Top 10 Most Famous Native Americans
10. Chief Joseph
Chief Joseph or Young Joseph was the leader of Nez Perce band. An influx of white gold miners has compelled US government to force Nez Perce to go to a much smaller reservation area than previously agreed. The refusal to sign for a new agreement led to a conflict, as two thousand US troops pursued Nez Perce band to the Canadian border.
Devastated by constant battles and freezing temperature, Nez Perce surrendered. Unfortunately, their plight didn’t end there; captured Nez Perce men were forced to ride on unheated rail cars to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and then the Indian Territory in Oklahoma,\; many were died of diseases.
9. Red Cloud
Red Cloud was a chief of the Sioux and an important war leader. After signing a treaty in 1868, Red Cloud agreed to lead his people to an Indian reservation territory and he became an important figure of the Lakota during the transition to life in reservation area.
He opposed the Dawes Act (1887) which allocated 160-acre plots to each head of family for subsistence farming, essentially breaking up communal tribal holdings. When US government declared many communal tribal lands as excess, Red Cloud negotiated strongly to oppose selling more Sioux lands. Red Cloud died at age 87 in 1909, outliving all important Indian Wars leaders.
8. Standing Bear
Standing Bear was a chief of the Ponca Native American, who successfully won a legal case in Omaha in 1879. When Standing was allowed to make a speech during the trial, he said that although his skin color is different, when pricked he still feels the same pain and his blood is also red like any human being.
Standing Bear’s case is considered a landmark in the American legal history, where for the first time an Indian is considered a “person”, who is entitled to rights and protection; and under the law. The case gained the attention if President Hayes administration; Standing Bear and his followers were declared free.
Hiawatha was the founder of Iroquois Confederacy and a near-mythical leader of the Native American. Hiawatha followed the teaching of The Great Peacemaker, who foretold for the unification Iroquois-speaking people. Hiawatha was considered a charismatic and skilled orator, who successfully persuaded various Iroquois tribes to accept the vision of The Great Peacemaker.
His name was popularized Henry Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which features the legend of old Indian hero. The name became so popular that it was used for everything from a telephone company to a town in some Great Lakes areas, although no Iroquois ever resided there.
Pocahontas or Motoaka or Rebecca Rolfe was a Virginia Indian. According to a legend, she saved the live of John Smith in early 17th century and eventually married John Rolfe, a tobacco planter. The Rolfe family traveled to London in 1616 and Pocahontas became something of a celebrity when she presented the life of her people in the English society. One year later, Pocahontas returned to Virginia with her husband, but she became gravely ill. She died in a young age of 22, in her husband’s arms. Her name is currently used in various products, landmarks and places in the US.
Sequoyah was a Cherokee silversmith, best known for the creation of Cherokee syllables. As a silversmith, he regularly dealt with white men and became impressed by their writing techniques. In 1809, he attempted to create a writing system for the Cherokee languages. Sequoyah became so involved in his work that he left his field unattended, causing his neighbors and friend to think that he had lost his mind. His wife even burnt some of his writing, believing it was some kind of witchcraft. In the end, he developed a working Cherokee syllable system that contained 86 characters.
4. Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse was an important leader of the Oglala Lakota. He led the war against the US government for white men encroachment which disrupted their way of life. The Fetterman Massacre was one of the first skirmishes of the conflict, where he wiped out a detachment of 80 US soldiers under Captain William Fetterman, through well-planned ambush.
Crazy Horse also contributed to the decisive victory in the Battle of Little Bighorn, by tying up 1300 men led by Brigadier General George Crook, essentially leaving Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the mercy of Sitting Bull’s force. Weakened by winter and long war, Crazy Horse’s force eventually surrendered.
Geronimo was a famous leader of the Bedonkohe Apache in conflicts against the United States and Mexico for their encroachment into the tribal lands of Apache people. Geronimo took up arms when a raid of Mexican soldiers killed his mother, wife and children. He was notorious for constant raids and after nearly 30 years of war, he surrendered to US government. He eventually appeared in various fairs and became a celebrity, while retaining the status of prisoner of war. Geronimo later regretted his surrender and he was never allowed to return to his people. He died from pneumonia complications at Oklahoma in 1909.
Tecumseh was the leader of Shawnee and the Tecumseh’s Confederacy. He was already exposed to warfare during adolescent years when the American Revolutionary War raged on. After the war ended, Shawnee people continuously distanced themselves from the Americans, because of their continuous territorial expansions. Tecumseh’s Confederacy allied with British force during the War of 1812 as an extension to the Tecumseh’s War. He was killed in 1813, during a battle with the Americans in Canada, which caused the disintegration of the Tecumseh’s Confederacy. Shawnee people were forced to sell their lands and migrated further west.
1. Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull was a Sioux holy man who led decades of resistance to the US government. His premonition of defeating white men on horses motivated other Native Americans to join the Battle of Little Bighorn, where they wiped out Lt. Col. Custer’s 7th Cavalry on June 1876. To avoid the overwhelming US firepower, Sitting Bull fled with his men to Saskatchewan, Canada.
After he surrendered to US forces in 1881, Sitting Bull performed regularly in Buffalo’s Bill Wild West Show for $50 a week. He was killed during a shootout with police.