An Unexpected Indian in Unexpected Places
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Searching out Thunderwater’s true identity, Reid documents Thunderwater's life from his birth in 1865, as Oghema Niagara, through his turns as a performer of Indian identity and, alternately, as a dedicated advocate of Indian rights. After nearly a decade as an entertainer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Thunderwater became progressively more engaged in Haudenosaunee political affairs—first in New York and then in Quebec and Ontario. As Reid shows, Thunderwater’s advocacy for Haudenosaunee sovereignty sparked alarm within Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs, which moved forcefully to discredit Thunderwater and dismantle his movement.
Self-promoter, political activist, entrepreneur: Reid’s critical study reveals Thunderwater in all his contradictions and complexity—a complicated man whose story expands our understanding of Native life in the early modern era, and whose movement represents a key moment in the development of modern Haudenosaunee nationalism.
“In this fascinating detective-like story, Gerald F. Reid shows that Thunderwater was of American Indian ancestry, that he was an early leader in the Indian community in Cleveland, that he represented the interests of Seneca chiefs and clan mothers, and that he had leadership qualities respected by Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada. Chief Thunderwater is an excellent study.”—Laurence M. Hauptman, author of Coming Full Circle: The Seneca Nation of Indians, 1848–1934
“Reid’s book sheds important new light on an understudied chapter of Haudenosaunee history. He credits Thunderwater for playing a key role in revitalizing the nascent Haudenosaunee nationalism of the late nineteenth century in Canada and identifies his movement as providing a vital bridge between that prior era and the subsequent versions of twentieth-century activism supporting Haudenosaunee sovereignty…this book is highly recommended as an accessible, compelling account of a fascinating individual’s life.”— American Indian Culture and Research Journal
“Reid has produced an exceptionally well-researched biography of a somewhat controversial but also largely ignored Indigenous advocate for tribal self-determination in early twentieth-century United States and Canada. Long derided as a fraud and consigned to the fringes of history as a result, Thunderwater’s reputation is now at least partially restored—personal controversies notwithstanding—as a result of Reid’s fair, compelling, and exceptionally well-researched biography.”—Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal