Photo by National Native American Heritage Month
November is the season of thanksgiving, where we all come together and celebrate the blessings we’ve been given over the year. Most of us are also aware of the origins of the holiday, of the cooperation between the Native Americans and the pilgrims that came to their land. However, many people do not think about the Native Americans on this holiday, even though it is their land that we live on, their land on which we’ve built our schools and hospitals, their country that we took for our own. This Thanksgiving, I’d like to give tribute to some of the brave and noble heroes of the Native Americans.
Red Cloud- A leader of the Oglala Lakota tribe, he led a successful war against the US in 1866-1888 to defend his land (parts of modern day wyoming and montana) He led his portion of the Sioux tribe against the US army and until the Battle of the Little Bighorn, his was the greatest Native American victory.
Geronimo- Geronimo was an Apache leader and medicine man who fought American attempts to settle in the Apache territory following the USA’s victory in the Mexican American war. He joined together with other Apache tribes and used his military brilliance to wage a tactical war against the US. Despite his valiant efforts, the Apache were far outnumbered, so he was eventually defeated and banished, along with the rest of his tribe, to Florida.
Crazy Horse- A Lakota leader who fought against white encroachment, Crazy Horse was instrumental in the Black Hills War (A war fought by the Lakota and Sioux tribes to regain reservation land. The US had promised them a portion of land until they realized precious metals were in the desolate hills, and they attempted to steal the land back). He also fought to preserve traditional Lakota way of life. After surrendering at the end of the war, he was murdered by a military guard.
Pontiac- Pontiac was an Ottawa war chief from 1763-1766 who fought against US invasion in the Great Lakes region following the French and Indian War. The campaign he led was named for him, Pontiac’s War, and was unfortunately unsuccessful. Although the war was named for Pontiac, he was merely a figurehead to unite the tribes to fight on their own.
Tecumseh- Tecumseh was renowned for his skill to organize the tribes of the northeast into a confederacy of allies. His dream was to see and independent Native American Nation east of the Mississippi under British protection. He assisted the British in the War of 1812 in hopes that this dream would be accomplished, but the British did not win the war of 1812 and the Americans soon turned their wrath to the Native Americans they had fought against. He was a warrior and chief, and along with his brother Tenskawata (the prophet) he managed to organize his brothers far more than any other chief or warrior ever had. Sadly, his dream died with him.
Sitting Bull- Sitting Bull was the most impactful figure in the Great Sioux War. He saw a vision of US Army Soldiers “as thick as grasshoppers” that were falling in a Lakota camp. He interpreted this vision as imminent victory and three weeks later, he defeated the US army in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Despite this incredible victory, he lost the war and fled to the Canadian Territories. Before the Great Sioux War, he participated in Red Cloud’s War.
Chief Joseph- Chief Joseph was the leader of the Nez Perce tribe during the time period when they were being removed from their land in Oregon. The Nez Perce, and the war named for them, received far more sympathy from the American people than many of the other “Indian Wars”. The battles they fought were highly skillful on their end, earning them respect alongside sympathy. Eventually, despite their better tactical plans, they were outnumbered and evaded the US Army all the way to Canada to join Sitting Bull.
Standing bear- Standing Bear is the only non-military hero on this list: he helped his people by getting judicial rights for them under the law. He successfully argued in an Omaha court that Native Americans were persons within the meaning of the law.
Black Elk, Spotted Elk, Wovoka- These three were leaders of the Ghost Dance Movement. This was a Native American tribal dance that the spiritual leaders believed would drive out the white man and bring Native Americans back to their traditional way of life. Even though the movement was only a dance, US soldiers still felt the need to crush it at the “battle” of wounded knee. In reality it was a massacre of innocent men, women, and children.
Lozen- Lozen was a powerful female warrior in the Apache wars at the time of Geronimo. She was considered a prophet, and it was said that she had a supernatural power to be able to learn the strategy of her enemy on the battlefield.
Metacom- Metacom was the earliest of the Native American resisters. He tried at first to live in peace with the settlers, but when they became violent in pursuit of taking his land, he turned against them. He waged war for a long time until he was eventually defeated and taken captive.
Osceola- Osceola was a Seminole warrior in the second Seminole War. He was an influential leader and helped his nation until the US captured him by making him believe they wanted a truce.