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The great leaders of the original American's often were referred to as a "Chief" by the white newcomers who's culture involved a rigid political structure.  In actuality the chief led his people in the conservation of their customs, traditions and religion.  With the incursion of the European the chief also assumed the "executive powers" typically associated with Eurocentric political structures that included treaty negotiations.

Here is a brief profile of some of the great American Indian leaders.


(1821–1871) was a famous Navajo political and spiritual leader. His name means poorly groomed child in Spanish. He also was known as Hastiin Dághaaʼ, Hastiin Daagi, Bistłahałání, and Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí Naatʼááh. Barboncito was born into the Maʼiideeshgiizhnii clan about 1820 and was a brother to Delgadito.

He was the signer of several treaties between the United States and Navajos, including one in 1846, and was listed as Chief on the treaty of 1868 that ended the Long Walk. Of all the Navajos of his time, Barboncito is probably most responsible for the long-term success of the Navajo culture and relations with non-Navajos.

Buffalo Hump

born ca. late 1790s to early 19th century — died 1870) was a Native American War Chief of the Penateka band of the Comanche Indians. His Nʉmʉ tekwapu (Comanche) name, properly transliterated, was Po-cha-na-quar-hip which meant "erection that won't go down".[1][2] He came to prominence after the Council House Fight when he led the Comanches on the Great Raid of 1840.
Chief Joseph

Nez Perce (March 3, 1840 –
September 21, 1904),

He led his band during the most tumultuous period in their contemporary history when they were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Wallowa Valley by the United States federal government and forced to move northeast, onto the significantly reduced reservation in Lapwai, Idaho Territory. A series of events which culminated in episodes of violence led those Nez Perce who resisted removal including Joseph's band and an allied band of the Palouse tribe to take flight to attempt to reach political asylum, ultimately with the Sioux chief Sitting Bull in Canada.
Red Cloud

Red Cloud (Lakota: Maȟpíya Lúta), (1822 – December 10, 1909) was a war leader and a chief of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). He led as a chief from 1868 to 1909. One of the most capable Native American opponents the United States Army faced, he led a successful campaign in 1866–1868 known as Red Cloud's War over control of the Powder River Country in northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana.
Red Horse

Fought both Reno and Custer. He documented the battle of Little Bighorn in 1881 with 41 ledger drawings.

On June 25, 1876, Red Horse, a Minneconjou Lakota head chief, rode under Lamedeer into an unexpected fight with Lt. George Custer. In the ravines and on the ridges along the Little Bighorn River, Custer and his Gray Horse Troop met their fate.


eronimo (Mescalero-Chiricahua: Goyaałé [kòjàːɬɛ́] "one who yawns"; June 16, 1829 – February 17, 1909) was a prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache who fought against Mexico and the United States for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars. "Geronimo" was the name given to him during a battle with Mexican soldiers. His Chiricahua name is often rendered as Goyathlay or Goyahkla[2][3] in English.
Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf the Elder (Gui-pah-gho) (ca.1820–1879) was the last Principal Chief of the Kiowa tribe. He should not be confused with Lone Wolf II, a nephew named Mamay-day-te, nor Lone Wolf III, a young Kiowa boy whom he adopted. The "Indian Territory"—or the place called "Oklahoma"—is where the great Kiowa Chief named Lone Wolf, the Elder (Gui-pah-gho), lived. Prior to his death, Chief Dohauson (To-hauson), who unified and ruled the Kiowa for 33 years named his nephew Guipahgo (Lone Wolf) as his successor to become the Principal Chief of the Kiowa people. Lone Wolf the Elder belonged to the Ka-it-senko Koitsenko, the highest-ranking society consisting of ten men picked for bravery and was the most elite warrior society of the Kiowa. None was more respected or influential than Chief Lone Wolf, The Elder, better known to his people as Guipagho.[1]
Mangus Coloradas

Mangas Coloradas, or Dasoda-hae (“He Just Sits There”) (c.1793 – January 18, 1863), was an Apache tribal chief and a member of the Eastern Chiricahua nation, whose homeland stretched west from the Rio Grande to include most of what is present-day southwestern New Mexico. He was the father-in-law of Chief Cochise and is regarded by many historians to be one of the most important native American leaders of the 19th century due to his fighting achievements against Mexicans and Americans. The name Mangas Coloradas is the reception of his Apache nickname Kan-da-zis Tlishishen (“Red Shirt” or “Pink Shirt”) by Mexicans and is Spanish for Red Coloured Sleeves. A Bedonkohe (Bi-dan-ku - ‘In Front of the End People’, Bi-da-a-naka-enda - ‘Standing in front of the enemy’) by birth he married into the Copper Mines local group of the Chihenne and became also leader of the neighboring Mimbreño local group of the Chihenne.

Manuelito (1818–1893) was one of the principal war chiefs of the Diné people before, during and after the Long Walk Period. His name means Little Manuel in Spanish. He was born to the Bitʼahnii Clan, near the Bear's Ears in southeastern Utah about 1818. As any Navajo, he was known by different names depending upon context. He was Ashkii Diyinii (Holy Boy), Dahaana Baadaané (Son-in-Law of Late Texan), Hastiin Chʼilhaajiní ("Black Weeds") and as Nabááh Jiłtʼaa (War Chief, "Warrior Grabbed Enemy") to other Diné, and non-Navajo nicknamed him "Bullet Hole".

MOW-WAY (?–1886). Mow-way, a Comanche headman, was the leader of the Kotsoteka ("Buffalo-eater") band during their last years of dominance in West Texas. His name was thought to have meant Shaking Hand or Hand Shaker, but his son, Ti-so-yo, later claimed that it more accurately meant Push Aside.
Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker (ca. 1845 or 1852 – February 23, 1911) was Comanche/Scots-Irish from the Comanche band Noconis ("wanderers" or "travelers"), and emerged as the dominant figure, particularly after the 'Comanches' final defeat. The US appointed Quanah principal chief of the entire nation once the people had gathered on the reservation and later introduced general elections. Comanche chief, a leader in the Native American Church, and the last leader of the powerful Quahadi band before they surrendered their battle of the Great Plains and went to a reservation in Indian Territory. He was the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a European American, who had been kidnapped at the age of nine and assimilated into the tribe. Quanah Parker also led his people on the reservation, where he became a wealthy rancher and influential in Comanche and European American society. With seven wives and 25 children, Quanah had numerous descendants. Many people in Texas and Oklahoma claim him as an ancestor.
Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull (Lakota: Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake in Standard Lakota Orthography,[2] also nicknamed Slon-he or "Slow"; c. 1831 – December 15, 1890) was a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man who led his people as a tribal chief during years of resistance to United States government policies. Born near the Grand River in Dakota Territory, he was killed by Indian agency police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during an attempt to arrest him and prevent him from supporting the Ghost Dance movement.
Spotted Eagle

Spotted Eagle (WAMBLI GLESKA after his father) belonged to Tatanka Cesli (Bull Dung) band of Itazipcho (Sans Arc) subdivision, Sioux tribe. He was a fierce warrior, noted for his prowess and charm.
He was the principal chief of the Itazipcho, along chief Kill Eagle, at Little Big Horn, leading 180 warriors.
Shortly after the battle, he fled with Sitting Bull to Canada.
Then he came back to the USA, and he surrended to General Nelson Miles in 31 October 1880 at Standing Rock Agency (Montana) with his band (400 people).
In August 1881, with some others, he moved to Cheyenne River Agency, where he was still included in the census of 1886. Dates of his birth and death are unknown.

Victorio (Bidu-ya, Beduiat; ca. 1825–October 14, 1880) was a warrior and chief of the Chihenne band of the Chiricahua Apaches in what is now the American states of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua.

Chief Washakie (c. 1798[1] – February 20, 1900) was a renowned warrior first mentioned in 1840 in the written record of the American fur trapper, Osborne Russell. In 1851, at the urging of trapper Jim Bridger, Washakie led a band of Shoshones to the council meetings of the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851). Essentially from that time until his death, he was considered the head of the Eastern Shoshones by the representatives of the United States government.[1]
Wooden Lance

Wooden Lance (A'PEAH'TONE) was born in 1860 in Kiowa tribe. Nephew of famous chief Lone Wolf. He travelled to north, with shaman High Wolf, to investigate on the new religion called "Ghost Dance". They had high hopes of it until they arrived to the Wovoka's village. He returned back home to his people in February 1891 and he explained to them that the new religion would not be positive kind. In 1894, he visited Washington. He died in 1931, in Oklahoma Reservation.
Yellow Bear and Roman Nose

The first Yellow Bear was a prominent headman among the Tapisleca Tiyospaye (translated as the Spleen or Melt Band), one of the major divisions of the southern Oglala Lakota. He accompanied the first Oglala delegation to Washington, D.C. in 1870. By the following year, Colonel John E. Smith rated the size of this leader’s village at about 40 lodges, one of the largest family groups within the Tapisleca Band. Yellow Bear was murdered in 1872 near Fort Laramie during a fight with the controversial white trader John Richard Jr.[1]

Hook Nose (Cheyenne: Vóhko'xénéhe,[1] also spelled Woqini and Woquini), better known as Roman Nose (c. 1823 - September 17, 1868), was a Native American of the Northern Cheyenne, and possibly the greatest and most influential warrior during the Plains Indian War of the 1860s. Born during the prosperous days of the fur trade in the 1820s, he was called Sautie (Bat) as a youth. He later took the warrior name Hook Nose, which the whites interpreted as Roman Nose.