Gripping, freshly unearthed research often reads like a detective story. This example of superb sleuthing is no exception. Gerald Reid has taken a second look at a figure buried under narratives from the past and gifted to readers a revealing, painstakingly supported and nuanced version of his story. Anyone interested in the political history of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois/Six Nations Confederacy) across the northeastern region, or in the battles over status and identity that have always been central to the assertion of Indian rights, or in well-told histories of personal and political Indigenous resilience and resistance, will find this book fascinating.
Reid has applied Philip Deloria’s injunction in his 2004 text Indians in Unexpected Places that we must resist the force of stereotype and look for “secret histories’ of Indian presences within modernity. This has led him to see beyond the “dirty tricks” campaign the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs orchestrated against Chief Thunderwater (1865–1950) that depicted him as a non-Indigenous Black man and as an imposter out for personal gain. Reid makes a persuasive case for Thunderwater being a longterm Native advocate who worked to improve the rights and image of Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada. He helped Seneca and Tuscarora people in Buffalo and on reservations in western New York State and in 1914 established The Council of the Tribes, a Cleveland-based pan-tribal Indigenous rights and self-help organization.
Porter, J. (2023). Chief Thunderwater: An Unexpected Indian in Unexpected Places. by Gerald F. Reid. Western Historical Quarterly, Article whad027. https://doi.org/10.1093/whq/whad027