The first evidence showing indigenous peoples inhabiting North America indicates that they migrated here from Siberia over 11,000 years ago. They lived here in peace and prosperity until around the early seventeenth century when Europeans first arrived and brought with them their own civilization and culture. Unfortunately, today Native Americans only account for about 1.5 percent of the US population and few records remain of their rich and varied history. From Squanto, interpreter to the pilgrims in the new world to John Herrington, the first tribally enrolled Native American Indian astronaut, these are 25 great Native Americans That Helped Define History.
Wilma Mankiller worked for several years as a leading advocate for the Cherokee people, and became the first woman to serve as their principal chief in 1985. After leaving office, Mankiller remained an activist for Native American’s and women’s rights until her death on April 6, 2010, in Adair County, Oklahoma.
Touch the Clouds
Born around 1836 in present-day South Dakota, Touch the Clouds was son of Chief Lone Horn and (his mother) Stands on the Ground, and brother to Chief Big Foot. He stood at about seven feet tall and was known for his incredible strength and skill on the battlefield. He became the chief of the Minneconjou Teton Lakota and kept his position until his death on September 5, 1905.
The Mohawk Indian chief Thayendanegea, also known as Joseph Brant, served as a spokesman for his people, a Christian missionary of the Anglican church, and a British military officer during the American War of Independence. He is remembered for his efforts in unifying upper New York Indian tribes and leading them in terrorizing raids against patriot communities, in support of Great Britain’s efforts to repress the rebellion. He is also credited with the establishment of the Indian reservation on the Grand River in Canada where the neighboring town of Brantford, Ontario, bears his name.
Tecumseh took part in a series of raids of Kentucky and Tennessee frontier settlements in the 1780s, and emerged as a prominent chief by 1800. Tecumseh transformed his brother’s religious followers into a political movement, leading to the foundation of the Prophetstown settlement in 1808. After Prophetstown was destroyed during the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Shawnee chief fought with pro-British forces in the War of 1812 until his death in the Battle of the Thames.
Squanto, also known as Tisquantum, was a Native American of the Patuxet tribe who acted as an interpreter and guide to the Pilgrims during their first winter in the New World. Interestingly, in 1614 Squanto was one of the first Native Americans to travel to Europe (albeit against his will) when he was kidnapped by English explorer Thomas Hunt, who brought him to Spain, where he was sold into slavery. Squanto escaped, eventually returning to North America in 1619, where, as noted above, he aided the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth until his death in 1622.