Make your own free website on

Chief - In many tribes the title of chief was inherited.  In others it could be won only by brave acts or by wealth and influence.  The Iroquois had chiefs who were given office as a reward for some great deed.  These were known as "the solitary pine trees," and when they died the office was not filled.  A chief had no legal status and obedience to him was voluntary.

There were several grades of chiefs, who were organized into a tribal council.  Many tribes had peacetime, or civil chiefs, who had to resign their offices if they wished to follow the war chief into battle.  Each clan had a chief, and this office remained in the clan or family, the descent usually traced through the mother.  Each wandering band also had its own chief.  In some tribes, mainly those of the Plains, a courageous and wealthy warrior might proclaim himself chief.

In confederations the head man usually was known as "head chief," but where the confederation was powerful the man might be known as "king" or "emperor."  The English frequently gave these Indian chiefs such royal titles.  It was only the Natchez who had a ruler, "The Great Sun," who actually was what might be termed a king.

Related Information within this Site
[ Natchez ][ Powwow ][ Sachem ][ Tribe ]