Portal:Indigenous peoples of North America/Selected biography

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The following selected biographies appear on the portal.


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Louis Riel.jpg

Louis David Riel (English /ˈl rˈɛl/, French pronunciation: ​[lwi ʁjɛl]; 22 October 1844 – 16 November 1885) was a Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba, and a political and spiritual leader of the Métis people of the Canadian prairies. He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government and its first post-Confederation prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Riel sought to preserve Métis rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence. He is regarded by many today as a Canadian folk hero.

The first resistance was the Red River Rebellion of 1869–1870. The provisional government established by Riel ultimately negotiated the terms under which the modern province of Manitoba entered the Canadian Confederation. Riel was forced into exile in the United States due to the controversial execution of Thomas Scott during the rebellion. Despite this, he is frequently referred to as the "Father of Manitoba". While a fugitive, he was elected three times to the Canadian House of Commons, although he never assumed his seat. During these years, he was frustrated by having to remain in exile despite his growing belief that he was a divinely chosen leader and prophet, a belief which would later resurface and influence his actions. He married in 1881 while in exile in Montana, and fathered three children.

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Johnson Hall, Molly Brant's home from 1763 to 1774.

Molly Brant (c.1736 – April 16, 1796), also known as Mary Brant, Konwatsi'tsiaienni, and Degonwadonti, was a prominent Mohawk woman in the era of the American Revolution. Living in the Province of New York, she was the consort of Sir William Johnson, the influential British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, with whom she had eight children. Joseph Brant, who became an important Mohawk leader, was her younger brother.

After Johnson's death in 1774, Brant and her children returned to her native village of Canajoharie on the Mohawk River. A Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War, she fled to British Canada, where she worked as an intermediary between British officials and the Iroquois. After the war, she settled in what is now Kingston, Ontario. In recognition of her service to the Crown, the British government gave Brant a pension and compensated her for her wartime losses.

Since 1994, Brant has been honored as a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada. She was long ignored or disparaged by historians of the United States, but scholarly interest in her increased in the late 20th century. She has sometimes been controversial, criticized for being pro-British at the expense of the Iroquois. A devout Anglican, she is commemorated on April 16 in the calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church (USA). No portraits of her are known to exist; an idealized likeness is featured on a statue in Kingston and on a Canadian stamp issued in 1986.

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Geronimo

Geronimo (Chiricahua: Goyaałé, "one who yawns"; often spelled Goyathlay or Goyahkla in English) (June 16, 1829 – February 17, 1909) was a prominent Native American leader of the Chiricahua Apache who fought against Mexico and the United States for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars.

Goyahkla (Geronimo) was born to the Bedonkohe band of the Apache, near Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Gila River in the modern-day state of New Mexico, then part of Mexico, but which his family considered Bedonkohe land. His grandfather (Mako) had been chief of the Bedonkohe Apache. He had three brothers and four sisters.

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Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society

Chief Buffalo (Ojibwe: Ke-che-waish-ke/Gichi-weshkiinh – "Great-renewer" or Peezhickee/Bizhiki – "Buffalo"; also French, Le Boeuf) (1759?-September 7, 1855) was an Ojibwa leader born at La Pointe in the Apostle Islands group of Lake Superior, in what is now northern Wisconsin, USA. Recognized as the principal chief of the Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwa) for nearly a half-century until his death in 1855, he led his nation into a treaty relationship with the United States Government signing treaties in 1825, 1826, 1837, 1842, 1847, and 1854. He was also instrumental in resisting the efforts of the United States to remove the Chippewa and in securing permanent reservations for his people near Lake Superior.

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Crazy Horse (Lakota: Tȟašúŋke Witkó in Standard Lakota Orthography, IPA:tχaʃʊ̃kɛ witkɔ), literally "His-Horse-Is-Crazy"; ca. 1840 – September 5, 1877) was a Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He took up arms against the U.S. Federal government to fight against encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876.

Four months after surrendering to U.S. troops under General Crook in May 1877, Crazy Horse was fatally wounded by a military guard, using his bayonet, while allegedly resisting imprisonment at Camp Robinson in present-day Nebraska. He ranks among the most notable and iconic of Native American tribal members and has been honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a 13¢ Great Americans series postage stamp.

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Francis Pegahmagabow shortly after World War I

Francis Pegahmagabow MM** (March 9, 1891 – August 5, 1952) was the First Nations soldier most highly decorated for bravery in Canadian military history and the most effective sniper of World War I. Three times awarded the Military Medal and seriously wounded, he was an expert marksman and scout, credited with killing 378 Germans and capturing 300 more. Later in life, he served as chief and a councilor for the Wasauksing First Nation, and as an activist and leader in several First Nations organizations. He corresponded with and met other noted aboriginal figures including Fred Loft, Jules Sioui, Andrew Paull and John Tootoosis.

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SE-QUO-YAH – a lithograph from History of the Indian Tribes of North America. This lithograph is from the portrait painted by Charles Bird King in 1828.

Sequoyah (ᏍᏏᏉᏯ Ssiquoya, as he signed his name, or ᏎᏉᏯ Se-quo-ya, as his name is often spelled today in Cherokee) (c. 1770–1840), named in English George Gist or George Guess, was a Cherokee silversmith. In 1821 he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was the only time in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people independently created an effective writing system. After seeing its worth, the people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. Their literacy rate quickly surpassed that of surrounding European-American settlers.

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Jim Thorpe

Jacobus Franciscus "Jim" Thorpe (Sac and Fox (Sauk): Wa-Tho-Huk, translated to Bright Path) (May 28, 1888 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete of mixed ancestry (mixed Caucasian and American Indian). Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won Olympic gold medals for the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football (collegiate and professional), and also played professional baseball and basketball. He lost his Olympic titles after it was found he was paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the amateurism rules. In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) restored his Olympic medals.

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PeterJonesInHistoryOfTheOjibwaWithReferenceToTheirConversion.png

Peter Jones (January 1, 1802 – June 29, 1856) was an Ojibwa Methodist minister, translator, chief and author from Burlington Heights, Upper Canada. His Ojibwa name was Kahkewāquonāby (Gakiiwegwanebi in the Fiero spelling), which means "[Sacred] Waving Feathers". In Mohawk, he was called Desagondensta, meaning "he stands people on their feet". In his youth his band of Mississaugas had been on the verge of destruction. As a preacher and a chieftain, as a role model and as a liaison to governments, his leadership helped his people survive contact with Europeans.

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Sitting Bull in 1885

Sitting Bull (Lakota: Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake in Standard Lakota Orthography, also nicknamed Slon-he or "Slow"; c. 1831 – December 15, 1890) was a Hunkpapa Lakota holy man who led his people as a tribal chief during years of resistance to United States government policies. He was killed by Indian agency police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during an attempt to arrest him, at a time when authorities feared that he would join the Ghost Dance movement.

Before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull had a vision in which he saw the defeat of the 7th Cavalry under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer on June 25, 1876. Sitting Bull's leadership inspired his people to a major victory. Months after their victory at the battle, Sitting Bull and his group left the United States for Wood Mountain, North-West Territories (now Saskatchewan), where he remained until 1881, at which time he and most of his band returned to US territory and surrendered to U.S. forces. A small remnant of his band under Chief Waŋblí Ǧí decided to stay at Wood Mountain.

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Mitchell Red Cloud.jpg

Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr. (2 July 1924 – 5 November 1950) was a Marine in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, and later a soldier in the United States Army during the Korean War. Corporal Red Cloud posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions near Chonghyon, North Pyongan Province, North Korea on 5 November 1950.

Red Cloud, a Ho-Chunk Native American, enlisted in the US Army shortly before the beginning of the Korean War. Serving with the 24th Infantry Division, he was among the troops who fought the first battles of the war, being pushed back with the 19th Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Taejon and the Battle of Pusan Perimeter. He was then a part of the Eighth United States Army advance into North Korea. On the night of 5 November 1950, Red Cloud was manning a forward observation post when he spotted an imminent surprise attack by Chinese forces. Red Cloud singlehandedly held off the Chinese forces despite being shot eight times, at one point ordering his men to tie him to a tree because he was too weak to stand by himself. His company found him the next morning, surrounded by dead Chinese troops. He was credited with alerting his company to the ambush and saving them from being overrun. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Peltier in 1972, from FBI poster

Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is a Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). In 1977 he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first degree murder in the shooting of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Peltier's indictment and conviction have been the subject of much controversy; Amnesty International placed his case under the "Unfair Trials" category of its Annual Report: USA 2010.

Peltier is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida. Peltier's next scheduled parole hearing will be in July 2024. Barring appeals, parole or presidential pardon, his projected release date is October 11, 2040.

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Sainte-Marie in 1970

Buffy Sainte-Marie, OC (born February 20, 1941) is a Canadian-American Cree singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. Throughout her career in all of these areas, her work has focused on issues of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Her singing and writing repertoire also includes subjects of love, war, religion, and mysticism.

She founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project, an educational curriculum devoted to better understanding Native Americans. She has won recognition and many awards and honours for both her music and her work in education and social activism.

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Ishi portrait.jpg

Ishi (c. 1860 – March 25, 1916) was the last member of the Yahi, a group of the Yana people of the U.S. state of California. Widely acclaimed in his time as the "last wild Indian" in America, Ishi lived most of his life completely outside modern culture. At about 49 years of age, in 1911, he emerged from "the wild" near Oroville, California, leaving his ancestral homeland, present-day Tehama County, near the foothills of Lassen Peak, known to Ishi as Wa ganu p'a.

Ishi means "man" in the Yana language. The anthropologist Alfred Kroeber gave this name to the man because it was rude to ask someone's name in the Yahi culture. When asked his name, he said: "I have none, because there were no people to name me," meaning that no Yahi had ever spoken his name. He was taken in by anthropologists at the University of California, who both studied him and hired him as a research assistant. He lived most of his remaining five years in a university building in San Francisco.

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Portrait engraving by Simon de Passe, 1616

Pocahontas (born Matoaka, known as Amonute, and later known as Rebecca Rolfe, c. 1595 – March 1617) was a Virginia Indian notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, the paramount chief of a network of tributary tribal nations in the Tsenacommacah, encompassing the Tidewater region of Virginia. In a well-known historical anecdote, she is said to have saved the life of an Indian captive, Englishman John Smith, in 1607 by placing her head upon his own when her father raised his war club to execute him.

Pocahontas was captured by the English during Anglo-Indian hostilities in 1613, and held for ransom. During her captivity, she converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. When the opportunity arose for her to return to her people, she chose to remain with the English. In April 1614, she married tobacco planter John Rolfe, and in January 1615, bore him a son, Thomas Rolfe. Pocahontas's marriage to Rolfe was the first recorded interracial marriage in North American history.

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"Sacagawea" (1910), North Dakota State Capitol, Leonard Crunelle, sculptor.

Sacagawea (/ˌsækəəˈwə/ see below; c. 1788 – December 20, 1812; see here for other theories about her death), also Sakakawea or Sacajawea, was a Lemhi Shoshone woman, who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, acting as an interpreter and guide, in their exploration of the Western United States. She traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean between 1804 and 1806.

She has become an important part of the Lewis and Clark legend in the American public imagination. The National American Woman Suffrage Association of the early twentieth century adopted her as a symbol of women's worth and independence, erecting several statues and plaques in her memory, and doing much to spread the story of her accomplishments.

In 2000, the United States Mint issued the Sacagawea dollar coin in her honor, depicting Sacagawea and her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. The face on the coin was modeled on a modern Shoshone-Bannock woman named Randy'L He-dow Teton. No contemporary image of Sacagawea exists.

In 2001, she was given the title of Honorary Sergeant, Regular Army, by then-president Bill Clinton.

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Porfirio diaz.jpg

José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori (Spanish pronunciation: [porˈfiɾjo ˈðias]; 15 September 1830 – 2 July 1915) was a Mexican mestizo soldier and politician, who served seven terms as President of Mexico, totaling nearly three decades between 1876 and 1911. A veteran of the Reform War and the French intervention in Mexico, Díaz rose to the rank of General, leading republican troops against the French-imposed Emperor Maximilian. Seizing power in a coup in 1876, Díaz and his allies ruled Mexico for the next thirty-five years, a period known as the Porfiriato.

Díaz is a controversial figure in Mexican history, with the status of villain among the revolutionaries who overthrew him, and something of a hero in the business community. The Porfiriato was marked by significant internal stability (known as the "paz porfiriana"), modernization, and economic growth. There was heavy investment in mining and railways from American and British business. However, Díaz's regime grew unpopular due to repression and political stagnation, and he fell from power during the Mexican Revolution, after he imprisoned his electoral rival and declared himself the winner of an eighth term in office. Díaz fled to France, where he died in exile four years later.

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Moctezuma II in the Codex Mendoza

Moctezuma II (c. 1466 – 29 June 1520), also known by a number of variant spellings including Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Moctezuma the Young), was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlan, reigning from 1502 to 1520. The first contact between indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica and Europeans took place during his reign, and he was killed during the initial stages of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when Conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men fought to escape from the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.

During his reign the Aztec Empire reached its maximal size. Through warfare, Moctezuma expanded the territory as far south as Xoconosco in Chiapas and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and incorporated the Zapotec and Yopi people into the empire. He changed the previous meritocratic system of social hierarchy and widened the divide between pipiltin (nobles) and macehualtin (commoners) by prohibiting commoners from working in the royal palaces.

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Juan Diego


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