elk, Little Tobacco, and Poker Joe)

?-1877

Nez Percé

Montana

War chief with Chief Joseph, Hototo was chosen trail boss and guide of the Nez Percé after the Battle of the Big Hole that spurred his people on a 500-700 mile journey to the Missouri River with most surrendering at the Battle of Bear Paw. During that battle, Hototo was mistakenly killed by friendly fire.

1804?-1838

Seminole

Leader of the Second Seminole War, which began because of Oceaola`s refusal to sign an 1835 treaty after he was released from prison. Fighting continued 20 years after he died in a Charleston, South Carolina, prison in 1838. He was buried with full military honors.

Leschi

?-1858

Nisqually

Western Washington State

Once an advocate of peaceful negotiations with Indian agents, Chief Leschi entered the Puget Sound Indian War after his tribe`s land rights were terminated, and they were assigned to a small parcel of scrubland away from their home in 1855. Leschi was hanged three years later.

Dohasan (Tohausen, Téh-tóot-sah, and Sierrito)

1805?-1866

Kiowa Apache

Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and Texas

Dohäsan was the son of Chief Dohá (Bluff), and a significant member of a long line of Kiowa chiefs. A leader for more than 30 years, Dohäsan was celebrated as a fierce warrior and an insightful administrator. He also signed several treaties.

Dull Knife (Morning Star, Tahmelapashme, Woheiv)

1810?-1883

Northern Cheyenne

Montana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Black Hills

Dull Knife signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. He fought in the Colorado Cheyenne-Arapaho War; and War for the Black Hills, which included the Battle of the Rosebud, Battle of the Little Big Horn, and others.

Satank (Setankeah or "Sitting Bear")

1810-1871

Kiowa

South Dakota and Oklahoma

Satank was a leader of the Koitsenko (Crazy Dog) warrior society and fought intertribal wars while in his twenties. In 1867, he represented the Kiowa at the Medicine Lodge Treaty council.

1815?-1874

Chiricahua Apaches

American Southwest

Drawn into conflict during the Bascom Affair, Cochise became chief after father-in-law Mangas Coloradas was killed in 1863. He fought a relentless guerrilla war against U.S. cavalry for nine years, until signing a treaty that established a reservation on his native land.

Lone Wolf (Guipago)

1820?-1879

Kiowa

Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Texas

Leader among his tribe`s militant minority during the 1860s and `70s, Lone Wolf rallied in Washington, D.C. with other chiefs and signed the Little Arkansas Treaty. After agreeing to negotiate with Custer, he was held hostage at Fort Cobb. He secured the parole of Santana and Big Tree.

1820?-1890

Oglala Lakota (Sioux)

Black Hills, South Dakota

After the Sioux Wars (1876-1877), Big Foot advocated for adapting to the white men`s ways while retaining Lakota traditions. He was a strong Ghost Dance-resurgence proponent and was killed at the Wounded Knee Massacre after surrendering.

Red Cloud (Makhpiyaluta Scarlet Cloud)

1822-1909

Oglala Sioux (Lakota)

Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota

Aiding in the U.S. government`s policy change from military pacification to one of negotiation, Red Cloud was used to persuade Crazy Horse in 1877 to surrender, only to see Crazy Horse slain in custody. He agreed to relocate his people to the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1878. Until his death at 87, Red Cloud continued to lobby from Pine Ridge.

Spotted Tail (Sinte Galeska and Jumping Buffalo)

1823-1881

Brule tribe of the Sioux Nation

South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas,Colorado Territory

While in prison at Fort Laramie, Spotted Tail learned to read and write. He was a signer of the Fort Laramie Treaty. As adminstrator and head chief of his people, he maintained an Indian police force that kept alcohol off his reservation, and condemned threats to force the Lakota to Indian Territory.

1825-?

Absaroke, or Mountain Crow, tribe

Montana and Wyoming

Bull Chief used non-traditional techniques for spiritual and hunting successes. He was distinguished in battle against tribal enemies and recognized as the bravest warrior during the height of the buffalo culture.

Victorio

1825-1880

Apache

Arizona, New Mexico

Victorio served with Mangas Coloradas and assumed the leadership position after Coloradas` death. He played a key role in the 1870s Apache uprisings.

Geronimo (Goyathlay: "one who yawns")

1829-1909

Chiricahua Apache

Arizona, Indian Territory, New Mexico

An Apache shaman, Geronimo became chief after Cochise`s death. When he and his followers were captured in 1886, they were forced to cut their hair, wear Western clothes, and were shackled while being transported to Alabama. He later traveled to national expositions and was a symbol of resistance to white domination.

American Horse, the Younger (Wasechun-tashunka)

1830?-1908

Oglala Lakota (Sioux)

Black Hills, South Dakota

American Horse championed accommodation with the encroaching whites. He signed the treaty secured by the Crook Commission in 1887, which forced the Lakota to abandon half their reservation in Dakota.

Santana (Set-tainte or White Bear Person)

1830-1878

Kiowa

Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma

Santana negotiated numerous times with the American government and signed such treaties as the Little Arkansas (1865) and Medicine Lodge (1867). He fought a protracted war before settlers, miners, and others finally overwhelmed his tribe`s land.

Sitting Bull (Jumping Badger, nickname Hunkesi, Tatanka-Iyotanka)

1831-1890

Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux)

North Dakota

Originally a medicine man, Sitting Bull became the first principal chief of the entire Lakota Sioux nation in 1868. Remembered as one of the greatest Indian leaders, he battled the land agreements of 1888 and 1889, which threw half the Great Sioux Reservation open to white settlement.

Looking Glass (Allalimya Takanin)

1832?-1877

Nez Percé

Pacific Northwest

During the Nez Percé War, Looking Glass was one of the war chiefs who helped lead his people during their long flight to freedom across the Canadian border in 1877. He attempted to demonstrate neutrality and abstained from the conflict between the non-treaty Nez Percé bands and the U.S. government.

Rain in the Face (Ito-na-gaju)

1835-1905

Hunkpapa Sioux within the Lakota Nation

Dakota Territory, Wyoming and Montana

Rain in the Face was one of the Sioux`s greatest and most respected war heroes. As a war chief, he was among the Indian leaders who vanquished George A. Custer and his U.S. Army 7th Cavalry regiment at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Gall (Matohinshda: "Bear Shedding His Hair" and Pizia)

1840?-1894

Hunkpapa Teton Sioux

South Dakota

Orphaned by Sitting Bull, Gall played a leading role in the Lakotas` long war against the U.S. As a Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader, he also was a commander of the Native American cavalry forces at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Gall was one of the most aggressive Sioux leaders in their last stand.

Joseph (Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat

1840-1904

1840-1904

Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana

Chief Joseph, an advocate of peace, helped lead his people, along with Chief Hototo, on a 500-700 mile journey to the Missouri River. He surrendered at the Battle of Bear Paw after which he uttered his famous remarks. He campaigned for a return to his homeland in the Wallowa Valley until his death.

Ollokot (Tewetakis)

1840s?-1877

Nez Perce

Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana

Son of Chief Joseph, Ollokot played an important role in the peace initiative at Fort Walla Walla in 1877. Throughout the Nez Percé War, with never more than 250 warriors, he fought some 20 engagements and five major battles against forces of about 2,000 soldiers and others. Ollokot was killed in combat at the final battle on Snake Creek.

Crazy Horse (also: Curly, his boyhood name and Tashunka Witko)

1844-1877

Lakota (Sioux)

South Dakota

Crazy Horse was one of the youngest Lakota in memory to receive the title Shirtwearer, one of the highest honors and responsibilities accorded to males. Committed to safeguarding the Lakota tradition and principles, he led a group of approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in the Battle of Rosebud and a band in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to yield.

Manuelito (Hastiin Ch`il Haajiní, Man of Blackweed)

1818?-1884

Navajo

Arizona, New Mexico

Manuelito, an important Navajo leader and spokesperson, opposed the killing of 60 cattle by U.S. soldiers, which eventually led to the infamous "Long Walk" to Bosque Redondo Reservation. On the 350-mile trail of death, 200 died or were killed. He witnessed the deaths of 2,000 Navajos at Bosque. He was noted for his dedication to quality education for his people.

Kamiakin

1800?-1877

Yakana Indian Nation

Western Washington State

Kamiakan called upon tribes to oppose the 1855 Yakama Treaty, which led to the Yakima War. Along with other local Indians, they held off U.S. soldiers for about three years. In 1858, at the Battle of Four Lakes near Spokane, the Indians were decisively defeated. Kamiakan escaped to Canada.

Kicking Bear (born: Mato Wanartaka)

1853?-1904

Oglala Sioux, then Minneconjou Sioux sub-chief

Montana

Medicine man Kicking Bear participated in several battles during the War for the Black Hills, including the Battle of the Little Big Horn. He brought the new Ghost Dance to his people and aided in its revival. He toured with Buffalo Bill Cody`s Wild West Show in 1861 to have his sentence commuted.

Ishi

-1918

Yahi

He was rescued from prison by two University of California at Berkeley anthropologists. Archaeologist Alfred Kroeber`s wife, the author of Ishi in Two Worlds, wrote that Ishi was "the last wild Indian in North America, a man of Stone Age culture."

?-1918

Paiute

Nevada, New Mexico

Wodziwob was involved in the rebirth of the Ghost Dance in the 1860s. A prophet and a shaman, Wodziwob prophesied in 1869 that the railroad would come from the East.

Wovoka (Jack Wilson)

1858-1932

Paiute

Having a strong background in Christian and Paiute spirituality, Wovoka revived the Ghost Dance. He was inspired to action after witnessing his people demoralized by defeat, subjugation, oppression, and segregation. Visitors from many places came to see his updated version of the Ghost Dance.

Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa, Nicholas Black Elk)

1863-1950

Oglala Lakota (Sioux)

Northern Great Plains

In 1886, famous holy man, traditional healer, and visionary, Black Elk joined Buffalo Bill Cody`s Wild West show. Black Elk witnessed the Wounded Knee Massacre and produced two literary works.

Jim Thorpe

1888-1953

Potawtomi

Oklahoma

Jim Thorpe won medals in the 1912 Olympic games in Sweden that were later stripped. He also played professional football and baseball. His feats on the football field put him on the 1911 and 1912 All-American Football teams.

Dan George

1899-1981

Tsleilwaututh

Burrard Reserve, Vancouver Island

Actor as well as a spokesman for his people, Dan George was nominated for Academy Award Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Little Big Man."

1900s

Esther Ross

1904-1988

Stillaguamish

Western Washington State

Esther Ross campaigned for 50 years for her people`s rights. Tribal membership rose from 29 to 160 before her death. She established fishing rights for the Stillaguamish, obtained federal recognition, and gained treaty rights that made them eligible for federal benefits.

Bob Satiacum

1929-1991

Puyallup

Western Washington State

Bob Satiacum, host of many "fish-ins" by the Puyallup and a user of other tactics, secured treaty-guaranteed fishing rights for his people after a 30-year fight. Satiacum secured the return of 20 acres and $77.25 million in tribal claims.

Wilma Pearl Mankiller (A-ji-luhsgi, Asgaya-dihi)

1945-

Cherokee

Oklahoma, California, Arkansas

Wilma Pearl Mankiller, first female leader of Cherokee, brought social and economic changes to her people. Reared in poverty, Mankiller received the Presidential Medal of Honor from President Bill Clinton in 1998.


Significant Native American Leaders - History


Sitting Bull
by David Frances Barry

There are many Native American Indians who had a great impact and influence on society. Here is a list and description of just a few of these great leaders and famous people:

Squanto (also called Tisquantum ) lived an interesting life. As a teenager he first met a group of Europeans led by Captain Weymouth. He learned the English language and traveled back to England with them. After a while he became homesick and eventually traveled back to his homeland. However, he didn't stay in America long as he and 19 other members of his tribe were taken captive by Captain George Weymouth, brought back to Europe, and sold as slaves. Years later, Squanto once again found his way back to his homeland. However, when he finally got home, he found out that his entire village had died from disease. Squanto joined another tribe and lived with them.

Around a year later, the Pilgrims arrived and settled in Plymouth near the Squanto's tribe. Since Squanto could speak English he helped establish a treaty between the local Native Americans and the Pilgrims. Squanto helped the Pilgrims learn how to catch fish, grow local crops, and survive through the winter. The Pilgrims would likely have not made it without Squanto's help. Despite all the bad things that had happened to Squanto, he still wanted peace and to help others.

Pocahontas was the daughter of the chief of the Powhatan tribe which lived near the English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. She ended up saving the life of Jamestown leader Captain John Smith when he visited her village. She also helped to warn the settlers of an attack from her father and his warriors. Later, Pocahontas would be captured and held for ransom by the settlers. She was treated well, though, and soon fell in love with English settler John Rolfe. After marrying John Rolfe, Pocahontas traveled back to England with Rolfe and became a famous celebrity. Unfortunately, she died in England at the young age of 22.

Sequoyah was a member of the Cherokee tribe. He invented the Cherokee alphabet and a way to write down the Cherokee language. He did this amazing feat all on his own.


Sequoyah, Cherokee inventor
by C.B. King.

Black Hawk was a capable and fierce war Chief. He led the Sauk tribes in assisting the British in the War of 1812. Then he fought to save his people's land from the settlers. However, he eventually was captured and his people lost their lands.

Sacagawea was a member of the Shoshone Indian tribe. When she was a girl her village was attacked and she became a slave. Later, she was sold to a French trapper named Charbonneau who married her. She was living with Charbonneau when the explorers Lewis and Clark arrived. They asked for Sacagawea to travel with them as she could help translate with the Shoshone. She joined their expedition and played a major role their successful journey to the Pacific Ocean.

Geronimo was a leader of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. Geronimo led the Apache in stiff resistance for many years against both invaders from the west and from Mexico. His name means "one who yawns".

Sitting Bull (1831-1890)

Sitting Bull was a famous leader of the Lakota Sioux Plains Indians. He is most known for having a premonition that the Sioux would win a great battle against the white man. Then he led a combined group of warriors from the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe tribes into battle. This famous battle was called the Battle of Little Big Horn and was fought against General Custer. In this battle, sometimes called Custer's Last Stand, Sitting Bull completely destroyed Custer's army killing every last man.

Jim Thorpe (1888 - 1953)

Jim Thorpe grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma. He is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He played professional baseball, basketball, and football. He also won Olympic Gold Medals for the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympics.


Jim Thorpe by Agence Rol

Other famous Native Americans you may want to read about include Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, Will Rogers, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Maria Tallchief, Cochise, Red Cloud, and Hiawatha.


10 Famous Native Americans

Let's face it, America's history is not exactly neat and ti­dy. When white settlers arrived in America, they realized they had a big problem: there were people already living there!

These Native Americans tried various tactics to deal with the European intruders. They tried talking it out, bu­t most of the settlers were afraid of these seemingly primitive people. They tried living harmoniously, by signing tr­eaties for shared land, but the U.S. government had a knack for going back on its word. They even resorted to fighting and won some victories, though the war would eventually be lost along with nearly all of the land they had left.

­Despite the hardships, some heroes emerged. The following figures represent the hundreds of tribal leaders who did everything they could to preserve the history and culture of their threatened people.

This Lakota leader played a major role in the Lakotas' long war against the United States. As a Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader, he also served as commander of the Native American cavalry forces at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Gall was one of the most aggressive Sioux leaders in the final battles for preservation and resistance, though his story is not without controversy. Though he was Sitting Bull's chief military lieutenant during the Little Bighorn battle, he quarreled with Sitting Bull and retreated to Canada shortly thereafter. His talks with settlers did much to improve relations between the groups, but some felt he conceded too much and befriended too many white leaders. Regardless, Gall was integral to the history of the Native American plight.

9. Makhpiya-Luta, aka Red Cloud

For most of his life, Red Cloud was fighting. At first, it was to defend his Oglala people against the Pawnee and Crow tribes, but by the time he reached his forties, Red Cloud was fighting the white man. His efforts led to the defeat of Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming in 1867 and kept soldiers at bay (and in fear) for the rest of the winter. In the two years that followed, the government signed the Fort Laramie Treaty and gave the Native Americans land in Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. But soon after, the Black Hills were invaded, and Red Cloud and his people lost their land. Until his death in 1909, Red Cloud tried other ways to make peace and preserve the culture of his people, working with government officials and agents to reach a fair agreement.

8. Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, aka Joseph the Younger

Born in 1840 in what is now Oregon, Joseph the Younger (also called Chief Joseph) had some big shoes to fill. His father, Joseph the Elder, had converted to Christianity in 1838 in an attempt to make peace with white settlers. His father's efforts seemed to work, for his Nez Percé people were given land in Idaho. But in 1863, the U.S. government took the land back, and Joseph the Younger's father burned his Bible and his flag and refused to sign any new treaties. When Joseph succeeded his father as tribal chief in 1871, he clearly had to deal with a rather delicate situation. He eventually agreed to move his people to the now smaller reservation in Idaho, but never made it. They came under attack by white soldiers, fought back, and then dealt with the wrath of the government. In an impressive battle, 700 Native Americans fought 2,000 U.S. soldiers successfully until Joseph surrendered in 1877. He died in 1904 from what his doctor reported was a broken heart.

7. Tashunca-uitco, aka Crazy Horse

At the tender age of 13, this legendary warrior was stealing horses from neighboring tribes. By the time he was 20, Crazy Horse was leading his first war party under the instruction of Chief Red Cloud. The Lakota warrior spent his life fighting for the preservation of his people's way of life. He amassed more than 1,200 warriors to help Sitting Bull defeat General Crook in 1876. After that, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse joined forces, eventually defeating Custer at Little Bighorn. Crazy Horse continued to tirelessly defend his people's rights, but by 1877, there was little fight left in him. When trying to get to his sick wife, Crazy Horse was killed with a bayonet.

Historical figures are often described with embellishment, but rarely are they mythologized to Geronimo's levels. Geronimo's wife, children, and mother were killed by Mexicans in 1858. He led many attacks on both Mexican and American settlers and was known for his legendary war skills -- some even said he was impervious to bullets. But later in life, this fearless leader of the Chiricahua tribe of the North American Apache was forced to settle on a reservation, his group having dwindled to just a few people. He eventually died a prisoner of war in 1909 and is buried in Oklahoma.

Though only one-eighth Cherokee, John Ross served as a chief in the Cherokee Nation from 1828 until his death in 1866. Over the years, Ross served as a translator for missionaries, a liaison between the Cherokee people and Washington politicians, and owned a farm (and slaves) in North Carolina. By the early 1820s, things did not look good for the Cherokee people. Ross took legal action to try to prevent the forced exile of the tribe.

He was president of the Cherokee Constitutional Convention of 1827 and, for the next ten years, worked with the U.S. government and his people to seek assistance and justice for the Cherokee. Even though several court rulings found the Cherokee to be the rightful owners of land, they weren't enforced, and, slowly but surely, Ross's efforts went largely unrewarded. Ross is known for leading the Cherokee to Oklahoma in 1838 on what is commonly referred to as the "Trail of Tears."

Not much is known about Pontiac's early life, but it is believed that he was born in the Detroit or Maumee River region to Ottawan parents, and, by age 30, he was a prominent figure within his tribe. After the French and Indian War, Pontiac was none too pleased with the British and their trading policies. He responded with widespread attacks against British forts and settlements in the Ohio region during 1763, which came to be known as Pontiac's Rebellion. However, neighboring tribes and other Native American leaders didn't like the way Pontiac conducted himself. Some felt he used a fake title of "chief" given to him by the white man to exert influence and enjoy undue power. Pontiac was killed by a member of the Peoria tribe in 1769.

3. Sequoyah, aka George Guess, aka Sogwali

If it weren't for Sequoyah, a huge piece of Native American culture might be missing. Thanks to this Cherokee born around 1766, the Cherokee language is not a mystery. Sequoyah created the syllabary, or syllable alphabet, for his people and taught the Cherokee how to read and write. The ability to communicate via the written word helped make the Cherokee Nation a leader among tribes everywhere. The giant sequoia tree is named after the man who felt that the pen would outlast the sword -- and he was right. Sequoyah died in 1843 of natural causes.

While Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, was no stranger to battle, he is more often recognized for his diplomatic efforts in the Native American plight. Born in Ohio in the late 1760s, Tecumseh was an impressive and charismatic orator. In 1809, when the Treaty of Fort Wayne signed over 2.5 million acres to the United States, Tecumseh was outraged. He tried to get all the Native American nations to join together, claiming that the land belonged to the people who were there first, and no one tribe could buy or sell any part of it. Tecumseh's hopes were to create solidarity among all native peoples, but the idea came too late. Eventually, Tecumseh joined forces with the British and was killed in battle in 1813.

1. Tatanka Iyotaka, aka Sitting Bull

The principal chief of the Dakota Sioux was fierce, determined, and less than forgiving of the white miners who tried to take over the Black Hills in the late 1870s. Sitting Bull was born in 1831 and, while he earned a reputation for being ruthless in the Native American resistance efforts of his younger days, his big moment came in 1876. Trying to protect their land, Sitting Bull and his men defeated Custer's troops at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Sitting Bull then escaped to Canada. In 1881, he returned to America on the promise of a pardon, which he received. The legendary warrior then joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, showcasing his riding skills and hunting prowess. But when he died at 69, Sitting Bull was still advising his people to hold on to their land and their heritage.


Chief Joseph (aka Heinmot Tooyalakekt)

Chief: Chief Joseph (aka Heinmot Tooyalakekt)

Born: March 3 rd , 1840 Wallowa Valley, Oregon

Died: September 21 st . 1904 Colville Indian Reservation, Washington

Nationality: Nez Perce

Chief Joseph was a Nez Perce leader who led his tribe called the Wallowa band of Nez Perce through a treacherous time in United States history. These indigenous people were natives to the Wallowa Valley in Oregon. Chief Joseph was a powerful advocate for his people’s rights to remain on their homeland. In 1877 the Nez Perce tribe was forcibly removed from their native land by the United States government. The Nez Perce were given 30 day notice to leave their homeland. At first the Nez Perce people resisted removal, and this resulted in a series of violent events. They were ordered to relocate to a reservation in Lapwai, Idaho which resulted into the Nez Perce War.

In the Nez Perce War Chief Joseph led a couple hundred of warriors, and many women and children eluding United States troops over a 1,300 mile stretch. In a 3 month period the Nez Perce battled their way across the state of Oregon, and all the way to Montana. The tribe first attempted to settle with the Crow in Montana, but the Crow natives refused to help them. Chief Joseph and his people then headed North in hopes of taking refuge with the Lakota tribe that was led by Sitting Bull. The Nez Perce were skillful warriors in the battlefield which earned them great respect and admiration among the opposing cavalry, and the general public. In the fall of 1877 after a long and brutal battle Chief Joseph and his band surrendered in Montana only 40 miles away from the Canadian border which would have led them to freedom. However along the way many of the Nez Perce had either froze to death, starved, or died of disease including five of Chief Joseph’s children.

After the war Chief Joseph was never allowed to return home. In 1885 the Nez Perce and their fearless chief were escorted to Washington so they could settle on the Colville Indian Reservation far away from their original homeland and people in Idaho. In Chief Joseph’s final years he spoke about the cruelty that his people endured from the United States government. His hope was that one day there would be equality for everyone including Native Americans. Chief Joseph died of natural causes in 1904, and is buried in Nespelem, Washington.

Resources about Chief Joseph:

Chief Joseph. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 27, 2017 from Wikipedia.

Davis, Russell and Ashabranner, Brent K. Chief Joseph: war chief of the Nez Perce. New York, McGraw Hill. 1962.


A look back at Sitting Bull, history's most important Native American leader

From 1876 until Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881, he evaded the best efforts of the U.S. Army to capture him. While in custody, on various reservations, he was still considered dangerous because of the influence he had with his followers.

On Dec. 14, 1890, police officers were ordered to arrest Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock Reservation, and in the skirmish that occurred, he and 14 others were killed.

In 1868, the U.S. government drew up the Fort Laramie Treaty, which created the Great Sioux Reservation, encompassing the Black Hills, in an effort to curb hostilities with the Lakota/Sioux Indians in the upper plains. A number of the Lakota chiefs and many of their warriors agreed to live in peace on the reservation, but Sitting Bull did not agree with the terms of the treaty. He led numerous war parties against Fort Rice, Fort Berthold, Fort Stephenson, and Fort Buford in northern Dakota Territory.

His primary tactic was hit-and-run attacks, driving off horses and cattle. Sitting Bull's skill as a warrior and the respect he'd earned as a leader of his people led him to become chief of the Lakota nation in 1868.

In the early 1870s, railroad surveyors became a new target for Sitting Bull. By 1871, the Northern Pacific Railroad had reached Fargo. Thomas Rosser, who had been Col. George Custer's roommate at West Point, supervised a survey party west of Fargo for the NP, and Maj. Joseph Whistler led a command of 500 soldiers to escort the surveyors.

In the summer of 1872, Rosser's survey party continued towards the Yellowstone River, and he was escorted by soldiers under the commands of Col. Eugene M. Baker and Col. David Stanley.

The survey party protected by Stanley's command reached a point just east of Pompey's Pillar in Montana Territory, where they were attacked by hostile Indians commanded by Sitting Bull and had to turn back.

In 1873, Custer was assigned to assist Stanley on the protection detail.

After it was reported that gold had been found in the Black Hills, Custer led an expedition to the area during the summer of 1874. News got out about the expedition, which fueled civilian belief that gold existed in land that the Lakota considered sacred. When prospectors began streaming into the Black Hills, the Lakota were incensed since they had been promised protection of their sacred land through the Fort Laramie Treaty.

The government then made an effort to try purchase the Black Hills from the Indians, but that failed. In November 1875, President Ulysses Grant ordered all Sioux bands outside the Great Sioux Reservation to move onto the reservation, knowing full well that not all would comply.

The primary holdouts were Sitting Bull and his followers, which gave the military justification to go after Sitting Bull, as well as the Northern Cheyenne, who were openly hostile to any form of subjugation.

The military's plan was to send three columns of federal troops, under the commands of Gen. Alfred Terry, Gen. George Crook and Col. John Gibbon, to force Sitting Bull and his followers to surrender. Realizing that a major confrontation was inevitable, Sitting Bull called for a gathering of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho at his camp on Rosebud Creek in Montana Territory.

Sitting Bull had sent scouts to the reservations to recruit warriors and told the Hunkpapa (Sitting Bull's band of Lakota) to share supplies with those Native Americans who joined them.

By early summer, his village numbered more than 10,000 people. On June 5, he held a Sun Dance, a ceremony of song and dance that called for tribal healing. Prior to the ceremony, the participants fasted from food and water and a ceremonial pipe was passed. Sitting Bull danced for 36 consecutive hours and sacrificed over 100 pieces of flesh from his arms. He then offered up prayers to the Great Spirit and went into a dream-like state where he had a vision in which he saw soldiers falling into the Lakota camp like grasshoppers falling from the sky.

As a part of the Terry-Crook- Gibbon force, the 7th Cavalry, under the command of Custer, had left Fort Lincoln on May 17, 1876, to try to track down Sitting Bull and his followers. On June 24, Custer's scouts reported that they had spotted signs of an Indian village 15 miles ahead, at the Little Big Horn River.

Hoping to catch the Indians by surprise, Custer marched his men all night, and on the morning of June 25, he divided his 12 companies into three battalions. Custer sent two of the battalions on strategic missions, and his battalion made up of five companies, was later surrounded by the Indians. After fierce fighting, his battalion was annihilated. Sitting Bull, as the spiritual leader, did not participate in the battle.


Significant Native American Leaders - History


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TOP 10 GREATEST INDIAN CHIEFS

California Indian Education's tribal resource is being compiled to introduce young Native American Indian students to a few of their nations' most famous Indian chiefs of North America, brave tribal leaders and warriors who have left their mark on the recorded history of our great lands — please do your own research to learn more in-depth facts, tribal biographies and their most noteworthy quotes about these famous Native American Indians.

The California Indian Education website's "Top Ten" Indian chiefs is not so much about listing the top 10 chiefs of all time (which will forever be debatable), but our Indian guide is about beginning a study resource to familiarize students with some of the most important and influential Native American leaders of the recorded history.

FAMOUS INDIAN CHIEFS LEADERS WARRIORS QUOTATIONS SPEECHES

Upon suffering beyond suffering:

The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations a world longing for light again.

I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.

In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.

I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.

- Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)

Crazy Horse is quoted as saying while he sat smoking the Sacred Pipe with Sitting Bull for the last time — Crazy Horse was killed four days later by US Army soldiers in a hand-to-hand scuffle as they attempted to imprison him. There are no known photographs of Crazy Horse, he would not permit anyone to take his picture, presumably, Crazy Horse believed a photograph stole or unnaturally held the soul of the person(s) pictured.

FAMOUS NATIVE AMERICAN CHIEFS ON HORSES WEARING CEREMONIAL FEATHERED WAR BONNETS HOLDING TRIBAL STAFFS

SIX 19TH CENTURY NATIVE AMERICAN LEADERS ON HORSEBACK (l-r) — Little Plume (Piegan), Buckskin Charley (Ute), Geronimo (Chiricahua Apache), Quanah Parker (Comanche), Hollow Horn Bear (Brulé Sioux), and American Horse (Oglala Sioux). Photo: Edward S. Curtis, circa 1900.

AMERICAN TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY — LEGAL BASIS: The Constitution of the United States, U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state laws, as well as historical treaties all support the federally-recognized Native American tribes' present-day legal rights to self-government and certain forms of limited tribal sovereignty.

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To help CALIE build this inspirational leaders page please CONTACT the webmaster to contribute your favorite Indian leaders or articles for publication.

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Forced Removal On The Trail Of Tears

Library of Congress In 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act which allowed the federal government to relocate thousands of tribes into what was called “Indian Country” in Oklahoma.

As the 18th century turned into the 19th, the government programs of conquest and extermination grew more organized and more official. Chief among these initiatives was the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which called for the removal of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole Tribes from their territories in the Southeast.

Between 1830 and 1850, the government forced nearly 100,000 Native Americans off of their homelands. The dangerous journey to “Indian Territory” in present-day Oklahoma is referred to as the “Trail of Tears,” where thousands died of cold, hunger, and disease.

It’s not known exactly how many Native Americans died on the Trail of Tears, but of the Cherokee tribe of 16,000 some 4,000 died on the journey. With nearly 100,000 people in total making the journey, it’s safe to assume that the Native American death count from the removals was in the thousands.

Time and again, when white Americans wanted native land, they simply took it. The 1848 California gold rush, for example, brought 300,000 people to Northern California from the East Coast, South America, Europe, China, and elsewhere.

Library of Congress A female shaman from California’s Hupa tribe, photographed in 1923 by Edward S. Curtis.

Historians believe that California was once the most diversely populated area for Native Americans in U.S. territory however, the gold rush had massive negative implications for Native American lives and livelihoods. Toxic chemicals and gravel ruined traditional native hunting and agricultural practices, resulting in starvation for many.

Additionally, miners often saw Native Americans as obstacles in their path that must be removed. Ed Allen, interpretive lead for Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, reported that there were times when miners would kill up to 50 or more Natives in one day. Before the gold rush, about 150,000 Native Americans lived in California. 20 years later, only 30,000 remained.

The Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, passed on April 22, 1850, by the California Legislature, even allowed settlers to kidnap natives and use them as slaves, prohibited native peoples’ testimony against settlers, and facilitated the adoption or purchasing of native children, often to use as labor.

California’s first Governor Peter H. Burnett remarked at the time, “A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.”

With more and more native people ripped from their homelands, the reservation system began — bringing with it a new era of the Native American genocide in which the Native American death toll continued to rise.


Native American Activism: 1960s to Present

Overview of Native American activism since the late 1960s, including protests at Mt. Rushmore, Alcatraz, Standing Rock, and more.

By Lauren Cooper

The month of November is often the only time students learn about Native Americans, and usually in the past tense or as helpless “wards of the state.” To counter this, we offer this collection of recent Native movements and activists who have continued to struggle for sovereignty, dignity, and justice for their communities. The financial and colonial drive that usurps Native peoples ways of life is not just relegated to the past it continues today. Here are just a few stories of struggle and achievement since the late 1960s.

For Native American Heritage Month (and beyond), view lessons and resources at the Zinn Education Project.

If you have stories to add, email us at [email protected]

In 1969, Activists Began a 19-month Occupation of Alcatraz Island

On Nov. 20, 1969, a fleet of wooden sailboats holding 90 Native Americans landed on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay. For the next 19 months, the group occupied the island, hoping to reclaim the rock “in the name of all American Indians.” In their proclamation, activists stated that Alcatraz was “more than suitable for an Indian reservation, as determined by the white man’s own standards” in that:

  1. It is isolated from modern facilities, and without adequate means of transportation.
  2. It has no fresh running water.
  3. It has inadequate sanitation facilities.
  4. There are no oil or mineral rights.
  5. There is no industry and so unemployment is very great.
  6. There are no health-care facilities.
  7. The soil is rocky and non-productive, and the land does not support game.
  8. There are no educational facilities.
  9. The population has always exceeded the land base.
  10. The population has always been held as prisoners and kept dependent upon others.

The occupiers’ list of demands included the return of Alcatraz to the American Indians and sufficient funding to build, maintain, and operate an Indian cultural complex and a university.

Learn more in this profile of the Alcatraz Occupation and the film, Alcatraz Is Not an Island, by James M. Fortier.

Occupiers on top of Mt. Rushmore. Images: Reclaiming Our Sacred Sites Flickr page.

In 1970, Activists Occupy Mount Rushmore

On August 29, 1970, members of the United Native Americans, with support from the American Indian Movement, occupied Mount Rushmore to reclaim the land that had been promised to the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation) in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie in perpetuity. When gold was found in the mountains, prospectors migrated there in the 1870s and the federal government forced the Sioux to relinquish the Black Hills portion of their reservation. When park officials asked protesters how long they intended to stay, UNA president Lehman Brightman replied, “As long as the grass grows, the water flows, and the sun shines.” This phase referenced President Jackson’s, then General, promise to protect the life and land of the Native people of Mississippi before his massive campaign to exterminate them.

Watch a CBS new broadcast covering the 1970 occupation. Read more about the reclamation of the Black Hills in the article, “Reclaiming the Sacred Black Hills,” by Ruth Hopkins at Indian Country Today.

In 1970, the first National Day of Mourning Occurs After Speech Censorship

On November 26, 1970, American Indian Movement (AIM) activists occupied Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. Known as the National Day of Mourning, this annual event was sparked by Commonwealth of Massachusetts officials censoring a speech to be given by Frank James (Wamsutta), an Aquinnah Wampanoag, at the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. The reason given was “…the theme of the anniversary celebration is brotherhood and anything inflammatory would have been out of place.” James’ speech included many harsh truths. History gives us facts and there were atrocities,” James wrote and went on to recall the loss of language, culture, land, and life. However, his speech closed with a call for a new beginning:

Our spirit refuses to die… We are uniting… We stand tall and proud, and before too many moons pass we’ll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us. We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail. You the white man are celebrating an anniversary. We, the Wampanoags, will help you celebrate in the concept of a beginning. It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later it is a beginning of a new determination for the original American: the American Indian.

Today, the National Day of Mourning is meant to be a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.

Read the full speech and learn more about the National Day of Mourning.

Image: Ann Arbor Sun, Dec. 1, 1972.

In 1972, the Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan Arrives in Washington, D.C.

On Nov. 3, 1972, protesters from the Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) offices in Washington, D.C. for six days. The protesters 20-Point Manifesto begins:

We seek a new American majority—a majority that is not content merely to confirm itself by superiority in numbers, but which by conscience is committed toward prevailing upon the public will in ceasing wrongs and in doing right.

Continue reading the manifesto at the AIM website.

Read reflections on the occupation by Suzan Shown Harjo in the article, “Trail of Broken Treaties: A 30th Anniversary Memory,” at Indian Country News.

In 1972, AIM Opens “Survival Schools”

In 1972, the American Indian Movement (AIM) organizers and parents in the Minneapolis area started their own community schools as an alternative to public and Bureau of Indian Affairs (now Bureau of Indian Education) schools with high dropout rates. Clyde Bellecourt remembers, “We were losing our children during this time juvenile courts were sweeping our children up, and they were fostering them out, and sometimes whole families were being broken up.”

Known as survival schools for their focus on basic learning and living skills, the schools strongly promoted Indian culture. [Description adapted from Education Week’s “A History of American Indian Education” by Jon Reyhner.]

Image: “We Shall Remain,” PBS.

In 1973, Activists Occupy Wounded Knee

On Feb. 27, 1973, about 250 Sioux Indians, led by members of the American Indian Movement, converged on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, launching the famous 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee.

Set in the same impoverished village as the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre, the occupation called global attention to unsafe living conditions and generations of mistreatment from federal and local agencies. The occupation, which began during the evening of February 27, is hailed as one of AIM’s greatest successes.

“In a way, it was a very beautiful experience,” said Len Foster, a Navajo man who joined AIM in 1970 and was at Wounded Knee for the entire 71 days. “It was a time to look at the commitment we made and a willingness to put our lives on the line for a cause.”

Continue reading the article by “Native History: AIM Occupation of Wounded Knee Begins,” by Alysa Landry at Indian Country Today.

Watch the film, Incident at Oglala, by Michael Apted.

Image: Oregon Historical Society.

In 1975, Protesters Take Over of Bonneville Power Administration

On August 15, 1975, 100 Native American protesters took over the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) building in Portland, Oregon, in response to the killing of Joseph Stuntz, member of the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Two years after the occupation of Wounded Knee, Stuntz was involved in a controversial shootout with FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and was killed. Protesters at the BPA building demanded an end to the undeclared state of martial law in South Dakota, and restitution for Stuntz’s young widow.

Image: Native Voices website.

In 1978, the Longest Walk Begins

On July 15, 1978, a peaceful transcontinental trek for Native American justice, which had begun with a few hundred departing Alcatraz Island, California, ended this day when they arrived in Washington, D.C. accompanied by 30,000 marchers. They were calling attention to the ongoing problems plaguing Indian communities, such as lack of jobs, housing, health care, as well as dozens of pieces of legislation before Congress canceling treaty obligations of the U.S. government toward various Indian tribes.

Carolina Butler, an opponent of Orme Dam and activist, played a key role in defeating the project. Image: AZ PBS.

In 1981, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Celebrates the Orme Dam Victory

After 10 years of organizing and protesting the building of the Orme Dam, on November 12, 1981, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation of Arizona won the struggle when Interior Secretary James Watt announced that Orme Dam would not be built. The dam was a Central Arizona Project plan that would have flooded more than half the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation reservation, most of their farmland, and the remnants of ancestral homeland. Each year, a weekend long celebration is held called the Orme Dam Victory Days to commemorate the event.

Learn more about this struggle and background in the articles, “Orme Dam and the Yavapai A Broken Promise Could Break a Nation,” by Christina Ravashiere in the Christian Science Monitor.

In 1992, the National Coalition of Racism in Sports and Media Forms

In 1992, the National Coalition of Racism in Sports and Media (NCRSM) was established by Native leaders in order to organize against the use of Indian images and names for logos, symbols or mascots in professional and collegiate sports, marketing and the media. While the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) launched a campaign to address stereotypes found in print and other media in 1968, the NCRSM focused directly on the issue of sports mascots, building on previous decades of work to change team mascots, stating:

These mascots and symbols serve to mis-educate all youth by perpetuating an inaccurate history and encouraging a suspension of logic and reason. Schools, teachers and students become culturally illiterate in the realm of Native history and culturally insensitive with respect to teaching tolerance and celebrating diversity.

Learn more about the long history of mascot and name changes by schools, cities, and sports team, and how to take action to pressure the Washington, D.C.’s NFL team to change its name. Listen to a StoryCorps interview with D.C. teacher Julian Hipkins about the controversy.

Snowbowl desecrating the Peaks. Image: John Running/Save the Peaks.

In 2004, Coalition Forms to “Protect the Peaks”

On, February 2, 2004, the Save the Peaks Coalition formed to address environmental and human rights concerns with Arizona Snowbowl’s proposed developments on the San Francisco Peaks, land that has spiritual and cultural significance to at least 13 surrounding tribes. This coalition (made up of tribal and spiritual leaders, citizens, agencies, business, and conservationists) rallied to protest the “clearcutting of approximately 30,000 trees, that is home to threatened species, making new runs and lifts, more parking lots, and building a 14.8 mile buried pipeline to transport up to 180 million gallons (per season) of wastewater to make artificial snow on 205 acres.” Despite decades of protest, the U.S. Forest Service and other government agencies have permitted the Snow Bowl ski resort to expand, the coalition continues to protest with calls to boycott the ski resort.

Learn more at: www.protectthepeaks.org/about/ and watch the documentary, The Snowbowl Effect, by Native activist Klee Bennally.

Image: Indigenous Environmental Network.

In 2011, the Keystone XL Pipeline Protesters Launch Massive Campaign

In August 2011, environmental and indigenous groups launched a massive campaign designed to press President Obama not to approve Phase IV of the Keystone XL Pipeline project that would run through and near tribal lands, water resources, and place of spiritual significance. On Nov. 6, 2015, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. The Indigenous Environmental Network, representing several indigenous groups and nations, issued a press release by Tom Goldtooth, executive director, stating:

In the fight against Keystone XL our efforts as Indigenous peoples, whether Lakota, Dakota, Assiniboine, Ponca, Cree, Dene or other has always been in the defense of Mother Earth and the sacredness of the water. Today, with this decision we feel those efforts have been validated. With the rejection of Keystone XL we have not only protected the sacredness of the land and water we have also helped our Cree & Dene relatives at the source take one step closer to shutting down the tar sands. The black snake, Keystone XL, has been defeated and best believe we will dance to our victory!

Explore this issue with students in the teaching activity, “Dirty Oil and Shovel-Ready Jobs: A Role Play on Tar Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline” by Abby MacPhail. And have students learn about Indigenous Peoples’ activism to respond to climate change in “‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change,” by Julie O’Neill and Tim Swinehart.

Image: Indigenous Action Network.

In 2013, the Havasupai Tribe Files a Lawsuit to Stop the Operation of a Uranium Mine

On March 7, 2013, the Havasupai Tribe, along with three conservation groups, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service “over its decision to allow Energy Fuels Resources, Inc. to begin operating a uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park without initiating or completing formal tribal consultations and without updating an outdated 1986 federal environmental review.” In April 2015, a U.S. District Judge ruled on this suit and decided uranium mining can continue in Northern Arizona.

Annual remembrance march of a uranium spill. Image: Paul Natonabah/Navajo Times.

Uranium mining on and near tribal and ceremonial lands, as well as being in close proximity to the Grand Canyon, has raised concerns of tribal rights, environmental impact, and safety issues for decades. On Oct. 12, 2015, in collaboration with Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Paiute, and Yavapai leaders, Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva announced a bill designed to permanently ban uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed. As reported in the Phoenix New Times:

According to a statement from Grijalva’s office, the bill, if successful, “permanently protects the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims protects tribal sacred cultural sites promotes a more collaborative regional approach between tribal nations and federal land managers protects commercial and recreational hunting preserves grazing and water rights and conserves the Grand Canyon watershed.”

Read more about the struggle in, “Uranium Mine Near Grand Canyon Approved by Federal Judge,” by Miriam Wasser and about Clean Up the Mines!, a concurrent campaign to clean up thousands of abandoned uranium mines throughout the U.S. Watch an interview with activist Klee Bennally on Democracy Now!

In 2016, Standing Rock Sioux Oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)

On April 1, 2016, one of the greatest organizing efforts to protect land, human rights, and the future of this planet began in North Dakota.

Images: Sacred Stone Camp/#NoDAPL.

On April 1st, 2016, tribal citizens of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation and ally Lakota, Nakota, & Dakota citizens, under the group name “Chante tin’sa kinanzi Po” founded a Spirit Camp along the proposed route of the bakken oil pipeline, Dakota Access. The Spirit Camp is dedicated to stopping and raising awareness the Dakota Access pipeline, the dangers associated with pipeline spills and the necessity to protect the water resources of the Missouri river.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is proposed to transport 450,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude oil (which is fracked and highy volatile) from the lands of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The threats this pipeline poses to the environment, human health and human rights are strikingly similar to those posed by the Keystone XL. Because the DAPL will cross over the Ogallala Aquifer (one of the largest aquifers in the world) and under the Missouri River twice (the longest river in the United States), the possible contamination of these water sources makes the Dakota Access pipeline a national threat.

The Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by members of more than 200 other Native American tribes and allies in taking a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Learn more at Sacred Stone Camp website and stay up to date on news at Indian Country Today Media Network and Democracy Now!

© 2016 Zinn Education Project.

Recommended Article

The Spirit of Standing Rock on the Move

Article. By Stephanie Woodard, YES! Magazine, Winter 2017.
People from more than 300 tribes traveled to the North Dakota plains to pray and march in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. Back home, each tribe faces its own version of the “black snake” and a centuries-old struggle to survive. [Publisher’s description]


‘Blood memory’

For indigenous people, history plays an unavoidable role in interpreting the pandemic. One elder from Michigan called Joseph to talk about how difficult it’s been for her to care for herself and her family. After some reflection, the woman realized why: She was weighed down by thoughts of the smallpox epidemic that had killed so many Native Americans. She felt she needed to forgive the U.S. government for intentionally giving her people the illness.

While documentary evidence that Europeans or Americans purposely spread smallpox is scarce, there’s little doubt that colonizers brought infectious diseases that killed an estimated 90 percent—some 20 million people or more—of the indigenous population in the Americas. “Even though we may not have been alive in the time of the smallpox epidemic, that’s in our blood memory,” says Joseph, “just as historical resiliency is also in our blood memory.”

Those deeply rooted experiences can lead to acceptance, especially among elders. “They have been through so much and experienced so much that there’s no need to fear or even panic,” says Tiokasin Ghosthorse, the Stoneridge, New York-based host of First Voices Radio and a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation from South Dakota. “It’s almost like this [pandemic] is familiar.”


9. Tom Goldtooth

Tom Goldtooth is one of the leading fighters for environmental and economic justice, sustainable development and effective economic systems. He is the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the most influential Native non-governmental organizations in the country. Goldtooth is more often than not seen at the front lines of his organization’s grass-roots rallies for environmental justice. He was recently at the front of the line of the People’s Climate March in New York City.


Also see: State and Un-Recognized Cherokee Tribes for a list of 348 state recognized or unrecognized Cherokee tribes and organizations who call themselves Cherokee tribes.

Article Index:

Chuck Norris (born March 10, 1940) was born Charles Norris in Ryan, Oklahoma on March 10, 1940, the son of Wilma (née Scarberry) and Ray Norris, who was a World War II Army soldier, mechanic, bus driver, and truck driver. Norris is Irish and Cherokee Indian. His paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather were full blooded Cherokees.

Frank Blackhorse (Francis DeLuca, Frank Leonard Deluca, Cherokee) is one of several aliases used by a member of the American Indian Movement. He is perhaps best known for his participation in the Wounded Knee incident, particularly his role in the shootout that left two FBI and &hellip Continue reading &rarr

Henry Starr, Cherokee, (1873–1921) was the last in a long line of Starr family criminals. Twice sentenced by Judge Isaac Parker to hang for murder, he managed to escape the noose due to technicalities and went on to form a notorious gang that terrorized and robbed throughout northwest Arkansas and Colorado around the start of the 20th century.