top of page
  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier

Beyond Sitting Bull: 10 Lesser-Known Native Americans We All Should Know

Updated: Jan 14


This small sampling doesn't scratch the surface of rich Native history! What great Native Americans can you suggest?


Americans in general are notorious for knowing little about history. This goes especially for Native American history. Everyone has heard of Sitting Bull, Pocahontas, Geronimo, Sacagewea, Crazy Horse. But beyond those famous names, many Americans would be hard-pressed to name other famous indigenous leaders.

Here is just a small sampling of the many Native Americans who have accomplished great things in our history that are not as well-known as they should be. Of course, this barely scratches the surface. This list does not include so many: Chief Joseph, Red Cloud, Black Kettle, Tecumseh, Squanto, Black Hawk, Wilma Mankiller...well...we could go on and on and on! All of us who love history know that, the more we dig, the more surprising truths we find!

1. IRA HAYES

All Americans recognize the most famous World War II photograph in American history, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. But how many Americans know that one of the Marines who raised that flag was a Pima Indian, a Corporal named Ira Hayes. He was one of the first in the ground assault for the U.S. Marines on Japanese soil. His fellow Marines called him Chief Falling Cloud because he was also a paratrooper of the elite ParaMarines. Forty Marines were selected to storm Mount Suribachi and plant the American flag at the top. He and one other Marine would be the only ones to survive planting the flag and the war. Read about Ira Hayes in the link below.

2. WOMAN CHIEF

Very few Americans know that Native women served not only as warriors in their tribes but also as chiefs. Woman Chief was a highly honored Crow chief and warrior. Growing up, she preferred hunting and riding and male activities. When her father died, she assumed leadership of her lodge. She first proved her mettle during a Blackfoot raid and killed many of the enemy. Then she raised her own band of warriors to seek revenge. She attacked a Blackfoot settlement and brought back many horses and many scalps. She vowed to kill 100 enemy warriors before she married. When she did marry, she married a woman and eventually had four wives. She rose to the third chief of 160 lodges and was widely honored among the Crow and their enemies, as well as many whites who were fascinated by her.



3. JIM THORPE

Many sport historians believe he was the greatest athlete of the 20th century. In 1950, Thorpe was voted the greatest athlete of the first 50 years of the 20th century by all the sports editors in the nation. Babe Ruth came in second. Jim Thorpe was born in 1887 three years after the Wounded Knee massacre in Oklahoma of Sac, Fox and Potawatomi parents. He was given the name Wa-Tho-Huk, meaning “Bright Path.” And his path would indeed be bright. In fact, dazzling. He would become an amazing all-around athlete in football, baseball, and track and field. He won gold medals in the 1912 Olympics in the pentathlon and decathlon in Sweden. He played both professional baseball and football. His feats on the football field put him on the 1911 and 1912 All-American football teams. In 1920 he became the first president of the American Professional Football Association (later to become the NFL).


4. BUFFALO CALF ROAD WOMAN

Buffalo Calf Road Woman was a Northern Cheyenne who first won notoriety for her bravery when she saved her wounded brother in the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876. She rallied the Cheyenne warriors to win the battle. She also fought next to her husband in the Battle of Little Bighorn that same year when Custer and his troops were annihilated. The Cheyenne have long honored her valor at the Little Bighorn as the warrior who knocked Custer off his horse when he died.



5. POWHATAN

Chief Powhatan was the father of Pocahontas. He was a gifted leader of the entire Powhatan Confederacy, an alliance of 15,000-34,000 Algonquian-speaking people in the area of present-day Virginia near Jamestown. Powhatan initiated trade with the English colonists, providing the colonists with badly needed food in exchange for sought-after goods like metal tools. But, when English King James I ordered Colonists to present Powhatan with a royal crown and gifts in exchange for agreeing to be a prince in service of the King, he refused and decided to starve out the European settlement. About 80% of the Colonists died as a result. But new ships with supplies and more colonists arrived. In 1614, Powhatan agreed to his daughter’s wedding to planter and Colony leader John Rolfe and a period of peace followed until the chief’s death.

6. SARA WINNEMUCCA

Sara Winnemucca was a tireless and eloquent champion for the rights of Native Americans in the 1800s. She was born about 1844 in Utah Territory into the Northern Paiute tribe. She had a great facility of language and learned both English and Spanish in addition to her own tongue. In 1866, Sarah served as official interpreter for 500 Paiutes at Fort MacDonald. In 1872, she taught and served as interpreter on the Malheur Reservation in Oregon. In 1879, Sarah began advocating for rights for her people, first in San Francisco, then in Washington D.C. In 1883, she published her autobiography, Life Among the Paiutes:Their Wrongs and Claims. In 1884, she had acquired enough funds from her book and lecturing to buy some land to start the Peabody School to teach her people their own language and culture.





7. BLUE JACKET

Blue Jacket was a mighty Shawnee war chief who fiercely defended his people in Ohio Country. Blue Jacket allied his tribe with the British in the Revolutionary War. When they lost, the Shawnee lost British assistance in defending his tribe’s land against settlers who were pouring into Ohio territory. On November 3, 1791, the army of a confederation of Indian tribes, led by Blue Jacket and Miami Chief Little Turtle, defeated a large American expedition known as the Battle of the Wabash. It was the crowning achievement of Blue Jacket's military career, and the most severe defeat ever inflicted upon the United States by Native Americans. But in later battles, he was defeated and forced to sign a treaty to relinguish Shawnee land. He preceded the great Tecumseh, who later continued the struggle to reclaim Shawnee land and fight white encroachment.

8. PRETTY NOSE

Pretty Nose was an Arapaho war chief who fought at the Little Bighorn, along with Buffalo Calf Road Woman. Read more about Pretty Nose in the link below “Native Women Warriors.”



9. PONTIAC

Pontiac was a great Ottawa war chief who fought against British occupation of the Great Lakes region. In 1763, Pontiac laid siege on Fort Detroit. Other tribes joined him and he defeated the British at Bloody Run. He continued to resist the British and he gained stature as a powerful leader. In 1766, the British finally sought to make peace with the chief and his tribe.

10. RUNNING EAGLE

This great Blackfeet warrior was born Otaki in southern Alberta and later was called Brown Weasel Woman. She loved boys activities and, against her mother’s wishes, her father taught her to hunt and fight. She was so skilled, she joined the men on buffalo hunts and successfully brought down her own buffaloes. When the hunting party was attacked by Assiniboine, her father’s horse was shot down. She wheeled around and rode directly into enemy fire, saving him. Her later bravery in raids and battles won her much honor and she was bestowed a man’s name of “Running Eagle” and joined the warrior society.

You may also enjoy these related posts:

-Ira Hayes

-Native Warrior Women

-Pocahontas

"Beyond Sitting Bull: 10 Lesser-Known Native Americans We Should Know About" was first posted on Facebook and NotesfromtheFrontier.com

on May 9, 2020

186,382 views / 2,113 likes / 1,543 shares


©2021 NOTES FROM THE FRONTIER

10,509 views13 comments

13 commenti


suzyriding
06 nov 2022
I just found your site and I am absolutely loving it. Thank you, thank you for your wonderful writing and research. I'm learning so much. I give history tours in Boulder and Fort Collins Colorado and have learned about an Arapaho chief in Boulder named Niwot. When gold prospectors began arriving in 1858 he tried desperately to keep the peace between the white settlers and Native tribes, even giving talks in Denver. In 1858 he had a prophetic dream that the Boulder creek would swell with water and wash all of his people away, leaving only the white men. Sadly, six years after his prophetic dream he was killed at the Sand Creek Massacre, on Nov 29 1864. He was…
Mi piace
suzyriding
06 nov 2022
Risposta a

Hi Deborah! Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry to hear about your kidney transplant on Dec. 1. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. That is so good that you have family as donors and to support you! Yes, it does seem that when it rains it pours. The constant thing about life if change though, and this too shall pass. Sending healing thoughts.

Put me on your list for your Chief Joseph and Nez Perce book! You are such a fantastic writer and researcher I know it is going to be amazing. Your passion and knowledge for history really shines through in your blogs. Can't wait to read it! How wonderful that you have been able to…


Mi piace

eaglehorsevet
25 ago 2021

Opechancanough is another important Ancestor was a important war chief for his people. He was still leading his people in battles when he was in his 90’s. He was captured by the colonist and murdered. He was shot in the back. Thanks so much for all your work. We must honor those that came before us. Turtle Island Hall of Honor.

Mi piace
Notes From The Frontier
Notes From The Frontier
25 ago 2021
Risposta a

Thank you for this great suggestion! I wrote you a little while ago about the Turtle Island Hall of Honor and your work. Your awesome project would make an excellent post for Notes from the Frontier. So much to write about…. So little time! Can you share your website with our readers? I will be in touch with some questions, too. Keep up your great work as well. 💪🏽🤜🏽🤛🏽

Mi piace

eaglehorsevet
25 ago 2021

I would suggest Dragging Canoe. Another one that gave his all for his people.

Mi piace

Kyle Hoyt
Kyle Hoyt
13 lug 2021

Wilma Mankiller, Leonard Crow Dog, Oren Lyons and John Ross should definitely be mentioned as well. but really good info

Mi piace
Notes From The Frontier
Notes From The Frontier
13 lug 2021
Risposta a

Thank you, Kyle! Great ideas! I will take your suggestions to heart. Watch for profiles on these leaders in the future. (Love that you mentioned Wilma Mankiller👍💪🏽)

Mi piace

hightechexec1
hightechexec1
24 gen 2021

As always an appreciated posting!

Mi piace

Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular NotesfromtheFrontier.com blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook

 

Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  

 

Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on DeborahHufford.com, Facebook, and Instagram.

  • Deborah Hufford on Facebook
  • Deborah Hufford on Instagram
  • Deborah Hufford's Official Website
deborah hufford.webp
bottom of page