Here are the 6 Most Powerful Native American Chiefs and Leaders

They were among the bravest warriors in all of history

For those of us who live in America, we have heard about many heroes from our history. Sadly, the same cannot be said in regards to the heroes of Native American history. There are too many in the United States who know very little about these amazing Native American heroes.

With that said, let us examine and honor some of the most notable Native Americans ’ great chiefs and leaders.



As one of the more famous Native American chiefs, Geronimo was originally a medicine man who hailed from the Bedonkohe family of the Chiricahua tribe. He was born in 1829 and became integrated into the Apache way of life very quickly.

While still a boy, Geronimo swallowed the heart of a kill he made during a hunting trip. And by the age of 18, he had led four separate raids. Like his people, he suffered greatly from the “civilized” people that had invaded their territory.

The Mexicans, who had controlled the lands around his tribe, brutally murdered his wife and three young children. Even though he passionately hated Americans, he had a deep-seated hatred for the Mexican people for the rest of his life.

In the year 1848, Mexico surrendered control of a large region of land that included Apache territories, because of the Treaty Agreement of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This sparked constant conflicts among the tribes who resided on those lands and the new Americans that kept trying to settle there.

As with many various tribes, Geronimo and his people were eventually removed from the land of their ancestors. They were subsequently put on barren land located in Arizona that was referred to as a reservation. This great leader resented this outcome very deeply.

Over the next decade, he led many breakouts from the reservation and was constantly chased by the US Army. His celebrity grew because of his daring escapes, much to the delight of people who were enamored by the Wild West.

His surrender came on September 4, 1886. Before his death, Geronimo pled to President Theodore Roosevelt to allow his tribe to return home but was unsuccessful in persuading the American leader. He later died in 1909 from an accident with his horse.

Crazy Horse

crazy horse

Crazy Horse was an honorable warrior from the Oglala Sioux. Historians believe he was born in South Dakota in the year 1840. Legend tells us that his unique name was given to him by his father because of his fighting skills.

While tensions among the Americans and the Sioux had greatly increased from the time of his birth, they boiled over when he was a young teenager. In August 1854, the Sioux chief known as Conquering Bear was murdered by a soldier. To avenge this death, Sioux tribesmen massacred a commanding officer and 30 soldiers in what is now known as the Grattan Massacre.

Using his amazing skills and knowledge as a guerilla fighter, Crazy Horse became a huge problem for the US Army. They stopped at nothing in forcing the Sioux tribe onto reservations. The most famous battle in which Crazy Horse participated was the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where General Custer and his men were routed.

However, Crazy Horse was forced to surrender in the following year. The scorched-earth approach of the US Army, something that his tribe could not overcome. While being held captive, Crazy Horse was supposedly stabbed to death while planning an escape.

Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle

Born in 1790, Chief Seattle hailed from the beautiful state of Washington and resided near Puget Sound. He was such a powerful leader that he was chief of two different tribes. Initially, he was very peaceful as settlers started arriving in his region throughout the 1850s.

The settlers even established a colony at Elliot Bay and named it after Chief Seattle. But many local tribes resented the Americans for this invasion of their lands. As a result, violent conflicts began to erupt and eventually escalated to a full-blown attack on the colony of Seattle.

Chief Seattle had suspected that these new settlers would eventually drive his people out, but he was quick to point out that violence would only hasten the process. This great chief even converted to Christianity and was a devout follower until his death. To respectfully acknowledge the great chief’s traditional faith, the people of Seattle paid a small tax to continue using his name for their city.



Very little is known about the childhood and early life of one of the greatest Apache chiefs to have ever lived. No one knows the exact year that he was born. He was a very tall man for his day, standing around 6 feet tall, which was very imposing during those days.

As the powerful leader of his Chiricahua tribe, Cochise led his men on numerous raids, sometimes against the Mexicans and sometimes against the Americans. Yet it was those attacks against the Americans that proved to be his doom.

In 1861, a raiding force that came to a different Apache tribe kidnapped a small child. Cochise’s tribe was eventually blamed for the kidnapping by an inexperienced officer of the US Army. Even though they were innocent, an attempt was made to arrest these Apaches, who had come to talk peacefully.

Unfortunately, things end violently, and one man was killed. Cochise managed to escape the meeting tent by cutting a hole through the side.

More violence took place as both sides conducted executions and torture, and the violence appeared to have no end. But the Civil War had begun, and the Apache was suddenly left alone in Arizona for the time being.

However, about a year later, the Army had reappeared with howitzers and began destroying all the tribes that were still fighting. For nearly a decade, Cochise and his warriors remained hidden in the mountains, raiding when needed and avoiding capture. Cochise finally accepted a generous offer for a large portion of Arizona in a reservation. He later became quite ill and died in 1874.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull was not only a powerful chief, but he was also a holy man. Born in 1831, he came from the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe in South Dakota. He became a great warrior early on as he went out on his first raid at only 14 years of age.

His first encounter with US troops took place in 1863. He later became chief of all the Lakota in 1868 because of his amazing bravery. Over the next decade, countless small conflicts occurred between the Lakota and US troops. It was in 1874 that a full-blown war broke out between the two because gold was discovered in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota.

In reality, these sacred lands were supposed to be off-limits to white people under an earlier treaty. Because of greed, the US continually ignored the treaty and repeatedly attempted to buy the land from the Lakota nation.

It was through these increasing tensions that led to the previously mentioned Battle of the Little Bighorn. After the famous battle took place, more and more US armies came to the region. Several tribes were forced to surrender, but Sitting Bull escaped to Canada.

Due to starvation and other horrific conditions, a hasty agreement was made with the US, which put the Lakota in a reservation. When people heard that Sitting Bull later became part of a religious movement that used the Ghost Dance, which was a ceremony that would rid all their lands of white people, orders were given to arrest him.

Later, a gunfight erupted between law enforcement and Sitting Bull along with his supporters. It was during this melee that Sitting Bull was shot in the head and died.

Mangas Coloradas

Mangas Coloradas

As the father-in-law of Cochise and maybe the most influential chief of the 1800s, Mangas Coloradas was a powerful Apache. Born right before the turn of the eighteenth century, he was a tall man and became the leader of the tribe in 1837, right after the death of his predecessor.

The previous chief had died along with many others after Mexico offered cash for Native American scalps — no questions asked. Mangas Coloradas refused to allow such atrocities to go unpunished. He and his warriors began wreaking havoc and killed every single citizen in a local town called Santa Rita.

When the US later declared war against Mexico, Mangas Coloradas saw them as saviors of his people and signed a treaty allowing American soldiers to pass through Apache land. But, like a broken record, the treaty was quickly broken upon the discovery of gold and silver on their lands.

In 1863, the US hoisted a truce flag as they attempted to make peace with the great leader. But they ended up betraying him, and then killed him under the pretense that he tried to escape. And if that wasn’t enough, they mutilated his body afterward.

A blood nephew of Geronimo named Asa Daklugie said later that the heinous act against Mangas Coloradas with the last straw. And they proceeded to mutilate every white person who crossed their paths.

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