Famous Chiefs / Leaders

There were many kinds of native american chiefs and leaders. Usually they did not have absolute power over all situations or activities, and often various terms for leaders were used interchangeably. One could escape the power of a chief or leader by simply moving to another locality. Traditionally, a chief did not usually rule all bands or branches of a particular tribe.
Kinds of Chiefs
Cacique or Cazique (female form: Cacica) – A title derived from the Taíno word for the pre-Columbian chiefs or leaders of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. Following their first encounters with the Taino upon their arrival in the New World, the Spanish used the word as a title for the leaders of the other American tribes they encountered,  predominantly in Latin America.  
Chieftain may refer to the leader or head of a group, such as:

a tribal chief or a village head.
a member of the ‘House of chiefs’
a captain, to which ‘chieftain’ is etymologically related.
Clan chief
Chiefs of the Name – The recognised head of a family or clan.

Chief – May refer to:

Tribal chief – The head of a tribal form of self-government.

Chiefs of the Name -The head of a family or clan.

Paramount chief -The highest-level traditional chief or political leader in a regional or local polity or country typically administered politically with a chief-based system. This definition is used occasionally in anthropological and archaeological theory to refer to the rulers of multiple chiefdoms or the rulers of exceptionally powerful chiefdoms.
Historically, Paramount Chief is also more specifically a title created during the Colonial era by British administrators as a substitute for the word “king” in order to maintain that only the British monarch held that title.Since the title “chief” was already used in terms of district and town administrators, the addition of “paramount” was made so as to distinguish between the ruling monarch and the local aristocracy.

War Chief – Was the chief only for one particular war party, for as long as their mission lasted. He did not necessarily influence decisions in other aspects of their lives, although a War Chief was usually someone respected by the men of the tribe and could simultaneously hold other leadership positions or be elected as the War Chief of many subsequent raids and battles.

Hereditary Chief – A chief whose chiefdom is passed down from lineal descent, usually from a father to his oldest son, but not always. If a chief has no son, or the son is a fool, the line of descent may be to a son-in-law or nephew or younger son. Hereditary chiefs ruled extended family groups that lived together as a village.

Peace Chief – Usually someone with strong oratory skills, selected to speak for the people in situations where diplomacy is needed, such as during treaty negotiations. Many Peace Chiefs made trips to Washington to speak to Congress on behalf of their respective tribe.

House of chiefs – An assembly, either legislative or advisory, that is neither representative (by general elections) nor simply appointed and/or filled ex-officio, but consists of all or part of the traditional leaders, known as chiefs, of a country or polity. Historically, especially in colonial times, chiefs were often used as instruments of indirect rule, and/or convenient alternatives to elective institutions.
Sachem  – Although “sagamore” has sometimes been defined by colonists and historians as a subordinate lord, modern opinion is that “sachem” and “sagamore” are dialectical variations of the same word.
Derived from the Proto-Eastern Algonquian sākimāw:

sâchim (Narragansett language – the source of the English word)
sakəma (Eastern Abnaki language – anglicised as Sagamore)
sakmow (Mi’kmaq language); plural sakmowk
sakom (Malecite-Passamaquoddy language)
sôgmô (Western Abnaki language)

Derived from the Proto-Central Algonquian hākimāw:

ogimaa (Anishinaabe language);written as ogimà in the Algonquin language, gimaa in the Ottawa language,wgema in the Potawatomi language; anglicised as Ogema.
uchimaa (Northern and Southern East Cree languages)
iiyuuchimaaw (Naskapi language)

Chair or Chairman – Today most modern tribes are ruled by an elected Tribal Council. The head of the tribal council may be called the Chair or Chairman or Chair Woman or Chair Person, instead of Chief.
Medicine Man (Medicine Woman, Medicine Person, Medicine Elder) – The primary function of the “medicine man,” (who is not always male), is to secure the help of the spirit world, including the Great Spirit, for the benefit of the entire community. The medicine man was not neccesarily the war chief or the political chief, although he could be, but did weld considerable influence in the decision making processes of his tribe.
Sometimes the help sought may be for the sake of healing disease, sometimes it may be for the sake of healing the psyche, sometimes the goal is to promote harmony between human groups or between humans & nature. So the term “medicine man” is not entirely inappropriate, but it greatly oversimplifies and also skews the depiction of the people whose role in society complements that of the chief.
To be recognized as the one who performs this function of bridging between the natural world and the spiritual world for the benefit of the community, an individual must be validated in his/her role by that community. Most medicine men and women study their art either through a medicine society such as the Navajo Blessingway, or apprentice themselves to a teacher for 20-35 years or both.Medicine People who heal physical ailments often have a specialty set of illnesses they treat, just as modern doctors do. While these medicine men are proficient in treating a specific set of ailments, spiritual and psychic elements are also usually part of the treatment. While in modern medicine, we usually treat the symptoms of an illness, in native American medicine the underlying cause is more often considered (including non-physical aspects that may cause illness) and every aspect of the whole person treated as needed.
Shaman (Shamanism) – A word often used by anthropologists interchangably to mean medicine people. In reality, shaman is a term that was not used by native american tribes, except some Alaskan Natives. The word ‘shaman’ has it’s origin in Russian culture. Shamanism is a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world. A practitioner of shamanism is known as a shaman
There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world and several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Shamans are intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds. According to believers, they can treat illness and are capable of entering supernatural realms to provide answers for human beings.

December 9, 2017

Generally, native americans in what would become the United States and Canada didn’t have royalty such as kings, but there were rare exceptions. There  were three Mohawk chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy and a Mahican of the Algonquian peoples who were called Kings.

While these four Iroquois were not the first American Indians to visit England (Pocahontas had come in 1616), they were the first to be treated as heads of state. 

Famous Mohawk
December 5, 2017

Cornplanter(born between 1732 and 1746–February 18, 1836), known in the Seneca language as  Gaiänt’wakê (Gyantwachia – ″the planter″) or Kaiiontwa’kon (Kaintwakon – “By What One Plants”), was also known by his white name, John Abeel III. He was a Seneca war chief and diplomat of the Wolf clan.

Famous Seneca
December 4, 2017

A great deal about Cornstalk, a Shawnee chief, has been written, referring to him by at least three names. He was born ca 1720 in one of the Shawnee villages in the drainage of the upper Susquehanna River. Cornstalk is said to have been born in western Pennsylvania at least by 1720, but some sources say 1708, 1710, or 1715 and his current grave marker says 1727. He moved with his family when he was about 10 to Ohio.

At that time, the Shawnees were undergoing another of their migrations and his family moved to Ohio River country on it’s Scioto River tributary, in what is now southern Ohio.

By the end of the French and Indian War in the early 1760’s, he had become a principal leader of the Tribe and remained so until he was murdered by whites at Fort Randolph (Point Pleasant, now West Virginia) in 1777.

Famous Shawnee
December 3, 2017

Blue Jacket or Weyapiersenwah (c. 1743 – c. 1810) was a war chief of the Shawnee people, known for his militant defense of Shawnee lands in the Ohio Country. Perhaps the preeminent American Indian leader in the Northwest Indian War, in which a pan-tribal confederacy fought several battles with the United States, he was an important predecessor of the famous Shawnee leader Tecumseh.

Famous Shawnee
December 1, 2017

Joseph Brant, Indian name Thayendanegea, meaning “he places two bets”  (born 1742, on the banks of the Ohio River—died November 24, 1807, near Brantford, Ontario, Canada), was a Mohawk Indian chief who served not only as a spokesman for his people but also as a Christian missionary and a British military officer during the American Revolution (1775–83).

Famous Mohawk
December 1, 2017

Dispute exists about where in New York Red Jacket was born. It could have been at Old Seneca Castle near Geneva, NY, near Cayuga Lake, or even Keuke Lake. His family did spend much time there when he was a boy, and his mother was buried there. So the Keuke Lake location is the most probable.

Famous Seneca
October 16, 2017

Dohasan is the hereditary name of a line of chiefs of the Kiowa for nearly a century. It has been borne by at least four members of the family.

The first of whom there is remembrance was originally called Pá-do‛gâ′-i or Padó‛gå, ‘White-faced-buffalo-bull’, and this name was afterward changed to Dohá, or Doháte. He was a prominent chief.

His son was originally called Ä′anoñ′te (a word of doubtful etymology), and afterward took his father’s name of Doháte, which was changed to

Dohasan, Little Doháte, or Little-bluff, for distinction.

He became a great chief, ruling over the whole tribe from 1833 until his death on Cimarron River in 1866.

Famous Kiowa
October 16, 2017

Abbigadasset was an Abenaki sachem whose residence was on the coast of Maine near the mouth of Kennebec River. He conveyed tracts of land to Englishmen conjointly with Kennebis. In 1667 he deeded Swans Island to Humphrey Davy.  

Famous Abenaki
May 26, 2017

Ernest Spybuck (January 1883 – 1949), a.k.a. Mathkacea or Mahthela, often spelled his first name Earnest. He was born on the Potawatomi-Shawnee Reservation near Tecumseh, Oklahoma, to the White Turkey Band of the Absentee Shawnee, of the Rabbit clan. His parents were Peahchepeahso and John Spybuck.

Famous Shawnee

Kamehameha I

January 23, 2017

Kamehameha I (c. 1736? – May 8 or 14, 1819) was a Hawaiian king also known as Kamehameha the Great. He conquered most of the Hawaiian Islands, and formally establishing the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810.

Famous Hawaiians
January 30, 2016

Metacomet was better known to whites as King Philip. He was also known as Metacom or Philip of Pokanoket.  He was the second son of the sachem Massasoit, and became a chief of his people in 1662 when his brother Wamsutta (or King Alexander) died shortly after their father Massasoit.

Famous Wampanoag
November 1, 2015

Chief Pontiac (About 1720 – April 20, 1769)

Pontiac , also known as Obwandiyag, became chief of his band of Ottawa Indians in 1755. He was influential in the Council of Three Tribes, an intertribal group consisting of the Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibwa people. Pontiac organized his and other tribes in the Great Lakes area to fight the British, in what is now known as Pontiac’s War in 1763-64.

Famous Ottawa
October 13, 2015

Chief Pocatello came to be known in the 1860s among Mormon leaders, Indian agents, and army officers headquartered in the Salt Lake area for his exploits as the head of a so-called outlaw band of Indians.

Famous Shoshone
October 10, 2015

All the counties of Iowa were given their names by the Iowa Territorial Legislature, long before they were physically organized. Many of the counties were named for past presidents, explorers or other historical figures. Many were named for Indian chiefs or for tribes of the immediate area. Appanoose County, Iowa derived its name from Chief Appanoose, because he was an important Indian chief who had his camp along a nearby stream at one time.

Famous Sac and Fox
October 6, 2015

Little Turtle was a Miami chief, who fought several battles with the United States in the 1790s, which was referred to at the time as Little Turtle’s War (now known as the Northwest Indian War). In 1791, his warriors defeated General St. Clair, who lost 623 men, the most decisive loss by the US against Native American forces ever.

Famous Miami
October 1, 2015
Among the Comanche, it was believed that religious power could be obtained from a supernatural being through dreams. Sanapia was a 21st century eagle medicine woman who obtained her powers through such dreams. Her mother and maternal uncle were both Comanche shamans or eagle doctors. Sanapia’s maternal uncle was also active in the Comanche peyote cult. Her paternal grandfather was a Comanche chief, and her mother’s brother was an Arapaho chief.

Native American Women
September 29, 2015

American singer, songwriter, and actor, Nick Jonas (September 16, 1992) was born in Dallas, Texas. He is a member of the band The Jonas Brothers, along with his  brothers Joe Jonas and Kevin Jonas. The question has come up whether or not their self declared Cherokee ancestry is documented.

Famous Cherokee
September 28, 2015

Born James Scott Bumgarner on April 7, 1928 in Norman, Oklahoma, James Garner’s early childhood in the Great Depression-era Dust Bowl was marked by hardships. He is the youngest of three sons. When he was only four years old, he lost his mother, Mildred Bumgarner, who was half-Cherokee.

Famous Cherokee
September 28, 2015

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.

Famous Cherokee
September 27, 2015

John ChristopherJohnnyDepp II (born June 9, 1963) is an American actor, producer, and musician. In interviews in 2002 and 2011, Depp stated that he “guesses” he has Native American ancestry, and that his “great-grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian.” However, he has cited family stories and Kentucky lore among non-Natives, rather than any evidence, for this belief.

Famous Cherokee
September 27, 2015

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. 

Famous Cherokee
August 2, 2015

Lone Wolf the Younger (Mamadayte)
Born 1843, Oklahoma, USA – Died Aug. 11, 1923, Hobart, Kiowa Co, Oklahoma

Wife: Akeiquodle (1850 – 1938)
Daughter: Sarah Ahtape Lone Wolf Kauahquo (1886 – 1958)

Lone Wolf was appointed Chief of the Kiowa in 1883 and served 40 years until his death in 1923. Prior to becoming chief, he was a fierce warrior named Mamadayte who survived the Battle of Washita, in which General Custer surprised and overcame Black Kettle, Chief of the Cheyenne.

Famous Kiowa
July 28, 2015

Jackson SundownJackson Sundown, a nephew of Chief Joseph, was with him on the flight of the Nez Perce in 1877. He was the first native American to win a World Championship Bronc Rider title in 1916, at the age of 53, more than twice the age of the other competitors who made it to the final round. He is also the oldest person to ever win a rodeo world championship title. He was posthumously inducted into the Pendleton Round-Up Hall of Fame in 1972, into the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame in 1983, and the American Indian Athletes Hall of Fame in 1994.

Famous Nez Perce
July 22, 2015

The name Red Jacket, so familiar to the whites, was acquired during the war of the Revolution. He was distinguished at this time as well as afterward, for his fleetness on foot, his intelligence and activity. Having attracted the attention of a British officer by the vivacity of his manners, and the speedy execution of those errands with which he was entrusted, he received either in token of admiration, or for services rendered, or both, a beautifully ornamented jacket of a scarlet color.

Famous Seneca
June 12, 2015

Satanta’s (often misspelled as Santana) name actually was Set-tainte, which means White Bear Person. One of the leading Kiowa chiefs in the 1860s and ’70s, Satanta was a fearsome warrior, but also a skilled orator and diplomat. Satanta 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 to protect his tribe’s land before settlers, miners and others finally overwhelmed it.

Famous Kiowa
March 13, 2015

Chief Hump
Minniconjou Lakota
(ca. 1848-1908)

Etokeah, a Minniconjou Lakota war chief, known to the whites as Chief Hump,  was a great leader. He is especially known for his skills during the 19th Century Lakota-US Government battles. His exact birth date and facts of parentage were not recorded. However, he first came into public notice in 1866. Then, he led the charge against Captain William Fetterman’s soldiers outside Fort Phil Kearney in Wyoming.

Famous Sioux
March 13, 2015

Chief Gall
Huηkpapa Lakota
(ca. 1840-1895)

“Man Who Goes in the Middle,” or Pizi, a Hunkpapa Sioux chief, was one of the major Indian field commanders at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Anglo Americans know him as Chief Gall.

Famous Sioux
February 18, 2015

Red Tomahawk, Sitting Bull’s assassin, lived in a time of rapid change for the Lakota-Dakota people. He did the only thing that he believed he could, serve as a B.I.A. police officer and put his warrior days behind him. He is most often remembered for killing Sitting Bull. Here’s his story.

Famous Sioux
December 18, 2014

Many Americans have recently been introduced to the American Indian code talkers of World War II. However, like the blind man who touched an elephants trunk and described that animal as being long and tubular, the current vision of the code talkers is incomplete.

There were 17 tribes, not just one, that provided our military forces in the battlefield with this direct form of voice radio communication. When Indian code talkers were brought into battlefield communications, their monitored messages became wholly incomprehensible to the enemy. 

Their codes were never broken because the enemy didnt realize that the languages used and the codes built upon them were the languages of different American Indian tribes.

Native American Soldiers
October 26, 2014
Shawnee Chief Cornstalk (aka Keigh-tugh-guawas, Hokoleskwa, Hokolesqua, Wynepuechsika, Peter Cornstalk and Peter Fry) was born in 1720, in Mason County, Virginia (now West Virginia). He became chief of the Shawnee Native Americans and led them to battle against the Americans (particularly the Virginians).  He later became the chief of many tribes.

Famous Shawnee
October 26, 2014

Cochise was born about 1805 in an area that is now the northern Mexican region of Sonora, New Mexico, and Arizona as a member of the Chokonen-Chiricahua Apache tribe.

Famous Apache
October 25, 2014
Makataimeshekiakiak was born in spring 1767, in in the village of Saukenuk on the Rock River, in present-day Rock Island, Illinois. He was born into the Sauk Native American tribe. Makataimeshekiakiak means Black Sparrow Hawk, which was later shortened to Chief Black Hawk by the Europeans.

Famous Sac and Fox
October 24, 2014

Old Chief Joseph (Tuekakas), was leader of the Wallowa Band and one of the first Nez Percé converts to Christianity and a vigorous advocate of the tribe’s early peace with whites, and father of Chief Joseph (also known as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat or Young Joseph). He was chief of the Nez Perce from 1785—1871.

Famous Nez Perce
October 23, 2014

Chief Lawyer “Hal-hal-hoot-soot” was the son of a Salish speaking Flathead woman and Twisted Hair, the Nez Perce man who welcomed and befriended Lewis and Clark in the fall of 1805. He was designated as Head Chief of the Nez Perce for the signing of the 1855 and controversial 1863 Treaty.

Famous Nez Perce
September 16, 2014

Manuelito (1818–1893) was one of the principal war chiefs of the Diné people before, during and after the Long Walk Period. His name means Little Manuel in Spanish. As any Navajo, he was known by different names depending upon context.

Famous Navajo
September 12, 2014

Chief Black Kettle (Mo’ohtavetoo’o) (born ca. 1803, killed November 27, 1868) was a leader of the Southern Cheyenne after 1854. He was known as a peacemaker who accepted numerous treaties to protect his people. He survived the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. He and his wife were among those killed in 1868 at the Battle of Washita River, in a US Army attack on their camp by George Armstrong Custer. They were shot in the back.

Famous Cheyenne
July 18, 2014

If you were to drive down dusty State Route 37 in Ohio, past grain elevators and feed stores, to a broken sidewalk in the town of LaRue, you would find one of those blue steel historical markers that rise from obscure landscapes around America. This one says: Home of the Oorang Indians, NFL’s Most Colorful Franchise

Native American Athletes