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Abraham (fl. 1826–1845), "Prophet", also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminoles. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida where he was adopted into the Seminole tribe. He enjoyed considerable status among the Seminoles, accompanying a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1826 and becoming an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole headman. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. In fact, ...

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Alligator (fl. 1832–1846), Seminole war leader , famous for resisting attempts of the United States to remove the Indians from Florida, had the Indian name Halpatter Tustenuggee. Nothing is known of his parents or youth except that he migrated with his parents from a Eufala town on the Tallapoosa River. Although not a hereditary chief, Alligator was connected to two important Seminole bands. He was a war leader and adviser to Micanopy, hereditary chief of the Alachua. Micanopy was a brother-in-law to Philip, hereditary leader of the Mikasukis, and Alligator generally collaborated with both Alachua and Mikasuki activities....

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American Horse (1840?–16 December 1908), Oglala Lakota leader, known to his people as Waśiču Taśunka, was the son of Sitting Bear, an Oglala chief, and an unknown mother. His birthplace is not known.

The name American Horse carries a complex history. In addition to two unrelated Oglala leaders who lived during the same era, Sitting Bear may also have been called by the name, as was at least one Cheyenne. American Horse the elder, known to Oglalas as Iron Shield or Iron Plume, was born around 1830 and established a reputation as a warrior and leader, probably participating in ...

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James H. O’Donnell III

Ann (fl. 1706–1718), queen of Pamunkey, may have ruled as late as 1723. The Pamunkey people of Virginia were part of the larger grouping that had once been known as Powhatan’s confederacy. In the century after the arrival of the Europeans not only had the larger tribal polity declined but also the population had diminished and the land base had dwindled. The collapse of the confederacy had presented leadership challenges to the several tribes. One crisis that emerged was the death of tribal leaders in intertribal wars, struggles largely precipitated by their support of the English colonial governments. The best-known example of this, the death of Totopotomoy in 1656 in battle with the Rickohokans, brought his widow Cockacoeske to the position of queen of the Pamunkeys, a role she played for almost thirty years. Following in this tradition were two more Pamunkey queens, Betty and Ann, whose leadership was exercised early in the eighteenth century. By that time, moreover, their ascendance to leadership may also have been a function of declining population that left women of prominent families as the only choice to lead the tribe....

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Aquash, Annie Mae (27 March 1945– December 1975), First Nations (Mi'kmaq) activist and American Indian Movement leader, First Nations (Mi’kmaq) activist and American Indian Movement leader, was born Annie Mae Pictou in the Shubenacadie band (now Indian Brook First Nation) reserve in central Nova Scotia, Canada, the youngest daughter of Mary Ellen Pictou and Francis Thomas Levi. (Most contemporary sources refer to her as Anna, but family members confirmed that Annie is the accurate form of her given name.) Her father left the family shortly before her birth, and Annie Mae spent the first four years of her life in the Shubenacadie reserve. Her mother remarried and brought her three daughters to live in the small Pictou Landing reserve near New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, where she also gave birth to a fourth child....

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Arapoosh (1789/1794?–1834), Crow Indian chief, whose name is Eelápuash in modern Crow language orthography or Sore Belly (often mistranslated in historical accounts as Rotten Belly) in English, was a River Crow chief well known to early white trappers and traders. Many details of his life are unknown. Described as a fine tall man, Arapoosh as a youth had fasted in the Crazy Mountains in what is now Montana, where he received his medicine (spiritual power), the thunder. The Thunderbird appeared to him in a vision and showed him how to lead a war party as well as how to make war medicine so his trail would be clear. It may have been after this vision that he made his shield, or he may have been given the shield during a vision of the moon on another fast. This shield is said to have had powers of prophecy that aided him in battle. It was used long after his death, even into the reservation period. Eventually it was purchased and placed in a Chicago museum....

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Atsidi, Sani (1830–1917), Navajo silversmith, was born in Navajo country in present-day Arizona near Canyon de Chelly, a member of the Dibelizhini (Black Sheep) clan. His parents’ names and occupations are unknown. Given the era, it is safe to assume that his parents were typical members of Navajo society who raised sheep and farmed. As a young man, Atsidi Sani, or Old Smith in English, learned ironwork from a Mexican in the Mount Taylor area of western New Mexico. Nakai Tsosi (Thin Mexican), as the Navajos called him, apparently became friends with Atsidi Sani despite the frequent conflict between their two peoples during this period. Atsidi Sani’s initial efforts with ironwork concentrated in a commercially profitable endeavor: he learned to make bridles. Navajos who previously had been compelled to purchase bridles for their horses from Mexican ironworkers could now turn to a local source....

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Attakullakulla (1705–1780), Cherokee chief , known to whites as Little Carpenter, was raised in the Cherokee towns along the Little Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers called the Overhill towns because they lay across the mountains from the Cherokee villages in the Carolinas. Nothing is known of Attakullakulla before 1730, the year in which he was among seven Cherokees who went to London with ...

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Ayres, Jacob (1760–1836), Catawba chief, was born in South Carolina into a prominent Catawba kin group. One relative, Hixayoura, was an interpreter and warrior; another was chief in 1763–1764. During the American Revolution, Jacob Ayres (variously spelled Ears or Ayers) served with patriot forces including other Catawbas under General ...

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Barboncito. Courtesy of Harrison Lapahie Jr.

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Barboncito (before 1825–16 March 1871), Navajo headman, was born in lower Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, to a Navajo woman of the Ma'iidesgizhnii (Coyote Pass or Jemez clan) and an unknown father. His war name was Hashke Yich'i'adehyilwod, “He Ran Down toward the Enemies in Anger.” He was also known by a number of sobriquets during his lifetime, one of which, Hastiin Daghaa'í, “Mr. Mustache,” gave rise to his Spanish-English name. Little is known of his early life except that he had at least three brothers. He had two wives; how many children is not recorded....

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Big Warrior (?–08 March 1825), leader of the Upper Creeks, whose Indian name has been rendered Tastanagi Tako or Tustunnugee Thlucco, was born probably at Tuckabatchee, an Indian town on the Tallapoosa River, in what is now Alabama. Nothing is known about the parentage or early career of Big Warrior. The Tuckabatchee Indians were one of several non-Muscogee–speaking groups incorporated in the Muscogee-dominated Creek confederacy that occupied much of present-day Alabama, Georgia, and Florida at the end of the eighteenth century....

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Billy Bowlegs (1812?–1864?), Seminole chief, who led the third and final Seminole war against the whites of Florida, also known as the Billy Bowlegs war of 1855–1858, was born on the Alachua savannah in Florida. He was a direct descendant of Secoffee, originally a Creek chief who migrated to Florida from the Creek homelands in Alabama and Georgia and later founded the Seminole nation. The names of Billy Bowlegs’s father, mother, and other family members are unknown....

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Billy Bowlegs. Salted paper print, 1858, by McClees & Vannerson (after John Hawley Clarke). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Black Hawk. Reproduction of a painting by J. O. Lewis, c. 1836. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108367).

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Nancy Oestreich Lurie

Black Hawk (1767–03 October 1838), Sauk war leader, was born at the village of Saukenuk, the present site of Rock Island, Illinois. He grew up hating the American invaders of his homeland, and during the War of 1812 he fought among Tecumseh’s warriors on the British side. However, Black Hawk’s fame rests primarily on the war bearing his name that was carried out during the spring and summer of 1832 in northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin. It ended in a bloody encounter near the confluence of the Bad Axe and Mississippi rivers north of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The war had its genesis in a treaty signed by a delegation of Sauk and Fox Indians in 1804 at St. Louis. The signers thought the treaty was to establish peace after some settlers had been killed, but it really called for the tribes to cede a vast tract extending from southern Wisconsin through western Illinois and a strip along the Mississippi River in Missouri. The treaty allowed the Indians to occupy the land until it was opened for sale to whites, so the Indians did not realize they had signed away territory until settlers began buying up the land in the 1820s....

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Black Hoof (fl. 1795–1831), head civil chief of the Ohio Shawnees and member of the Mekoche division of that tribe, , had the Indian name Catecahassa or Cutthewekasaw. He died at an advanced age—estimates range up to an improbable 115 years—and references to his origins are contradictory. Indian agent John Johnston, who knew him well, said the chief remembered bathing in the sea off Florida as a boy, but he is represented to have told another acquaintance that he was born on the Monongahela River. Black Hoof told more than one person that he was present at Braddock’s defeat in 1755, although no Shawnees are known to have participated in that action. He was probably at the battle of Point Pleasant (1774), as he said, and one witness recalled that Black Hoof helped ...

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Black Hoof. Oil on canvas, 1830-1833, by Henry Inman (after Charles Bird King). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Black Kettle (?–1698), Onondaga chief, was originally from the Bay of Quinté (Ontario) region. Little is known about him before the 1680s. He was also called Dewadarondore or Chaudiere Noire.

The peace signed between the French and the five Iroquois nations of present-day New York State and the Province of Ontario in 1665 began to break down by 1682. Black Kettle was among the influential leaders of the anti-French faction in Onondaga by this time. As a war chief, he headed a party that brought four Ottawa prisoners to François-Marie Perrot, local governor at Montreal, but he did not receive either the welcome or the presents he had expected. It is probable that, unlike the Ottawa traders, he was unwilling to comply with Perrot’s control of bartering activities in Montreal in his own and Governor Buade de Frontenac’s interests. To avenge himself of his poor reception, Black Kettle pillaged Fort Frontenac (present-day Kingston). In 1687 Governor Brisay de Denonville led an expedition into Seneca country that put a temporary stop to Iroquois raids on New France....

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Black Kettle (1807?– November 1868), Cheyenne chief, was a member of the Sutaio division of the Cheyenne until his marriage to Medicine Woman Later made him part of the Wotapio; Black Kettle’s first wife was captured in a battle with the Utes in 1848. Little is known about his early years. Conflicting reports name his father as either Swift Hawk Lying Down or High-Backed Wolf. He had three sons and one daughter, according to ...