John Woodenlegs

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John Woodenlegs
Northern Cheyenne leader
Personal details
Born 12 November 1909
Died December 1981

John Woodenlegs (12 November 1909 - December 1981 in Billings, Montana) was an author, educator, and the tribal president of the Northern Cheyenne from 1955 to 1968.[1] In 1975, he founded Chief Dull Knife College, a community college located in Lame Deer, Montana.[2]

Woodenlegs was the grandson of Wooden Leg, who fought against General George A. Custer’s troops at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.[3] During his life, Woodenlegs also worked as a cowboy, road worker, coal miner and rancher. He was also the first American Indian to receive an honorary degree from the University of Montana.[1]

Whitney Smith, a U.S. vexillologist, credits Woodenlegs with having designed the flag of the Northern Cheyenne, which was approved for display in 1964.[4] In 1967, Woodenlegs was the sole American Indian member of the National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty convened by President Lyndon B. Johnson.[3]

A quote from Woodenlegs appears in Going Rogue by Sarah Palin, though she mistakenly attributes it to basketball coach John Wooden.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Elder Stories: Dr. John Woodenlegs, Northern Cheyenne Visionary". Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  2. ^ Author biography of John Woodenlegs Archived 2009-11-23 at the Wayback Machine. at University of Oklahoma Press
  3. ^ a b "Famous Cheyenne Indians". Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  4. ^ Northern Cheyenne; at CRW Flags; by Michael Smuda; published January 7, 1999; retrieved December 24, 2013
  5. ^ Palin Book Attributes Leftist Native-American's Quote to UCLA's John Wooden, at Politics Daily; by David Sessions; published December 1, 2009; archived on December 3, 2009; retrieved March 4, 2017