Biographies of Indian Chiefs and Leaders
Discover your family's story.
Enter a grandparent's name to get started.
Epanow. One of the first Indians to be taken across the Atlantic by the English from New Englanda member of the party forcibly taken from Marthas Vineyard, Mass., by Capt. Harlow in 1611. He was shown in England as a wonder, and managed to escape from the English on the return voyage by pretending to pilot them to a gold mine. In 1619 he was at the Island of Capoge, near Cape Cod, and in that year a body of Indians under his guidance attacked Capt. Dormer’s men while attempting to land on Marthas Vineyard. Epanow is spoken of as artful and daring. He may be the same as Apannow, a signer of the Plymouth treaty of 1621.
Maquinna. A chief of the Mooachaht, a Nootka tribe, who attained. notoriety as the chief who captured the brig Boston, in Mar., 1803, and massacred all of her crew except the blacksmith, John Jewitt, and a sailmaker named Thompson. After being held in captivity until July, 1805, they were liberated by Capt. Hill of the brig Lydia, also of Boston. The story of the captivity of these two men was afterward extracted from Jewitt by Roland Alsop of Middletown, Conn., and published in America and Europe. A point near the entrance of Nootka sound, is now called Maquinna point. See Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, in various editions from 1815 to 1869.
Kiasntha (alias Guyasuta, ‘it sets up a cross.’Hewitt). A chief of some prominence as an orator in the Ohio region about 1760-1790. Although called a Seneca, he probably belonged to the mixed band of detached Iroquois in Ohio commonly known as Mingo, who sided with the French while their kinsmen of the New York confederacy acted as allies of the English. As a young warrior he accompanied Washington and Gist on their visit to the French forts on the Allegheny in 1753. After Braddock’s defeat in 1755 he visited Montreal in company with a French interpreter and in 1759 was present at Croghan’s conference with the Indians at Ft Pitt (now Pittsburg). He is mentioned also at the Lancaster conference in 1762, and in 1768 was a leading advocate of peace with the English both at the treaty of Ft Pitt in May and at Bouquet’s conference there six months later.
Washington visited him while on a hunting tour in Ohio in 1770. He is noted as at other conferences up to the time of the Revolution, and in 1762 is mentioned as leading an Indian raid on one of the frontier settlements. His name occurs last in 1790, when he sent a written message to some friends in Philadelphia.
Dekaury, Choukeka. A chief, eldest of the Winnebago, born about 1730. He was the son of Sabrevoir De Carrie, an officer of the French army in 1699, and Hopoekaw, daughter of a principal Winnebago chief, whom he married in 1729 spoken of by Carver (Travels, 20, 1796) as the queen of the Winnebago. Their son, Choukeka (‘Spoon’) , was known to the whites as Spoon Dekaury. After having been made chief he became the leader of attacks on the Chippewa during a war with the Winnebago, but he maintained friendly relations with the whites. It was principally through his influence that the treaty of June 3, 1816, at St Louis, Mo, was brought about. He died at Portage, Wis. in the same year, leaving 6 sons and 5 daughters.
Dekaury, Konoka. The eldest son and successor of Choukeka Dekaury, born in 1747. He was named Konoka (‘Eldest’) Dekaury, and is often mentioned as “Old Dekaury,” but is equally y well known as Schachipkaka. Before his father’s death, in 1816, Konoka joined had a band of Winnebago who took part, in 1813, in the attack led by Proctor on Ft Stephenson, Ohio, on lower Sandusky river, was gallantly defended by Maj. George Croghan. He fought also in the battle of the Thames, in Canada. He was held for a time, in 1827, as a hostage at Prairie du Chien for the delivery of Red Bird. His band usually encamped at the portage of Wisconsin river the site of at the the present Portage, Wis. Mrs. Kinzie (Wau-Bun, 89, 1856) describes him as “the most noble, dignified, and venerable of his own tribe or indeed of any other, having a fine Roman countenance, his head bald except for a solitary tuft of long, silvery hair neatly tied and falling back on his shoulders, and exhibiting a demeanor always courteous, while his dress was always neat and unostentatious. An unpleasant peculiarity of his face was an immense hanging under lip. He signed the treaty of Prairie du Chien Aug. 19, 1825, on behalf of the Winnebago, and died on Wisconsin river April 20, 1836.
Other members of the family, whose name has been variously written De Kaury, DeKauray, DayKauray, Day Korah, Dacorah and DeCorrah, were noted. From Choukeka’s daughters, who married white men, are descended several well-known families of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Dekanawida (‘two river-currents flowing together.’Hewitt). An Iroquois prophet, statesman, and lawgiver, who lived probably during the second and third quarters of the 15th century, and who jointly with Hiawatha, planned who, and founded the historical confederation of the five Iroquois tribes. According g to a circumstantial tradition, he was born in the vicinity of Kingston, Ontario, Canada in what then was probably Huron territory. He was reputed to have been one of 7 brothers. Definite tradition gives him rank with the demigods, owing to the masterful orenda or magic power with which he worked tirelessly to overcome the obstacles and difficulties of his task, the astuteness he displayed in negotiation, and the wisdom he exhibited in framing the laws and in establishing the fundamental principles on which they were based and on which rested the entire structure of the Iroquois confederation. Omens foreshadowed his birth, and portents accompanying this event revealed the fact to his virgin mother that Dekanawida would be the source of evil to her people, referring to the destruction of the Huron confederation by that of the Iroquois. Hence at his birth his mother and grandmother, with true womanly patriotism, sought to spare their country woes by attempting to drown the newborn infant by thrusting it through a hole made in the ice covering a neighboring river. Three attempts were made, but in the morning after each attempt the young Dekanawida was found unharmed in the arms of the astonished mother. Thereupon the two women decided that it was decreed that he should live, and so resolved to rear him. Rapidly he grew to man’s estate, and then, saying that he must take up his foreordained work, departed southward, first assuring his mother that in the event of his death by violence or sorcery, the otter skin flayed entire which, with the head downward, he had hung in a corner of the lodge, would vomit blood. Dekanawida was probably a Huron by blood, but perhaps an Iroquois by adoption. In the long and tedious negotiations preceding g the final establishment of the historical confederation of the five Iroquois tribes, he endeavored to persuade the Erie and the Neuter tribes also to join the confederation; these tribes, so far as known, were always friendly with the Huron people, and their representatives probably knew of Dekanawida’s Huron extraction. Many of the constitutional principles, laws, and regulations of the confederation are attributed to him. His chiefship did not belong g to the hereditary class, but to the merit class, commonly styled the ‘pine tree chiefs.’ Hence, he could forbid the appointment of a successor to his office, and could exclaim, “To others let there be successors, for like them they can advise you. I have established your commonwealth, and none has done what I have.” But it is probable that prohibition was attributed to him in later times when the true nature of the merit chiefs had become obscured. Hence it is the peculiar honor of the merit chiefs of today not to be condoled officially after death, nor to have successors to their chieftaincies. For these reasons the title Dekanawida does not belong to the roll of 50 federal league chiefships.
Manuelito. A Navaho chief. When Gov. Merriwether conferred with the Navaho in 1855 about putting an end to murders and robberies committed by members of this tribe, the head chief avowed that he could not command the obedience of his people, and resigned. The chiefs present at the council thereupon elected Mannelito to fill the place. The lawless element did not cease their depredations, and the obligation to surrender evil doers was no greater than it had been because the Senate neglected to confirm the treaty signed at the conference. When Col. D. G. Miles started out to punish the Navaho in 1859 he destroyed the houses and shot the horses and cattle belonging to Manuelito’s band. When the Navaho finally applied them selves thoroughly to peaceful and productive pursuits, their old war chief was chosen to take command of the native police force that was organized in 1872. He died in 1893.
Negabamat, Noel. A converted Montagnais chief, who lived at Sillery, Quebec; born about the beginning of the 17th century. He was baptized, with his wife Marie and his son Charles, in 1639. Although generally peaceful after embracing Christianity, he frequently engaged in war with the Iroquois, always enemies of the Montagnais. In 1652 he was a member of a delegation sent by his tribe to solicit aid from Gov. Dudley, of New England, against the Iroquois. He also appeared in behalf of his people and acted on the part of the French daring the convention at Three Rivers, Quebec., in 1645, where a treaty of peace was made with the Iroquois, and other tribes. He was selected by Pére Druillettes to accompany him on his visit to the Abnaki 1651, at which time he was alluded to by, the French as “Captain Sillery.” It was through his efforts that peace was made by the French with one of the tribe on the coast south of Quebec, neighbors of thr Abnaki, seemingly the Malecite or Norridgewock. On his death, Mar. 19,1666 his war chief Negaskouat became his successor. Negabamat was a firm friend of the French, and after his conversion was their chief counsellor in regard to their movements on the louver St Lawrence.
Mugg. An Arosaguntacook chief in the latter half of the 17th century, conspicuous in the war beginning in 1675, into which he was drawn by the ill-treatment he received from the English. With about 100 warriors he made an assault, Oct. 12, 1676, on Black Point, now Scarboro, Maine, where the settlers had gathered for protection. While the officer in charge of the garrison was parleying with Mugg, the whites managed to escape, only a few of the officers’ servants falling into the hands of the Indians when the fort was captured; these were kindly treated. Mugg became embittered toward the English when on coming in behalf of his own and other Indians to treat for peace he was seized and taken a prisoner to Boston, although soon released. He was killed at Black Point, May, 16, 1677, the place he captured the preceding year.
Many Horses. A Piegan Siksika chief, sometimes mentioned as ‘Dog’ and also as ‘Sits in the Middle’; born about the close of the 18th century. He was noted not only for his warlike character but for the large number of horses he acquired; hence his name. According to the account given by the Indians to Grinnell (Story of the Indian, 236, 1895), he commenced to gather and to breed horses immediately after the Piegan first came into possession of them from the Kutenai (1804-06), and also made war on the Shoshoni for the purpose of taking horses from them. His herd became so extensive that they numbered more than all the others belonging to the tribe and required a large number of herders to take care of them. Many Horses was a signer of the first treaty of his tribe with the whites, on the upper Missouri, Oct. 17, 1855, which he signed as “Little Dog.” He was killed in 1867 at the battle of Cypress Hill between the Piegan and the allied Crows and Atsina, at which time he was an old man.
Adario. A Tionontate chief, known also as Rondiaronk, Sastaretsi, and The Rat. He had a high reputation for bravery and sagacity, and was courted by the French, who grade a treaty with him in 1688 by which he agreed to lead an expedition against the Iroquois, his hereditary enemies, Starting out for the war with a picked band, he was surprised to hear, on reaching Cataracouy, that the French were negotiating peace with the Iroquois, who were about to send envoys to Montreal with hostages from each tribe. Concealing his surprise and chagrin, he secretly determined to intercept the embassy. Departing as though to return to his own country in compliance with the admonition of the French commandant, he placers his men in ambush and made prisoners of tile members of the Iroquois mission, telling the thief of the embassy that the French had commissioned him to surprise and destroy the party. Keeping only one prisoner to answer for the death of a Huron who was killed in the light, he set the others free, saying that he hoped they would repay the French for their treachery. Taking his captive to Michilimackinac, he delivered hint over to the French commander, who put him to death, having no knowledge of the arrangement of peace. He then released a captive Iroquois whom he had long held at his village that he night return to inform his people of the act of the French Commander. An expedition of 1,200 Iroquois fell upon Montreal Aug. 25, 1689, when the French felt secure in the anticipation of peace, slew hundreds of the settlers and burned and sacked the place. Other posts were abandoned by the French, and only the excellent fortifications of others saved them from being driven out of the country. Adario led a delegation of Huron chiefs who went to Montreal to conclude a peace, and while there he died, Aug. 1, 1701, and was buried by the French with military honors.
Neron. The “captain general” of the Iroquois, taken near Montreal in 1663, and so called by the French because of his great cruelty. In memory of his brother he had burned 30 captives, besides killing 60 men with his oven hand (Jes. Rel., 1656, 1663). It, was an Onondaga named Aharihon. suggesting his French name.
Job Nesutan. One of the Indians chosen by John Eliot to assist him, as interpreter, in translating the Scriptures into the Natick language of Massachusetts. Gookin (Trans. Am. Antiq. Soc., ii, 444, 1836) thus speaks of him: “In this expedition [July, 1675] one of our principal soldiers of the praying Indians was slain, a valiant and stout man named Job Nesutan; he was a very good linguist in the English tongue and was Mr. Eliot’s assistant and interpreter in his translations of the Bible, and other books of the Indian language.” Eliot wrote, Oct. 21, 1650: “I have one [Indian interpreter] already who can write, so that 1 can read his writing well, and with some pains and teaching, can read mine”