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Chief Thunderwater: An Unexpected Indian in Unexpected Places. by Gerald F. Reid

Porter, Joy



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.

Journal Article Type Book Review
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2023
Online Publication Date Jan 14, 2023
Publication Date Jan 14, 2023
Deposit Date Feb 2, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 15, 2024
Journal Western Historical Quarterly
Print ISSN 0043-3810
Electronic ISSN 1939-8603
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number whad027
Keywords History
Public URL


Accepted article (122 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Western Historical Quarterly following peer review. The version of record Joy Porter, Chief Thunderwater: An Unexpected Indian in Unexpected Places. by Gerald F. Reid, Western Historical Quarterly, 2023;, whad027, is available online at:

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