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California Joe (08 May 1829–29 October 1876), plainsman and army scout, was born Moses Embree Milner in Standford, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Ann and Embree Armstead Milner, planters. Plantation life in the Kentucky wilderness was hardly genteel; the Milner home was a log cabin, as was the schoolhouse where the young Milner was an able student. Along with “book learning,” Milner excelled in tracking and hunting, which meant his family always had fresh meat to eat. Even as a boy he was known for his skill in shooting his father’s long-barreled rifle, a talent his family regarded as wholly in keeping with his father’s past military experiences in ...

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Cornstalk (?– November 1777), Shawnee leader, had the Indian name Hokoleskwa, meaning “a blade of corn”; his original name was also rendered in the white settlers’ records as Colesqua, Keightughque, and Semachquaan. His early life is obscure. A document of 1764 identifies him with Tawnamebuck, a Shawnee who attended the council at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1748, but is probably in error. In a speech of 1775 Cornstalk seems to describe himself as the son of White Fish, but Matthew Arbuckle, who knew them both, implies otherwise in a letter of December 1776. Records of the Moravian missionaries, who knew Cornstalk well, indicate that he was the son or grandson of the noted headman Paxinosa, and there are circumstances that suggest that this was true. Cornstalk may have spent part of his youth on the Wyoming, near present-day Plymouth, Pennsylvania, where Paxinosa’s band was living from the late 1720s. Although some members of this village appear to have been Pekowi Shawnee, Cornstalk belonged to the Mekoche division, which supplied the tribal civil chief. Paxinosa was friendly to the British, enjoyed a good relationship with the Moravians, and did not aid the French when the Seven Years’ War began. Instead, he moved closer to the neutral Iroquois peoples, in 1756 to the site of present-day Athens, Pennsylvania, and then to what is now Canisteo, New York. For this reason it is difficult to credit statements made long afterward that Cornstalk led a raid upon Carr’s Creek, Virginia, in 1759....

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Crazy Horse (1840–05 September 1877), Oglala Lakota war chief, was born near Bear Butte in present-day South Dakota, the son of Crazy Horse, a noted Oglala warrior and medicine man, and (according to some sources) Rattle Blanket Woman, a Minicoujou Lakota of the prestigious Lone Horn family. By 1861 the boy had inherited the name Crazy Horse from his father. Believing himself informed by visions and protected by war medicines prepared by Horn Chips, a respected Oglala ...

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Doublehead (?– August 1807), Cherokee leader, whose Indian name was Tal-tsu-ska, was born probably on the Little Tennessee River. He has been described as the brother of the influential Cherokee chiefs Old Tassel and Tolluntuskee and rose to prominence in the wars that followed the murder of the former by North Carolinians in June 1788. Although he described himself as “but a boy” in 1793, he was of sufficient standing to put his name to the treaty of the Holston in 1791, which he signed against the name “Chuqualatague, Doublehead.”...

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Hole-in-the-Day (1828?–27 June 1868), Ojibwe (or Chippewa) political leader, Ojibwe (or Chippewa) political leader, was born, probably at the Ojibwe village of Sandy Lake, in present-day Minnesota, the son of Hole-in-the-Day, the Elder, a Sandy Lake political leader, and Josephine(?) (no Ojibwe name known), a daughter of Broken Tooth, another Sandy Lake leader. Hole-in-the-Day was born as the United States was becoming a presence in Minnesota, and the Ojibwe, having enjoyed amicable relations with the British and French, sought to establish friendly ties with the Americans. The tribe’s past connections with Europeans had been based on the fur trade; thoughtful Ojibwe realized that relations with the Americans would involve a very different economic system....

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René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle. Engraving by H. B. Hall, 1882. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-5545).

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La Salle, René-Robert Cavalier de (21 November 1643–19 March 1687), explorer, was born in Rouen, France, the son of Jean Cavelier, a haberdasher, and Catherine Geest. The family was part of the prosperous bourgeoisie. The sobriquet “de La Salle” referred to an estate they owned outside Rouen. La Salle’s initial intention, however, seems to have been to escape his position, for after having studied with the Jesuits in Rouen, he renounced any claim to the family fortunes and entered the novitiate for the order in Paris in 1658. He actually took vows in 1660, continued, apparently rather brilliantly, his studies of mathematics, and taught in Jesuit schools until 1666. Having requested missionary assignments several times and been denied because he had been unable to demonstrate spiritual maturity and submission to the discipline of the order, he was released from his vows in 1667 and only a few months later went to New France, penniless but with many influential connections. There his brother, a Sulpician, was doubtless responsible for his obtaining from that order a grant of a seigneury on Montreal Island, but after two years La Salle sold most of it back to them and began his career of exploration by attaching himself to the Dollier and Galinée missionary party bound for the western Great Lakes. Hearing of the Ohio River from Iroquois Indian guides, he left the party, claiming illness, and virtually disappeared for four years....

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Logan, James (1725–1780), Mingo Indian, famous in his own time as an ally of English colonials; succeeding generations remember the tragedy that befell him and the lament he made in response. He was probably born at the village of Shamokin (Sunbury, Pa.), the son of the Oneida chief Shikellamy and a Cayuga woman. Known as Soyechtowa, Tocaniadorogon, or Logan the Mingo, historians have incorrectly called him Tah-gah-jute....

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McIntosh, William (1778?–30 April 1825), military leader and high-ranking chief in the Creek Nation, was born in Coweta, in present-day Russell County, Alabama, the son of Captain William McIntosh, a recruiter for the British army, and Senoya, a full-blooded Creek. McIntosh was raised as a Creek, enduring the customary rites of passage and advancing to the rank of chief, ...

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William McIntosh. Hand-colored lithograph on paper, 1836, by attributed to Albert Newsam (after Charled Bird King). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Ronald P. Dufour

Oldham, John (1600– July 1636), trader, was born in Lancashire, England, of unknown parents. He first appeared in the historical record when he emigrated to Plymouth colony in 1623, arriving in July on the ship Anne. Like other non-Separatists (or “particulars”) who desired to settle in the colony, he was required to sign an agreement accepting the authority of the government, even though he had paid his own passage. He did become a Separatist shortly after arriving, but Governor ...

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Opechancanough (fl. 1607–1646), foremost Pamunkey (Virginia Algonquian) leader, foremost Pamunkey (Virginia Algonquian) leader, was responsible for the uprisings of 1622 and 1644 against the English colonists in Virginia. There are no definitive details about his origins, parentage, or date or place of birth and death, but English contemporaries believed that he was the brother of ...

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Red Shoes (?– June 1747), Choctaw warrior, war captain, and chief, also known as Shulush Homa, Shulush Homma, or Soulouche Oumastabé, was born in Jasper County, Mississippi. He belonged to the Okla Hunnah (Six People) clan. Red Shoes held no powerful family connections, nor was he descended from the iksa, or clan of chiefs. He rose in power from warrior to war captain of his town of Couechitto to chief by winning favor with the Europeans who bestowed titles on those Indians who proved their loyalty. Following the 1720s he received the name of Soulouche Oumastabé, signifying his rank as warrior following a battle with the Chickasaw. His increasing prowess in battles and the killing of Indian enemies earned him the name of Red Shoes, or Shulush Homa. Red Shoes took pride in having earned his titles and elevated status of war captain, honors normally not given to a man of his common birth....

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John Ridge. Hand-colored lithograph, c. 1838. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-3157).

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Ridge, John (1803–22 June 1839), Cherokee leader, was born in Oothcaloga, Georgia, the son of Major Ridge, a Cherokee leader, and Susanna Wickett. As a young man Ridge was slight, delicate, and walked with a limp because of a hip problem, but he appeared to be a bright and eager student. His parents stressed education early in the boy’s life, and he attended a mission school at age seven. Ridge was a quick learner and felt that the school system, which called for advanced students to tutor younger, slower students, was retarding his education. Therefore, he, with several other Cherokee students, attended a school in Cornwall, Connecticut, in 1818. There they received religious and agricultural training and studied geography, history, rhetoric, surveying, Latin, and natural science....

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Spotted Tail (1823–05 August 1881), leader of the Brulé [Sican gu] Teton, leader of the Brulé [Sican gu] Teton, was born in south-central South Dakota, the son of modest parents. (His name in his native tongue was Sinte Gleska.) At an early age, Spotted Tail sought a position of political leadership. As a young man he valiantly fought the Pawnee, earning his people’s approval and becoming a praiseworthy man. This was his first step toward political leadership, and it enabled him to understand that political gain could be achieved by waging a successful military expedition....

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Spotted Tail. Albumen silver print, 1880, by John N. Choate. (Spotted Tail, right, with Richard Henry Pratt and Quaker women.) National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.