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Crazy Horse Crazy Horse's people belonged to one of seven great families who called themselves Lakota. The word Lakota means friends or allies.

The Lakota people were hunters. They moved with the seasons. They moved through the great flat lands and the great mountains of the north-central United States. The Lakota depended on wild animals for food and clothing, and for the materials to make their tools and homes. They depended especially on the buffalo, the great hairy ox-like creature. Huge groups of buffalo ran free across their lands.

Great changes came to the Indian territories during the middle eighteen hundreds. The population of the United States was growing. Settlers left the cities of the East for the wide open spaces of the West. The settlers followed the railroads extending across the continent. More settlers moved west when gold was discovered in California in eighteen forty-nine.

The ways of the settlers were not the ways of the Indians. The culture of the white people clashed with the culture of the red people -- often in violence.

The United States army was sent to move the Indians and protect the settlers. Many Indian tribes refused to move. Their lands, they said, contained the bones of their fathers and mothers. It was holy ground. They fought the soldiers.

Crazy Horse's tribe, the Lakota, had many powerful leaders and skilled warriors. Crazy Horse, himself, was greatly feared. The soldiers could not defeat him in battle. Most white people did not understand why the Lakota fought so hard. They knew little of the Indians' way of life. They did not know Crazy Horse at all.

Much of what we have learned about Crazy Horse came from his own people. Even today, they still talk about him. To the Lakota, he was both a warrior and a holy man.

No one knows for sure when Crazy Horse was born. Perhaps around the year eighteen forty. But we do know when he died. In eighteen seventy-seven, when he was in his middle thirties.

There are no photographs of Crazy Horse. But it is said that he was not very tall. And his skin was lighter than most of the Lakota people.

As a boy, Crazy Horse loved to listen to the teachings of the Lakota religion. His father was a holy man of the tribe -- a medicine man. He taught the boy to honor all things, because all things had a life of their own. Not only people and animals had spirits, he said, but trees and rivers, as well. Above all was the Great Spirit.

Crazy Horse's father also told him that a man should be judged only by the goodness of his actions. So the boy tried hard to tell the truth at all times and not to speak badly of others.

Crazy Horse learned to be a hunter. He could lie quietly for hours watching wild animals. When he killed a bird or a deer, he always sang a prayer of thanks and sorrow. He always gave the meat to the poor and to the families that had no hunters. That was what Lakota chiefs did.

In time, Crazy Horse learned that the Indians were not alone in their world. He watched one day as tribesmen brought back the body of one of the chiefs, Conquering Bear. The chief had been shot many times by soldiers after a dispute over a white man's cow. Two times in the next few years, young Crazy Horse saw the burned remains of Indian villages. All the village people, including women and children, had been shot by soldiers.

All these events helped shape the personality of the young Indian. Crazy Horse became very quiet. He would go away from his village and spend days alone.

His people began to call him "the strange one." The name Crazy Horse -- in the language of the Lakota -- meant wild horse.

When it was time for him to plan his future, his father took him high into the mountains. Together, they sang a prayer to the Great Spirit, a prayer like this:

"Grandfather, Great Spirit, you have existed always, and before you there was no one. Stand close to the Earth that you may hear the voice I send. You, where the sun goes down, look at me! You, where the snow, where the day, where the summer lives ... you, in the depths of the heavens, look at me! And you, Mother Earth. Give me eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. Only with your power can I face the winds."

Crazy Horse stayed on the mountain by himself for three days and nights. He did not eat or drink. He prayed that the Great Spirit would send him a dream to show him how to live.

Crazy Horse dreamed. He entered the world of truth and of the spirits of all things. The Lakota people called this "the real world". They believed our world was only an image of the real world.

In his dream, Crazy Horse saw a man riding a horse through clouds of darkness and battle. Bullets flew around him, but did not hit him.

The man wore a stone under one ear, and a bird feather in his hair. His body was painted with sharp white lines, like lightning. A light followed him, but it was sometimes covered by darkness.

Crazy Horse understood the dream as a sign. He knew his people were entering a time of darkness. He dressed himself like the man in the dream, so that no bullets would hurt him. He would try to save his land for his people. He would try to protect their way of living.

Crazy Horse prayed every day -- as the sun rose, at noon, and as night came. He prayed whenever he had something difficult to do. The prayer songs would carry him back to the peace of "the real world". He would know the right thing to do.

In the village, Crazy Horse did not keep things for himself. He even gave away his food. If others needed the food more, he would not eat at all. Crazy Horse spent much of his time with the children. He talked and joked with them. Yet his eyes looked through the children. He seemed to be thinking of something else.

Crazy Horse fought in more than twenty battles against the American army. He was never hit by an enemy's bullet. In battle, his mind was clear. "Be brave!" the young men would shout as they followed him into battle. "The Earth is all that lasts."

But the Earth the Indians knew did not last. The government would take most of it. The army destroyed Indian villages and captured those who would not surrender.

Almost all the buffalo were gone, killed by white hunters. The people were hungry. Many Lakota and other Indians came to Crazy Horse for protection.

The government sent a message to Crazy Horse. It said if he surrendered, his people could live and hunt on a part of the land that he chose. Crazy Horse and his people could fight no more. They accepted the government offer. They surrendered.

The government, however, did not keep its promise to let them choose where they would live. Several months later, on September fifth, eighteen seventy-seven, Crazy Horse went to the army commander to make an angry protest. Guards arrested him. He struggled to escape. A soldier stabbed him with a knife. The great Lakota Indian chief died the next day.

In nineteen thirty-nine, the tribe asked an artist to make a statue of Crazy Horse. The Indians wanted a huge statue cut into the side of a mountain. It would show Crazy Horse riding a running horse, pointing his arm to where the Earth meets the sky -- to the lands of the Lakota people. The tribe told the artist: "We would like the white man to know the red man had great heroes, too."
Written by Barbara Dash


The Apache have been called the greatest guerilla fighters the world has ever known. Of these, Geronimo is the most famous. He defied the US government for over 25 years, and while he surrendered twice, he was never defeated. To understand the significance of this, it's helpful to consider that at his final surrender in 1886 his band consisted of only 16 warriors, 14 women, and six children. The army had been pursuing them with 5,000 troops, a fifth of its entire regular army, and had spent over a million dollars a year to fight them. Yet, he and his small band were never defeated, but eventually, voluntarily surrendered. And in spite of what was a huge expenditure of money and troops for that time, it could be argued that the 100 renegade Apache scouts used by the army were the most important element in the limited success that they had in running Geronimo down. His surrender brought an end to the Indian wars, and the violence and uncertainty that had accompanied them.
Geronimo has become an American legend, but who was he? To the settlers on both sides of the Mexican border he was a cold blooded murderer. Of course, they say there are two sides to every story. And, Geronimo's story is no exception. Just as with other Native Americans of the time, Geronimo felt that he was at war and that his actions were justified as a result. In addition, raids and vengeance were an honorable way of life among the tribes of this region and this has been true for three centuries before Geronimo. The very name Apache is a Zuni word meaning enemy. With this cultural background, it is not surprising that when Apaches were being massacred, first in Mexico and then in the US, Geronimo decided to fight back.
Geronimo was born in 1829 in what was a Mexican territory at the time, but is now western New Mexico. He was called Goyathlay ("one who yawns") by his own people, but was given the name Geronimo by Mexican soldiers. He was not a hereditary leader, but often spoke for his brother-in-law, Juh, a Chiricahua Apache chief, who had speech impediment.
An incident that happened in 1858 changed Geronimo's life forever. While on a peaceful trading expedition in Mexico, Mexican soldiers raided the camp where the women and children were present. Among the dead were Geronimo's aged mother, his young wife, and his three small children. As he later told S. M. Barrett, who wrote down and published his words in the book Geronimo - His Own Story, "I stood until all had passed, hardly knowing what I would do - I had no weapon, nor did I hardly wish to fight, neither did I contemplate recovering the bodies of my loved ones, for that was forbidden. I did not pray, nor did I resolve to do anything in particular, for I had no purpose left."
When he returned home, he burned everything, his wife's possessions, his children's toys, even the tepee in which they had lived. He said: "I was never again contented in our quiet home." From that day on he had a special hatred for the Mexicans, whom he felt had acted without cause.
Later of course, he would also fight against US troops when they decided that the solution to the Indian "problem" was removing them all to reservations. Although he was a courageous and an intelligent leader, his band faced overwhelming odds. Although he evaded the armies of two nations for years, raiding at will, he finally got tired of running.
After his surrender in 1886, he was shipped to Fort Marion, Florida. Along with many of his fellow Apaches he was later shipped to Alabama, where a fourth of them died of tuberculosis and other diseases.
After more than twenty years as a prisoner of war, Geronimo wrote this to the president of the United States: "It is my land, my home, my fathers' land, to which I now ask to be allowed to return. I want to spend my last days there, and be buried among those mountains. If this could be I might die in peace, feeling that my people, placed in their native homes, would increase in numbers, rather than diminish as at present, and that our name would not become extinct."
His wish was never granted. He died on February 17, 1909 on a military reservation in Oklahoma, still a prisoner of war.
Chief Joseph
The leader of one band of the Nez Perce people, Chief Joseph was born Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt in 1840 in the Wallowa Valley in what is now Oregon. His formal Native American name translates to Thunder Rolling Down a Mountain, but he was largely known as Joseph, the same name his father, Joseph the Elder, had taken after being baptized in 1838.

Joseph the Elder's relationship with the whites had been unprecedented. He'd been one of the early Nez Perce leaders to convert to Christianity, and his influence had gone a long way toward establishing peace with his white neighbors. In 1855, he forged a new treaty that created a new reservation for the Nez Perce.

But that peace was fragile. After gold was discovered in the Nez Perce territory, white prospectors began to stream onto their lands. The relationship was soon upended when the United States government took back millions of acres it had promised to Joseph the Elder and his people.

The irate chief denounced his former American friends and destroyed his Bible. More significantly, he refused to sign off on the boundaries of this "new" reservation and leave the Wallowa Valley.
Following Joseph the Elder's death in 1871, Chief Joseph assumed his father's leadership role as well as the positions he'd staked out for his people. As his father had done before him, Chief Joseph, along with fellow Nez Perce leaders, chiefs Looking Glass and White Bird, balked at the resettlement plan.

As tensions mounted, the three chiefs sensed that violence was imminent. In 1877, recognizing what a war could mean for their people, the chiefs backed down and agreed to the new reservation boundaries.

Just before the move, however, warriors from White Bird's band attacked and killed several white settlers. Chief Joseph understood there would be brutal repercussions and in an effort to avoid defeat, and most likely his own death, he led his people on what is now widely considered one of the most remarkable retreats in military history.

Over the course of four long months, Chief Joseph and his 700 followers, a group that included just 200 actual warriors, embarked on a 1,400-mile march toward Canada. The journey included several impressive victories against a U.S. force that numbered more than 2,000 soldiers.

But the retreat took its toll on the group. By the fall of 1877 Chief Joseph and his people were exhausted. They had come within 40 miles of the Canadian border, reaching the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana, but were too beaten and starving to continue to fight.

Having seen his warriors reduced to just 87 fighting men, having weathered the loss of his own brother, Olikut, and having seen many of the women and children near starvation, Chief Joseph surrendered to his enemy, delivering one of the great speeches in American history.

"I am tired of fighting," he said. "Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, 'Yes' or 'No.' He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull was born on the Grand River in present-day South Dakota in 1831. His father bore the name Sitting Bull, and his mother was named Her-Holy-Door. When he was born, his parents named him Jumping Badger.

As a little boy, Jumping Badger, there was nothing remarkable to set him apart from other children of his tribe. His nickname was Hunkesi, meaning, "Slow," because he never hurried and did everything with care.

At an early age, however, the boy distinguished himself as a leader. On his first hunt at the age of 10, Jumping Badger killed his first buffalo. He gave the meat away to elders who were unable to hunt for themselves.

Following the hunt, Jumping Badger set out on his first vision quest. When the lad was just 14, his father gave him a coup stick, a slender wand with which he could gain prestige by touching or striking an enemy in battle. He joined his first war party against the Crow, anxious for a chance to prove himself at that tender age.

Jumping Badger struck his first Crow warrior with his coup stick, thus earning a coveted measure of bravery in combat. His father was so filled with pride at his son's early victory, that he gave the name Sitting Bull (Tatanka-Iyotanka) to his son as part of the ceremonies celebrating his elevation to warrior status. His new name suggested a stubborn buffalo bull planted unmovable on his haunches. The Indians thought of the buffalo as a headstrong, stubborn creature that was afraid of nothing, a creature that had great endurance, courage and strength. Those were fighting virtues that people saw in Sitting Bull.
As a young man, Sitting Bull successfully increased Sioux hunting grounds. By the age of 25, he was the leader of the Strong Heart Warrior Society and later, a distinguished member of the Silent Eaters, a group concerned with tribal welfare.

Soon, Sitting Bull became known for his fearlessness in battle. He also was generous and wise, virtues admired by his tribe. As young Sitting Bull matured into adulthood, he accumulated an exceptional war record in fighting with Assiniboins, Crows, Flatheads, Blackfeet, and other enemy tribes. That led, in 1857, to his designation as a tribal war chief.

At the same time, Sitting Bull mastered the sacred Lakota mysteries. He became as shaman and medicine man, and rose to eminence as a holy man.
From 1863 to 1868, the U.S. Army continually invaded Lakota territory, especially their hunting grounds, which created problems for the native economy. The Lakota fought the army's encroachment.

Sitting Bull experienced his first encounter with American soldiers in June 1863, when the army mounted a broad campaign in retaliation for the Santee Rebellion in Minnesota, in which Sitting Bull's people had played no part. The next year, Sitting Bull fought U.S. troops again, at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. In 1865, he led a siege against the newly established Fort Rice in present-day North Dakota. Widely respected for his bravery and insight, he became the first principal chief of the entire Lakota Sioux nation in 1868.

Although other tribal chiefs attended the peace conference of 1868, to sign the Fort Laramie treaty — declaring peace and the end to their free, nomadic sovereignty — Sitting Bull refused to attend. The stage was set for war between Sitting Bull and the U.S. Army in 1874, when an expedition led by General George A Custer confirmed that gold had been discovered in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory. That was an area sacred to many tribes and placed off-limits to white settlement by the Fort Laramie Treaty. Despite the ban, prospectors began a rush to the Black Hills. By 1875, more than a thousand prospectors were camping there.

When government efforts to purchase the Black Hills failed, the Fort Laramie Treaty was set aside and the commissioner of Indian affairs decreed that all Lakota not settled on reservations by January 31, 1876, would be considered hostile — provoking the Lakota to defend their land. Sitting Bull and his people held their ground. In March, as three columns of federal troops under General George Crook, General Alfred Howe Terry, and Colonel John Gibbon, moved into the area, Sitting Bull and the Lakota realized they could not defeat the army alone, that they must stand with other tribes. Sitting Bull summoned other Lakota bands, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, to his camp on Rosebud Creek in Montana Territory.
Sitting Bull performed an important religious ritual, called the Sun Dance, a type of self-sacrifice that could include a loss of consciousness. He offered prayers to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, then slashed his arms 100 times as a sign of sacrifice, while in a trance. When Sitting Bull emerged from his trance, he told of his vision of soldiers falling from the sky.

Inspired by Sitting Bull's vision, the Oglala Lakota war chief, Chief Crazy Horse, set out for battle with a band of 500 warriors, and on June 17, 1876, he surprised Crook's troops and forced them to retreat at the Battle of the Rosebud. Following the battle, they set up camp at Little Bighorn, where they were joined by 3,000 more Indians who had left the reservations to follow Sitting Bull.
Although Sitting Bull was the principal chief among the Lakota Sioux, he did not personally participate in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. On June 25, Lt. Colonel George A. Custer and the soldiers under his command first rushed the encampment along the Little Big Horn River, as if in fulfillment of Sitting Bull's vision. They then made a stand on a nearby ridge, where by the end of the day, Custer and his column of more than 200 soldiers were dead. That military defeat brought thousands more cavalrymen to the area, and over the next year, they ruthlessly persecuted the Lakota — who had split up following the Custer fight — forcing chief after chief to surrender.

As the battles continued, many of Sitting Bull's followers surrendered. However, the old chief defiantly would not capitulate. In May 1877, he led his band across the border into Canada, beyond the reach of the U.S. Army. When General Terry traveled north to offer him a pardon in exchange for settling on a reservation, Sitting Bull angrily sent him away.

Four years later, however, finding it impossible to feed his people in a world where the buffalo was almost extinct, Sitting Bull finally came south to surrender. On July 19, 1881, he had his young son, Crow Foot, hand over his rifle to the commanding officer of Fort Buford in Montana.
For his people, Sitting Bull asked for the right to cross back and forth into Canada whenever he wished, and for a reservation of his own on the Little Missouri River near the Black Hills. Instead, he was sent to Standing Rock Reservation.
In the fall of 1890, a Miniconjou Lakota named Kicking Bear came to Sitting Bull with news of the Ghost Dance, a ceremony that promised to rid the land of white people and restore the Indians' way of life. Sitting Bull was leery of the Ghost Dance, but let his people believe what they wanted. Although he himself was not a follower, his people's involvement was perceived as a threat by the American government that the movement was becoming more militaristic and might erupt into rebellion. The federal agencies sent extra troops to the reservations.

At Standing Rock, the authorities feared that Sitting Bull, still revered as a spiritual leader, would join the Ghost dancers. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agent in charge of the Lakotas sent the tribal police to arrest Sitting Bull, to force him to stop the dance. They dispatched 43 Lakota policemen to bring him in. Before dawn on December 15, 1890, the policemen burst into Sitting Bull's cabin and dragged him outside. When the chief resisted, one of the Lakota policemen put a bullet through his head. Crow Foot also was slain.

Chief Red Cloud

Born in 1822 in what is now north-central Nebraska, Red Cloud (known in Lakota as Mahpíya Lúta) was an important Native American leader who fought to save his people's lands. His parents named him after an unusual weather event. His mother, Walks as She Thinks, was a member of the Oglala Sioux and his father, Lone Man, was Brule Sioux. When he was around 5 years old, Red Cloud lost his father.

Following his father's death, Red Cloud was raised by his mother's uncle, an Oglala Sioux leader named Smoke. At a young age, Red Cloud sought to distinguish himself as a warrior. He demonstrated great bravery in the Oglalas' battles with other tribes, including the Pawnees.
Red Cloud was instrumental in organizing resistance to white expansion into his people's territory. He had refused to sign several treaties with the U.S. government and even stormed out of negotiations held at Fort Laramie in Wyoming in 1866. Fort Laramie was on what was known as the Bozeman Trail, which was developed by John Bozeman as a shortcut to the Oregon trail and the gold-rich lands in what is now Montana.

At the time the 1866 meeting was held, the U.S. government was building new forts along the trail north of Fort Laramie. This expansion enraged Red Cloud, who managed to unite several different Native American groups to drive away the soldiers from Fort Phil Kearny. When the U.S. government sent in reinforcements, Red Cloud and his warriors showed them just how powerful they were.

On December 21, 1866, Captain William Judd Fetterman led of party of 80 soldiers to eliminate their Native American problem. But they were quickly slaughtered by more than 1,000 warriors who rose up against them. This incident became known as the Fetterman massacre.

By the spring of 1868, Red Cloud had finally forced the white man's hand with his continued assault on those who ventured into his territory. General Ulysses S. Grant decided to abandon the forts in the northern part of the Bozeman trail. While he signed a treaty later that year, Red Cloud resisted government efforts to move him and his people from their lands.
In 1870, Red Cloud traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for Native American rights. He attended a special reception at the White House and later traveled to New York. The mighty leader impressed crowds with his eloquence and diplomatic skills, but could do little to preserve his lands in face of greed over gold. Once the precious metal was found in the Black Hills, the Sioux were soon pushed from their sacred lands.

While other Native American leaders, including Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, rose up against the whites, Red Cloud seemed to stay out of the fighting. He moved with his people to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in the late 1870s. In the early 1880s, Red Cloud stepped down as leader. He continued to work to improve the lives of his people, however. In 1897, he headed to Washington, D.C., to campaign for better living conditions on the reservation.

Red Cloud died on the Pine Ridge Reservation on December 10, 1909, at the age of 88.

Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker was the last Chief of the Commanches and never lost a battle to the white man. His tribe roamed over the area where Pampa stands. He was never captured by the Army, but decided to surrender and lead his tribe into the white man's culture, only when he saw that there was no alternative. His was the last tribe in the Staked Plains to come into the reservation system.

Quanah, meaning "fragrant," was born about 1850, son of Comanche Chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a white girl taken captive during the 1836 raid on Parker's Fort, Texas. Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured, along with her daughter, during an 1860 raid on the Pease River in northwest Texas. She had spent 24 years among the Comanche, however, and thus never readjusted to living with the whites again.

She died in Anderson County, Texas, in 1864 shortly after the death of her daughter, Prairie Flower. Ironically, Cynthia Ann's son would adjust remarkably well to living among the white men. But first he would lead a bloody war against them.

Quanah and the Quahada Comanche, of whom his father, Peta Nocona had been chief, refused to accept the provisions of the 1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge, which confined the southern Plains Indians to a reservation, promising to clothe the Indians and turn them into farmers in imitation of the white settlers.

Knowing of past lies and deceptive treaties of the "White man", Quanah decided to remain on the warpath, raiding in Texas and Mexico and out maneuvering Army Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie and others. He was almost killed during the attack on buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle in 1874. The U.S. Army was relentless in its Red River campaign of 1874-75. Quanah's allies, the Quahada were weary and starving.

Mackenzie sent Jacob J. Sturm, a physician and post interpreter, to solicit the Quahada's surrender. Sturm found Quanah, whom he called "a young man of much influence with his people," and pleaded his case. Quanah rode to a mesa, where he saw a wolf come toward him, howl and trot away to the northeast. Overhead, an eagle "glided lazily and then whipped his wings in the direction of Fort Sill," in the words of Jacob Sturm. This was a sign, Quanah thought, and on June 2, 1875, he and his band surrendered at Fort Sill in present-day Oklahoma.

Biographer Bill Neeley writes:

"Not only did Quanah pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution, but he accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence."

Quanah was traveling the "white man's road," but he did it his way. He refused to give up polygamy, much to the reservation agents' chagrin. Reservation agents being political appointees of the Federal Government, their main concern was to destroy all vestiges of Native American life and replace their culture with that of theirs. Quanah Parker also used peyote, negotiated grazing rights with Texas cattlemen, and invested in a railroad. He learned English, became a reservation judge, lobbied Congress and pleaded the cause of the Comanche Nation. Among his friends were cattleman Charles Goodnight and President Theodore Roosevelt. He considered himself a man who tried to do right both to the people of his tribe and to his "pale-faced friends".

It wasn't easy. Mackenzie appointed Quanah Parker as the chief of the Comanche shortly after his surrender, but the older chiefs resented Parker’s youth, and his white blood in particular." And in 1892, when Quanah Parker signed the Jerome Agreement that broke up the reservation, the Comanche were split into two factions: (1). those who realized that all that could be done had been done for their nation; and (2). those who blamed Chief Parker for selling their country."

Quanah Parker died on February 23, 1911, and was buried next to his mother, whose body he had re-interred at Ft. Sill Military cemetery on Chiefs Knoll in Oklahoma only three months earlier. For his courage, integrity and tremendous insight, Quanah Parker’s life tells the story of one of America's greatest leaders and a true Texas Hero.


Sequoyah was probably the son of a Virginia fur trader named Nathaniel Gist. Reared by his Cherokee mother, Wuh-teh of the Paint clan, in the Tennessee country, he never learned to speak, read, or write English. He was an accomplished silversmith, painter, and warrior and served with the U.S. Army in the Creek War in 1813–14.
Sequoyah became convinced that the secret of what he considered the white people’s superior power was written language, which enabled them to accumulate and transmit more knowledge than was possible for a people dependent on memory and word of mouth. Accordingly, about 1809 he began working to develop a system of writing for the Cherokees, believing that increased knowledge would help them maintain their independence. He experimented first with pictographs and then with symbols representing the syllables of the spoken Cherokee language, adapting letters from English, Greek, and Hebrew. His daughter helped him to identify the Cherokee syllables. By 1821 he had created a system of 86 symbols, representing all the syllables of the Cherokee language.
Sequoyah convinced his people of the utility of his syllabary by transmitting messages between the Cherokees of Arkansas (with whom he went to live) and those of the east and by teaching his daughter and other young people of the tribe to write. The simplicity of his system enabled pupils to learn it rapidly, and soon Cherokees throughout the nation were teaching it in their schools and publishing books and newspapers in their own Cherokee language.
Chief Luther Standing Bear

Chief of the Ponca, a small Indian nation related to the Omaha, Standing Bear became famous for bringing a lawsuit against the United States Army for forcibly removing Indian people from their homelands. The Ponca had tried to deal peacefully with the government and in 1858 signed a treaty giving up all of their land except for the land around the Niobrara River in Nebraska. By mistake, the government then gave this land to the Sioux in the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. The Sioux began driving the Ponca off their land.

In 1875 the government admitted its mistake and suggested that the Ponca move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Standing Bear and several other Ponca leaders accompanied agents of the Office of Indian Affairs to Oklahoma to pick out a site. The Indian leaders refused all locations finding the arid land uninhabitable. The frustrated agents told Standing Bear that if they wished to return home they could walk the 500 miles and they did just that.

Upon returning to Nebraska they found many Ponca had already been moved to Oklahoma. By May of 1877 six hundred Ponca including Standing Bear were forced at bayonet point to walk to the Indian Territory. Several died along the way. After a year in Oklahoma one third of the Ponca had died of disease and starvation, including Standing Bear’s son. In the middle of winter Standing Bear led a troop of sixty-six Ponca and set out on foot toward their Nebraska home. They walked for two months, finally taking shelter on land owned by the Omaha. In the spring the army arrived to force the Ponca to return to Oklahoma. While Standing Bear and the rest Ponca camped outside the town of Omaha the residents of Omaha obtained a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the Ponca and took the army to federal court.

In his ruling on the case Judge Elmer Dundy ruled, “An Indian is a person within the meaning of the law, and there is no law giving the Army authority to forcibly remove Indians from their lands.” The Army ignored the ruling except as it pertained to Standing Bear. His brother Big Snake tried to move from the Ponca Reservation in Oklahoma to one occupied by the Cheyenne. Indian agent William Whiteman ordered a detail to arrest him. When Big Snake resisted he was shot and killed. Following a U.S. Senate investigation of Big Snake’s death, Standing Bear and the Ponca were allowed to return to Nebraska. Standing Bear traveled the country telling his story through the Omaha interpreter Susette La Flesche. He died in his homeland along the Niobrara River in 1908.


Born at Old Piqua, on the Mad River in western Ohio, Tecumseh grew to manhood amid the border warfare that ravaged the Ohio Valley during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. In 1774, his father, Puckeshinwa, was killed at the Battle of Point Pleasant, and in 1779 his mother, Methoataske, accompanied those Shawnees who migrated to Missouri. Raised by an older sister, Tecumpease, he accompanied an older brother, Chiksika, on a series of raids against frontier settlements. He led a scouting party that monitored Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s advance (1791) and fought at Fort Recovery and Fallen Timbers (1794). Embittered by the Indian defeat, he did not attend the subsequent negotiations and refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville (1795).
By 1800 Tecumseh had emerged as a prominent war chief. He led a band of militant, younger warriors and their families located at a village on the White River in east-central Indiana. There in 1805 Lalawethika, one of Tecumseh’s younger brothers, experienced a series of visions that transformed him into a prominent religious leader. Taking the name Tenskwatawa, or ‘The Open Door,’ the new Shawnee Prophet began to preach a nativistic revitalization that seemed to offer the Indians a religious deliverance from their problems.

Tecumseh seemed reluctant to accept his brother’s teachings until June 16, 1806, when the Prophet accurately predicted an eclipse of the sun, and Indians from throughout the Midwest flocked to the Shawnee village at Greenville, Ohio. Tecumseh slowly transformed his brother’s religious following into a political movement. In 1808 Tecumseh and the Prophet moved their village to the juncture of the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers, where the new settlement, Prophetstown, continued to attract Indians. After the loss of much Indian land at the Treaty of Fort Wayne (1809), Tecumseh gradually eclipsed his brother as the primary leader of the movement. He traveled throughout the Midwest urging tribes to form a political confederacy to prevent any further erosion of their lands. In November 1811, while Tecumseh was in the South attempting to recruit the Creeks into his confederacy, U.S. forces marched against Prophetstown. In the subsequent Battle of the Tippecanoe they defeated the Prophet, burned the settlement, and destroyed the Indians’ food supplies.

After returning from the South Tecumseh tried to rebuild his shattered confederacy. But when the War of 1812 broke out, he withdrew to Michigan where he assisted the British in the capture of Detroit and led pro-British Indians in subsequent actions in southern Michigan (Monguagon) and northern Ohio (Fort Meigs). When William Henry Harrison invaded Upper Canada, Tecumseh reluctantly accompanied the British retreat. He was killed by American forces at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813.

Tecumseh’s political leadership, oratory, humanitarianism, and personal bravery attracted the attention of friends and foes. He was much admired by both the British and the Americans. After his death (his body was never recovered), a considerable mythology developed about him, and he has become an American folk hero.


Cochise was one of the most noted Apache leaders (along with Geronimo and Mangas Coloradas) to resist intrusions by European Americans during the 19th century. He was described as a large man (for the time), with a muscular frame, classical features, and long black hair, which he wore in traditional Apache style. He was about 6' tall and weighed about 175 lbs. In his own language, his name Cheis meant "having the quality or strength of oak."

Cochise and the Chokonen-Chiricahua lived in the area that is now the northern region of Sonora, Mexico; New Mexico and Arizona, which they had settled in sometime before the arrival of the European explorers and colonists. As Spain and later Mexico attempted to gain dominion over the Chiricahua lands, the indigenous groups became increasingly resistant. Cycles of warfare developed, which the Apache mostly won. Eventually, the Spanish tried a different approach; they tried to make the Apache dependent (thereby placating them), giving them older firearms and liquor rations issued by the colonial government (this was called the "Galvez Peace Policy"). After Mexico gained independence from Spain and took control of this territory, it ended the practice, perhaps lacking the resources (and/or possibly the will) to continue it. The various Chiricahua bands resumed raiding in the 1830s to acquire what they wanted after the Mexicans stopped selling these goods to them.

As a result, the Mexican government began a series of military operations in order to stop the raiding by the Chiricahua, but they were fought to a standstill by the Apache. Cochise's father was killed in the fighting. Cochise deepened his resolve and the Chiricahua Apache pursued vengeance against the Mexicans. Mexican forces did capture Cochise at one point in 1848 during an Apache raid on Fronteras, Sonora, but they exchanged him for nearly a dozen Mexican prisoners.
Beginning with early Spanish colonization around 1600, the Apache in their territory suffered tension and strife with European settlers until the greater part of the area was acquired by the United States in 1850, following the Mexican War. For a time, the two peoples managed peaceful relations. The tenuous peace did not last, as European-American encroachment into Apache territory continued.
In 1861 the Bascom Affair was a catalyst for armed confrontation. An Apache raiding party had driven away a local rancher's cattle and kidnapped his twelve-year-old son. Cochise and his band were mistakenly accused of the incident (which had been carried out by another band, Coyotero Apache). Army officer Lt. George Bascom, invited Cochise to the Army's encampment in the belief that the warrior was responsible for the incident. Cochise maintained his innocence and offered to look into the matter with other Apache groups, but the officer tried to arrest him. Cochise escaped by drawing a knife and slashing his way out of the tent. Cochise may have been shot as he fled. Bascom captured some of Cochise's relatives, who apparently were taken by surprise as Cochise escaped.
Following various skirmishes, Cochise and his men were gradually driven into the Dragoon Mountains but used the mountains for cover and as a base from which to continue attacks against the white settlements. Cochise evaded capture and continued his raids against white settlements and travelers until 1872. In 1871, General Oliver O. Howard had been ordered to form a treaty with Cochise. In 1872,Howard came to Arizona to negotiate a peace treaty, and with the help of Tom Jeffords, who was the Apache leader's only white friend, a treaty was negotiated on October 12, 1872.

After making peace, Cochise retired to his new reservation, with his friend Jeffords as agent, where he died of natural causes (probably abdominal cancer) in 1874. He was buried in the rocks above one of his favorite camps in Arizona's Dragoon Mountains, now called Cochise Stronghold. Only his people and Tom Jeffords knew the exact location of his resting place, and they took the secret to their graves.

Chief Dan George

When Chief Dan George died on Sept. 23, 1981 at the age of 82, he had become an icon of gentleness and quiet humor in households across North America. While most people knew him as the Indian who became a movie star, there was much more to this man than the image flickering larger than life on the silver screen.

Chief Dan George took his responsibility to his people seriously and understood that his achievements paved the way for others to achieve.

Geswanouth Slahoot was born July 24, 1899 on the Burrard reserve in North Vancouver. He went by the name Dan Slahoot, the English version of his childhood nickname, Teswahno, until he went to St. Paul's boarding school at the age of five. There, where the students weren't allowed to speak their Native languages, they changed his name to Dan George, taking his new surname from his father's English name, George.
He became Chief Dan George in 1951 when he took over as chief of the Burrard band from his father. He continued in that role until 1963, when his acting career began. Chief Dan George was made honorary chief of two other bands, the Squamish and Shuswap.

George was in his sixties when he first started acting. He had worked as a longshoreman for 27 years before that, but had to give that up after he was hit by a load of lumber. When he recovered from his injuries, he did some construction work and some boom work, and was working driving a school bus when he got his first acting job, playing Old Antoine in Caribou Country, a series on the CBC. George received acclaim for his portrayal, and when one of the episodes of the show was to be transformed into a Hollywood movie called Smith, George reprised the role, starring along side Keenan Wynn and fellow Canadians Glen Ford and Jay Silverheels, Tonto in the Lone Ranger series.

George's biggest film role came in 1970 when he starred in Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman. That role, as Old Lodge Skins, won George the New York Film Critics Award and the National Society of Film Critics Award. It also earned him an Academy Award nomination in the best supporting actor category, and marked the first time a Native person had been nominated for an Academy Award.

While a great time for George professionally, the recognition from the Motion Picture Academy coincided with a time of great sorrow and personal loss. When his nomination was announced, his wife Amy of 52 years lay in a hospital bed, admitted after treatment for a chronic ulcer condition.
A few weeks later, and less than a month before George was to walk down the red carpet at the Academy Award ceremony, Amy died.

George received acclaim for his work on stage as well. In 1967, he appeared in The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, playing the role of Rita Joe's father. Originally a minor character, playwright George Ryga expanded the part specifically for George. The play, which tells the story of a young Native girl who moves to the city only to meet a tragic, violent death, first opened at the Vancouver Playhouse and was later performed at the official opening of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. The play was also staged in Washington D.C., and received critical acclaim wherever it was performed.

His success, and the celebrity that came with it, made George's life busier, but there were few outward signs that he had become a Hollywood star. He continued to live on the reserve in the same little house he had built for his wife and six children.

Throughout his acting career, George was always aware that in addition to being seen as a talented actor, he was also seen by many as a representative of the Indian people. He wanted to succeed, not so much for himself, but for the Indian people that would have their own self-confidence boosted by his success, and who would look at what he had accomplished and believe they too could accomplish more. That was a responsibility he took very seriously, worried that any failure he had in his career would mean he was failing the Indian people. And, throughout his career, he refused any role he felt was demeaning to Native people.

John Trudell

Many Americans are unfamiliar with the work of John Trudell and the American Indian Movement (AIM). U.S. history books rarely acknowledge the role of Natives in American history — especially the history of their resistance to colonization in the last 50 years. We should not rely on the oppressors to inform and educate us about the true history of this nation, especially when it comes to the history of Native activism. It is up to us to tell each other’s stories.
Trudell was born in Omaha, Nebraska on February 15, 1946 near the Santee Sioux Reservation. John’s father was Santee Sioux. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war, Trudell became active with the American Indian Movement and civil rights battles for Native communities.
John Trudell was a part of the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay by the United Indians of All Tribes. From November 1969 to June 1971, the group occupied the island, calling for the federal government to respect treaty rights and turn the former federal prison over to Native Americans. Trudell hosted a radio broadcast from the island called “Radio Free Alcatraz.”
After the occupation concluded, Trudell went on to serve as national chairman of AIM from 1973 to 1979. Trudell also participated in the nationally organized cross-country caravan, Trail of Broken Treaties, just one week before Election Day in 1972. The caravan ended with the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C.
In 1979, Trudell and other AIM activists went to Washington D.C. to protest the federal government. The activists burned an American flag on the steps of the office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. At nearly the same time, John Trudell’s pregnant wife, Tina Manning, their three children, and her mother were killed in a mysterious fire at her parents’ home on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada. Trudell and other activists have long suspected government involvement, but the cause of the fire was never officially determined.
Shortly after the incident, John Trudell began to make a transition from leading direct action to a focusing on writing poetry and music. “They’re called poems, but in reality they’re lines given to me to hang on to”, Trudell said in the 2005 documentary Trudell. He released more than a dozen albums of spoken word poetry and music. Trudell would also act in several movies, including 1992’s Thunderheart and 1998’s Smoke Signals.
His work and the work of Native and indigenous activists of the last 50 years will not be forgotten. He has been an inspiration to people not to forget the battles and struggles of Natives over the last 500 years.


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