On June 11, 1950, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an obituary under the bold headline “Chief Thunderwater, Famous in Cleveland 50 Years, Dies.” And there, it seems, the consensus on Thunderwater ends. Was he, as many say, a con artist and an imposter posing as an Indian who lead a political movement that was a cruel hoax? Or was he a Native activist who worked tirelessly and successfully to promote Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, sovereignty in Canada? The truth about this enigmatic figure, so long obscured by vying historical narratives, emerges clearly in Gerald F. Reid’s biography, Chief Thunderwater—the first full portrait of a central character in twentieth-century Iroquois history.
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