Chief Blackbird

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Photo: Nebraska Tourism 

It was on August 11, 1804 when the two captains and 10 men ascended Blackbird Hill to honor the former Omaha chief. At his grave they placed a white flag bordered in white, red, and blue.

Unlike some of the other Omaha leaders, Chief Blackbird befriended French traders who came to his village in the late 1700s. He saw many advantages in peaceful contact and, under his strong rule, the Omahas rose to prominence on the eastern plains.

But in the winter of 1799-1800, his and other bands of Omahas caught smallpox from the white visitors. Chief Blackbird and 400 men, women and children of his village died in the epidemic. According to Gary Moulton, in volume 2 of “The Definitive Journals of Lewis and Clark,” legend has it that the chief was buried seated on the back of his horse, on the hilltop he used to watch for the coming of his friends the traders.

Blackbird Hill is on the Omaha Indian Reservation near Decatur, Nebraska, about 35 miles south of Sioux City, Iowa.



Last updated: April 30, 2019