Collection: Indian Chiefs I have Known

Mattie, the Daughter of Chief Shenkah

Chief Shenka was a Paiute Indian like the first Chief Winnemucca, whom the white men, who early traveled over the Rocky Mountains, met on the broad prairie land of Nevada. He was one of Winnemucca’s young followers. Of noble appearance and always brave and trustworthy, Shenkah became the chief of a small tribe of the Paiute, after Winnemucca’s death. When the Piute were at peace with other Indians and with the white people, Shenkah was very friendly indeed, especially to the soldiers, and our officers were much pleased when they could, on marches in search of lakes and rivers round their camps and posts, get Shenkah for a guide. He hunted deer and other game for them and they gave him a rifle and trusted him to make long journeys into the mountains. He always returned, and never without different kinds of wild game. Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. choose a state: Any AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY INTL Start Now After his old chief went far away to California with General Fremont, trouble arose on account...

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Winnemucca, Chief of the Paiute

Like the great Montezuma of old Mexico, Chief Winnemucca, who was born and lived the most of his life beside Pyramid Lake, Nevada, had a thinking mind and a large, warm heart. He was chief of an Indian nation called the Paiute and before any white men came over the Rocky Mountains to disturb them, there were several thousand Indians, to whom he was like a father. He saw to it that they had plenty of good food to eat, nice furs and skins to wear, and handsome tepees (or wigwams) for their families to live in. He had a good wife and many children of his own; he was always very kind to them, and took much pains to teach all he himself knew to his eldest son, who was to be Chief Winnemucca after him. Seventy years ago the Piute were a peace loving and contented people. They knew how to gather in the swift antelopes from the plains, how to catch the deer and ensnare the wild turkeys, and help themselves to all the game of the mountains round about their broad valley and clear lake in which they caught splendid speckled trout and other choice fish. The Piute never appeared to be as shrewd and smart as the Snake Indians, and they were not warlike; yet with their bows and arrows they did drive off...

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Manuelito: A Navajo War Chief

You all remember how the Indian chiefs went with me to see the great American chief, President Grant, in Washington, and what a long ride we had before we took a train. Well, during that trip we rested for two days at Fort Wingate in New Mexico, and here for the first time I saw some Navajo Indians. They are cousins of the Apaches, and the language of the two tribes is so much alike that they can easily understand each other. Some people have said that the word Navajo comes from the Spanish word for knife, but probably it is an Indian word meaning “well-planted fields.” There were about 7000 in the tribe and they lived in log huts and raised corn, but their chief living was from large flocks of sheep and goats. From these they got plenty of wool which they dyed in soft colors and from which the women made splendid blankets known the world over for their beauty. ‘These are the famous Navajo blankets you have heard about. Now the Apaches and Navajos are cousins, but they have not always been friendly cousins, and just about this time they had been fighting each other rather hard. I am sorry to say that some of the white people thought it was a good thing for Indians to fight each other; it would help kill them...

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Washakie, A Shoshone Chief, The Friend Of The White Man

The Shoshone Indians lived long ago in the Rocky Mountains, but they have gradually moved westward until now they live on the western side, where there are two wonderful springs which send water eastward and westward to flow into our two great oceans. The water from one flows through the Yellowstone Park to the Missouri River, the cascades, flows smoothly for one hundred and fifty miles till it reaches the Pacific Ocean. Because these Indians live long the banks of the winding Snake River, they are sometimes called “Snakes,” but Shoshone is their Indian name. As long ago as 1636 Washington Irving tells us that Captain Bonneville met Shoshone Indians on his way to the Pacific Coast. Even then the chiefs came together, smoked the peace pipe, burying their tomahawks and made up their minds to be good, peaceable Indians. A tribe of Indians usually takes its character from the head chief. If he is a man who cares for his people, thinks for them, and leads them, then they follow and do what he says. Washakie was such a chief, and his people loved and followed him. He had a large country, four hundred miles square, called the wind River Reservation, and here he grouped his Indians in small villages about a beautiful spring of hot water which always took off this outer fur coat, which he did...

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Lot, A Spokane Chief

The Spokane, when they were not off on a buffalo-hunt or camping here and there to store up the carcass roots for winter as the squirrels store up beechnuts, used to live along the banks of the Spokane River in Washington State. This river, with many falls and rapids, flows through great forests west to the Columbia. It is a beautiful land of wooded hills and fertile valleys, and the Indians clung to it with great fondness. here are found every sort of game. The deer run wild in the natural parks, and the speckled trout dart up-stream, shining in the creeks and rivulets. There was an old bridge across the Spokane, and as I rode to Fort Colville, escorted by some cavalry, we saw an open field covered kith Indian lodges just to our right as we came to the bridge. There were ten or twelve lodges and one hundred and twenty Indians. Many Indians came out to meet us on the road, and I called to one of them in English “What Indians are these?” He replied : “A band of Spokane.” The leader of this band was Lot, and I must tell you about him. Long ago when Lot was a small boy, Mr. Eeles, a good teacher, came to live among the Spokane, just as in 1840 the famous Dr. Marcus Whitman went to teach...

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Toc-me-to-ne, an Indian Princess

We called her Sarah Winnemucca, but her real name was Toe-me-to-ne, which means shell-flower. Have you ever seen these flowers growing in an old garden among their many cousins of the Mint family? Well, Toe-me-to-ne loved them of all flowers best, for was she not herself a shell-flower. Her people were Paiute Indians, and they lived in every part of what is now the great State of Nevada. Toc-me-to-ne had a flower name, so she was allowed to take part in the children’s flower festival, when. all the little girls dance and sing, holding hands and making believe that they are the very flowers for which they are named. They wear their own flowers, too, and after they have sung together for a while one will dance off on the grass by herself while all the boys and girls look on and she sings I am a daisy gold and white, Somebody catch me-me! The grown-up people watch, too, as their children play, and Toe-me-to-ne was never happier than when, light as a bird, she danced and sang her shell-flower song: See me! see me, a beautiful flower. Give me a hand and dance. Then after the plays and dancing the children had all sorts of good things to eat, and the flower festival was over for a year. Only three times did Toe-me-to-ne take part in the flower...

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The Great War Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces, and his lieutenants, White Bird and Looking-Glass

Far in the Northwest of our country live the Chopunnish or Nez Perce Indians, a powerful tribe. Chopunnish is an Indian word, but Nez Perce is French and means pierced noses. The name comes from the fact that these Indians used to pierce their noses and wear rings in them, just as some ladies we know pierce their ears and wear fine earrings. The men of the tribe are large and tall and strong, and they are very proud and warlike. Every year they went far away, even one thousand miles, to hunt buffalo, while the women planted little patches of Indian corn and the boys rode ponies or fished for salmon in the rivers. Now and then the Nez Perce fought, as all Indians do, and their enemies were especially the Blackfeet and Snakes, but they never killed a white man. Governor Stevens, one of the first white governors, gave these Indians a large tract of land bigger than New York State, where they lived and were very happy. After a while some missionaries came to live among them and started a big school where many Indian children studied and learned the white men’s ways. Among these Indian children were two boys, the sons of a powerful chief called Old Joseph. Young Joseph and Ollicut went to the school for a short time, but while they were still...

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Sitting-Bull, The Great Dakota Leader

Two of our States, as boys and girls know from their geography, are called Dakota, one North Dakota, the other South Dakota, and this was also the name of Indian people of different tribes speaking the same language, who lived in the country north of the great Platte River, and between and along our two greatest rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi. The word Dakota means united by compact, and there were several united tribes who called themselves the Dakotas. Sitting-Bull was a Dakota Indian. He was born near an old army station, Fort George, on Willow Creek, and his father was Jumping-Bull. The Indian chiefs are very fond of giving boys new names when they begin to do something which their friends notice. If a boy runs fast with his head up, they call him “The Elk,” “The Deer,” “The Wild Horse,” or some such name. Or perhaps if he has quick or sly ways, they name him “The Fox,” “The Wolf,” or “The Coyote.” In North Dakota, at this time, there were great herds of buffalo, and the largest of them were the bulls. These were the leaders when a herd was running, swimming a river, or jumping across a gully. Even when a lad, Sitting-Bull’s father could hunt for buffaloes, and quickly jump the deep gullies so frequent in that country, always with his bow in...

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Cut-Mouth John

I happened to know a Umatilla scout who bore the English name of Cut-Mouth John. The Umatilla tribe of Indians to which John belonged lived along the upper waters of the great Columbia River. This country, called the “up-river country,” is used also by the Cayuses, Walla Walla, and other Columbia River Indians. There were many of them on the lands called reservations, and many others roaming about everywhere, far and near, like herds of wild horses on the great prairies of the West where there were no fences to stop them. I was then living in Portland, Oregon, and all the soldiers in that part of the country watered by the great western rivers, were under my command. I was to use the soldiers to keep peace all the time between the white inhabitants and the roaming red men. The whites were mostly farmers, cattle raisers, and shepherds, who had made their homes in all the rich valleys, along the streams of water, and on the beautiful hills and green slopes of the mountains. These people wanted all the good land to pasture their herds and flocks; and the red men .wanted the same land for hunting and for feeding their ponies and for gathering for themselves things which grew without sowing or planting, such as camas, the wild onions, the berries, and the fruits of trees. There...

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Red Cloud

Far away in Wyoming lived the Sioux Indians, a fierce and warlike tribe. They called themselves Dakotas; but their enemies said that when they fought they did everything in a mean, hidden way so that it was hard to know what to expect, and they called them Sioux, which means “snake-like-ones.” To this tribe belonged a young brave who wanted very much to become a chief. His father was a fierce warrior and had taught him how to fight, but he was not satisfied to follow the leaders of his tribe, for he wanted to lead other Indians himself. When this young man was only eighteen years old he had already learned to use the bow, could ride Indian ponies and swim deep rivers, and was a great buffalo-hunter; besides, he often danced in war dances with older braves. In some way he managed to get a rifle which fired several times without reloading, and after that he began to feel of much more importance than other young Indians. At first the young braves were angry with him, but he soon showed them that he was a skillful warrior, and before long many young Indians chose him for their leader. Now he could wear an eagle feather in his war bonnet, and was a real chief. At this time Uncle Sam had promised to give each Indian a good...

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Homili, Chief of the Walla Walla

Homili, the chief of the Walla Walla, lived in two places: a part of each year on the Umatilla Reserve with the Umatilla, Cayuse, and other Columbia River Indians who were willing to stay there with the government agent; and part of the year, indeed, the greater part of it, at what he called his home just above the steamboat landing near the hamlet of Wallula. On the Umatilla Reserve, Homili had good land, pasturage all around for his pongees, and a good farm-house. He could raise wheat and vegetables, too, in plenty when he could make his tillicums (children and followers) work for him. But Homili was lazy and shift less, and just managed to say “yes yes to the good agent, Mr. Cornoyer, and to keep a poor garden-plot, and let his many ponies run about with the herds of horses which belonged to other Indians. Homili was always fat and hearty, and he loved best his queer home just above Wallula. More than ten miles broad is the strip of sand and gravel along the Columbia on the south side above and below Wallula; the first time I saw Homili he met me at the steamboat landing. He hard with him four or five very poorly dressed Indians, wearing very long, black, uncombed hair. Homili was dressed up for the occasion. He had on a cast-off...

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Pedro, Eskeltesela and Miguel

You remember the great peace meeting near Camp Grant, where the Indian children were given back, and how old Santos put the white stone down and said that as long as it lasted there would be no war. After this the Indians were very friendly to the white man, and so it seemed a good time for some of the Indian chiefs to go East and visit the great Chief in Washington. Just about one month after the great peace meeting the young Pima chief, Antonito, his friend Louis, who spoke some English, and Mr. Cook, the good Indian teacher, joined old Santos of the Aravipa Apaches, who came with his interpreter, Conception, to meet them near the crossing of the Aravipa River. Then they all rode on horseback to a field just south of Camp Grant, and here I met them. Captain Wilkinson, my aide, was with me, and we had a mounted escort of a sergeant and six soldiers. We were to go one hundred miles over a very rough, steep mountain trail to Camp Apache near the eastern border of Arizona, but we could take no wagons, so all our luggage was on four strong pack-mules. When we started I rode a large gray horse named Frank. He looked very fine indeed, but one of the officers at Camp Grant told me to be careful and...

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Geronimo, The Last Apache Chief on the War-Path

Far off in the Dragoon Mountains Where Captain Red Beard took me to see Cochise in his stronghold, lived the chief of a band of Apache Indians, called Geronimo. His Indian name was Go-khla-yeh, but after his first battle with the Mexicans he was called Geronimo, and the name was pronounced after the Spanish fashion, as if it began with an H instead of a G-Heronimo. When this Indian was a young man he went to Mexico to trade furs and beaded belts and moccasins for things the Indians use, and with him went his wife and many Indian men, women, and children. The Indian men made a camp near a small Mexican city and left the women and children there while they went into the town to trade, but while they were gone some white people fired at those left in camp, and when Geronimo came back all his family were dead, and everything he had was destroyed. At first Geronimo was so sad that he could not eat or sleep, and wandered about in the woods as unhappy as any one could be; then he began to be angry and wanted to fight all white men, and that is how he first made up his mind to go on the war-path. Geronimo was a very quiet man and yet he danced with the other Indians, pitched quoits...

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The Yuma Indians of Colorado live on the banks of the Colorado or Red River, which is very long and flows between high banks. In the Mohave country it passes through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, a gorge quite as broad and as deep as the famous Yosemite Valley of California. After leaving the Grand Canyon, the red waters of the river flow through the most barren country of our land. Sometimes there is not one drop of rain for as much as three years, and the vast region is like the Desert of Sahara except right along the river banks. The officers and soldiers at Uncle Sam’s army post, which is called Fort Yuma, have made ditches from the river, and by watering the land it has become a real garden. They raise vegetables and have planted rows of trees, which grow well, for the soil is rich when it is watered, but dry as a bone when left alone. There are wonderful magnolia trees here, high, with broad branches, the pure white blossoms looking like so many doves among the green leaves. The century plant and palmettos stand guard along the roadways within the stockade, and hedges of cacti form impassable barriers. Prickly pears and figs grow in abundance, and everything is green and beautiful, but only because here water has been brought to land, which...

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Chief Egan of the Malheurs

The Indians pronounced the name of Egan, Ehegante; but the soldiers and the white men living near the Indians’ reservation, situated in eastern Oregon, called him Egan. Egan was born a Umatilla. His father and mother were both from the Cayuse tribe who lived in the valley of the beautiful Umatilla River. That river flows from the springs and creeks of the lofty Blue Hills of Oregon, and with a length of about forty miles coursing westward, enters the Columbia River, not far south of the old Fort Walla Walla, where is now the little village of Wallula. When very small, Egan’s father and mother, with several other Cayuses, were away from home out on a meadow gathering wild onions and other kinds of nature’s food. They had in their camp of tepees men, women, and children. Suddenly a wild war party of Indians from the Snake country came upon them and a fierce battle occurred. All the Cayuses in the camp were killed except the children. These children were carried off and scattered among the Snakes and the Paiute. Little Egan was left with and brought up by a good Piute family. When he was old enough, he became famous among the young Indian hunters. He was above the medium height, very handsome, strong, and athletic; could lead any party in fishing the streams, climbing the mountains or...

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