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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CHIEF THUNDERWATER - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CHIEF THUNDERWATER (10 Sept. 1865-10 June 1950), whose Indian name was Oghema Niagara, was a native American Indian chief who worked to preserve his people's rights and culture, and improve their welfare and image among white Americans. Born on the Tuscarora Indian reservation near Lewistown, N.Y. to Au-Paw-CheeKaw-Paw-qua (Woman-Whose-Name-Shall-Never-Die), an Osaukee, and Jee-wan-gah, a Seneca, little is known about him between 1875-1910 when he apparently appeared in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West shows for about 9 years. He began working for AMERICAN INDIANS after 1883. In the early 1900s Niagara settled in Cleveland; becoming president of the Preservative Cleaner Co., manufacturers of polish; and selling his own Thunderwater's Mohawk Oil, for rheumatism and arthritis, and Jee-wan-ga tea.

On 10 Mar. 1917, Niagara helped incorporate the Supreme Council of the Tribes, a revival of the League of the Confederacy of Iroquois Nations, formed to assist Indians, promote their welfare and legally protect their right, and teach of temperance and education. As chief of the Supreme Council, Niagara operated "the Council Sanctuary" in his home at his own expense, housing, feeding, clothing, and providing medical attention for hundreds of destitute and sick Indians and persons of all races.

Niagara's efforts to educate white Americans included being an active in the EARLY SETTLERS ASSN. OF THE WESTERN RESERVE, appearing at public ceremonies in full headdress, and holding an annual ceremony at the grave of JOC-O-SOT in the ERIE ST. CEMETERY. Niagara remained active until ca. 1942, when illness forced him to give up many public appearances.

Niagara was married once; his wife's name is not known. He had one son, Louis Keokuk. Niagara died in Cleveland and was buried in the ERIE ST. CEMETERY.

Chief Thunderwater Papers, WRHS.

Last Modified: 11 Jul 1997 01:18:05 PM

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