Monday, September 10, 2012

Who Was Chief Two Guns?

If you've ever been to the Many Glacier area, chances are you're familiar with Chief Two Guns, the tour boat that cruises the waters of Swiftcurrent Lake. Many people take the boat to shorten their hikes up to Grinnell Glacier or Grinnell Lake:

However, many people may not be aware that Chief Two Guns was a real person.

Born in 1872, Chief Two Guns White Calf was the son of White Calf, who was known as the last tribal chief of the Pikuni Blackfeet, and was responsible for many of the Blackfoot Tribe's treaties, including the sale of lands that would become Glacier National Park.

After the death of his father in 1902, Two Guns became a tribal leader, and would arguably become one of the most famous Native Americans in the 20th century. One of his claims to fame is that he was a model for the Indian Head nickel, more commonly referred to as the Buffalo nickel. Actually, he was among a couple of models that were used to create a composite image of an Indian, or maybe not.

The famous five-cent piece, designed by sculptor James Fraser, was issued by the U.S. Mint from 1913 to 1938. Fraser claimed to have used Iron Tail, Two Moons, "and one or two others". Fraser would later write that he had used three Indians for the piece, including "Irontail, the best Indian head I can remember. The other one was Two Moons, the other I cannot recall." However, Chief Two Guns always claimed he was the other model, and based on what I've read there was much controversy, or even conspiracy, as to why he was never given credit as being the third model.

Below is a short video from a 1926 Fulton Petroleum business film in which Chief Two Guns appears. You be the judge as to whether he was one of the models:

Hikes in Glacier National Park


  1. Jeff:
    You might find my article on Two Guns interesting, as it discusses his supposed connection to the buffalo nickel and how it was a fabrication of the Great Northern Railway's Louis Hill and his publicity department.

  2. Ray - great article! You definitely shined some more light on this subject. Thanks for taking the time to give us a link to your story!


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