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Banyacya, Thomas (02 June 1909–06 February 1999), Native-American religious leader, was born Banyacya in the village of Moencopi, near a Hopi reservation in Arizona. His parents' names and occupations are not reported. Banyacya was assigned the “American” name Thomas Jenkins, in accordance with the policy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, when he entered elementary school on the reservation. He later resumed his Hopi name, which linked him to his father's membership in the Corn Clan (later renamed the Water Clan), and accepted his Anglo given name only when necessary in official documents, identifying himself publicly with the single name Banyacya. He attended Sherman Indian School in Riverside, California, and Bacone College, a Native-American institution in Muskogee, Oklahoma, affiliated with the American Baptist Home Mission Society, to which he received a two-year scholarship in 1930 and where he excelled as an athlete. He began by preparing to be a clergyman, the most frequent choice at that school, but changed his direction and studied to become a teacher. In his first year at Bacone he became active in a movement to incorporate Native-American studies, until then not included among school activities. He and a classmate, a member of the Crow tribe from Montana named Medicine Crow, established an Indian lodge where native songs could be sung and ceremonies reflecting the different tribal cultures of the students could be performed....

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Black Elk ( December 1863–19 August 1950), Lakota holy man, was born on the Little Powder River (probably within the present-day borders of Wyoming), the son of Black Elk, a Lakota medicine man, and Mary Leggins Down (also called White Cow Sees). Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota, was raised in Big Road’s Band, which lived and hunted in the territory west of the Black Hills through which white settlers blazed the Bozeman Trail in 1864. When he was only nine, Black Elk experienced a vision that would eventually give him distinction among his people: he was visited by Thunder-beings, which embodied the powers of the West and heralded his gift to cure and help his people in war. In 1877, after losing the cultural clash west of the Black Hills, the Oglala bands relocated to the Great Sioux Reservation in present-day South Dakota, and Black Elk’s people fled to Canada after ...

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Deganawidah (fl. 1450), Huron spiritual leader and mystic, and, according to Iroquois legends, principal founder of the League of the Hau-Dé-No-Sau-Nee, or People of the Longhouse. The oral traditions reveal little about his youth, personal life, or events after the formation of the league....

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Francis, Josiah (1770s–18 April 1818), leading prophet of the Creek revolt against the United States in 1813, was likely born in Auttauge, an Indian town near the Alabama River, the son of a Koasati Indian woman and a blacksmith who may have been French. As the best biography of Francis states, his childhood “remains a mystery” (Owsley [1985], p. 273), but it is certain he participated in the deerskin trade and became fluent in English as well as Indian languages....

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Handsome Lake (1735?–10 August 1815), Seneca prophet, was born probably in what is now western New York State. He was the half brother of Cornplanter and the nephew of Guyasuta. Although he served as a warrior against the Cherokees in the 1760s and aided the British during the Revolution, he does not seem to have particularly distinguished himself. Apparently during the 1790s he received the title Handsome Lake (Ganeodiyo, the name traditionally borne by one of the sachems chosen to represent the Seneca at the national Iroquois council), and in that capacity he signed the treaty of Big Tree (1797), by which the Iroquois of New York were left with eleven reservations. The name used by Handsome Lake before acquiring his title is not known. In 1799 he was living an intemperate life in Cornplanter’s town on the Allegheny River in one of the Iroquois reservations....

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Kenekuk (1790?–1852), religious and secular leader of the Vermillion Kickapoos, was born near the present-day Illinois-Indiana border at the confluence of the Wabash and Vermillion rivers. The identity of his parents is unknown. The name Kenekuk—also spelled Kanakuk, Kannakuk, Kanekuk, Kannekuk, Keeanakuk, Kenakuk, Kennekuk, Keuekuck—means “putting the foot upon a fallen object.” Kenekuk’s atypical religious views and charismatic leadership caused U.S. governmental officials and other whites to call him the Kickapoo Prophet....

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Kicking Bear (1852?–1904), Native American religious leader, was the son of Black Fox, chief of the Oyukpe band, and Iron Cedar Woman. He was born a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, which ranged across present-day Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. He was related to ...

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Kicking Bear. Courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

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Main Poc (1765–1816), Potawatomi war leader and shaman, was born probably in southern Michigan. His parentage is unknown, but he was the son of a Potawatomi war chief. His name is also rendered as Man Pock, Mar Pock, and other misspellings of the French nickname Main Poche meaning Puckered Hand. Main Poc received his French nickname from the deformed, clublike left hand he was born with, missing fingers and thumb. He claimed the deformity was a special gift from the spirits, while his followers believed him an ancient warrior reborn and invulnerable to injury. A huge, muscular man, Main Poc was the most influential of the Potawatomi ...

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Nakaidoklini (01 January 1830?–30 August 1881), shaman or medicine man, was a White Mountain Apache Indian, a member of the Cibecue band in Arizona. “Nakaidoklini” is the most common of many spellings of his name. Little is known of his birth, parents, or early life....

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Neolin (fl. 1762–1763), Native American religious leader, whose prophecies inspired the participants in the Indian war of 1763, was also known as “The Delaware Prophet.” Nothing is known of the life of Neolin, “The Enlightened,” other than that he was a member of the Delaware (Lenni Lenape) tribe, before he became known as a religious prophet. Toward the end of the French and Indian War, the victorious British placed garrisons of soldiers in the formerly French forts in Indian country in New York and Pennsylvania and to the west in the Ohio Valley and around the Great Lakes. They also instituted a niggardly trade policy that restricted Indian access to European goods. Native American resentment was widespread, and efforts were under way to organize pan-Indian military resistance....

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Porcupine (1848–19 May 1929), Northern Cheyenne leader of the 1890 Ghost Dance and one of the foremost disciples of its prophet, Wovoka, was the Northern Cheyenne leader of the 1890 Ghost Dance and one of the foremost disciples of its prophet, Wovoka. First listed as Ich Ke Witzt, then Albert Porcupine, in Tongue River Reservation records, he is not to be confused with another Porcupine, the son of the famous outlawed Cheyenne Porcupine Bear. Little is known of his pre–Ghost Dance years. He told writer ...

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Red Wing (1750–04 March 1829), Mdewakanton Dakota chief and war shaman, was born in Minnesota of unknown parentage. He was also known as Scarlet Wing (Hupahuduta), Walking Buffalo (Tatankamani), and He Who Paints Himself Red (Sakiya). Red Wing was said to have been descended from a line of “Red Wing” chiefs before him, but this cannot be historically confirmed. He remembered the visit of English explorer ...

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Short Bull (1847–1935?), member of the Burned Thighs (Sicangu) Lakota tribe, member of the Burned Thighs (Sicangu) Lakota tribe, often referred to by its French appellation, Brulé, emerged as one of the most influential proselytizers of the Ghost Dance (1890), an important Plains Indian millenarian movement. Short Bull (Tatanka Ptecela) was born probably in Nebraska’s Niobrara River country around 1847, and although little pre-1890 information exists about him, his life undoubtedly followed the usual patterns of Plains Indian culture. He participated in the Plains Indian wars of the 1860s and 1870s, fought at the battle of the Little Bighorn (1876), and experienced the vicissitudes of the reservation period. Short Bull attracted U.S. government attention in 1879, when troops apprehended him leading Brulés in an attempted escape from South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation. Responding to the agent’s threatened ban of the Sun Dance, an early summer ritual of universal renewal, Short Bull intended to join nonreservation Lakotas in self-imposed Canadian exile. By the late 1880s he was a leader of the “non-progressive,” or antiassimilationist, faction in tribal religious and political life....

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Slocum, John (1838– December 1897), Native American religious leader, was born Squ-sacht-un (or -um), somewhere on Puget Sound in the present-day state of Washington, the son of a member of the Squaxin tribe known as Old Slocum, a hunter and trapper, and a woman of the Suquamish tribe whose name is not recorded. Almost nothing is known of Slocum's early years. He was apparently a logger, living near Olympia, Washington, and at some point in his late twenties married Mary Thompson, with whom he had thirteen children, few of whom lived to maturity. As a young man he lived for a time in a reservation of the Skokomish tribe where, according to a report quoted by Barnett (p. 37), he was introduced to Christianity by the Congregationalist missionary Myron Eells and later was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. Although he never attended school, he was said to speak English fairly well. By his own admission, he drank heavily, gambled on horses and canoe races, and failed to provide well for his family....

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Smohalla (1815–1895), prophet of the Shahaptian-speaking Wanapam tribe, lived near Priest Rapids along the Columbia River in present-day Washington State. He was born about the same time that the North West Company established a trading post on the Columbia River below Priest Rapids. Little is known of his parentage, but he is reputed to have descended from a line of prophets. He emerged as a spiritual leader of nearly 2,000 “renegades” along the Columbia and its environs who resisted federal attempts to relocate them to reservations and followed ancient patterns of hunting, fishing, and gathering. He strongly influenced the neighboring Palouses, a Shahaptian people of the lower Snake River, and through them the Nez Percé reservation of young Chief ...

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Tavibo (1830–1915), Northern Paiute (Numu) shaman, Northern Paiute (Numu) shaman, was born thirty years prior to the settlement of Smith and Mason valleys in western Nevada. We know nothing about his parents. Ethnologist James Mooney recorded his name in 1892 while interviewing Tavibo’s more famous son, ...

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Tenskwatawa. Hand-colored lithograph by F. W. Greenough, 1838. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-3419).

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Tenskwatawa (1775– November 1836), Shawnee religious and political leader, known as the Shawnee Prophet, was born at Old Piqua, a Shawnee village on the Mad River in Ohio, the son of Puckeshinwa, a Shawnee war chief, and Methoataske, a Creek woman. He was originally given the name Lalawethika (The Noisemaker) and was one of a set of triplets, the youngest siblings in a large family numbering at least six older brothers and sisters. One of the triplets died in infancy. The other, Kumskaukau, also a male, lived into the War of 1812 period....

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Wodziwob (fl. 1870s), generally believed to be the original dreamer of the 1870 Ghost Dance, was actually only the most notable of the line of Northern Paiute prophets before Wovoka (1858?–1932). Wodziwob can probably be identified with Fish Lake Joe (1852?–1918?), whose birthdate was given as 1845 in the 1900 census, but as 1852 in the more carefully done census of 1910; nothing is known of his ancestry. The paucity of data and difficulties in integrating imprecise “oral history” with historical documentation lead to massive difficulties in interpreting the prophetic tradition of which Wodziwob was a part. In the 1930s Willard Z. Park’s informants recalled four prophets who “announced the imminent return of the dead and held dances to facilitate the event,” but of these Park named only Wovoka....