FAN NEWS

The 20 Greatest Native American DC Heroes

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

Nov. 29, 2019

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Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday in the last week of November. Since 2008, the last Friday of the month is officially recognized as Native American Heritage Day in the United States of America. It’s a day when we are all encouraged to take time and examine the impact, history, and culture of the hundreds of native nations who continue to inhabit this land. After all, any depiction of America without recognition of its native people would be woefully incomplete. And because the DC Universe has always been particularly invested in American iconography, a great number of Native American heroes from across many diverse, unique nations have emerged to fight for the cause of justice. In recognition, we’ve compiled a rundown of 20 of the greatest Native American heroes in the DCU.

 

 

OHIYESA “POW-WOW” SMITH

 

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Nation: Sioux

First Appearance: Detective Comics #151, 1949

Recommended Reading: Robin Annual #6

 

Ohiyesa Smith was created as a clever inversion of the common Western trope of a white settler embedding himself in a Native tribe: rather, this early comic book hero was of the Sioux nations himself, laying down the law as an unlikely U.S. Marshal who had to fight for respect at every turn. Sort of a Blazing Saddles, far ahead of its time. Years later, Tim Drake would meet up with Smith’s descendant, still following in his ancestor’s footsteps, to pursue the Trigger Twins into Gotham Gulch.

 

 

MAN-OF-BATS & RAVEN RED

 

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Nation: Lakota

First Appearance: Batman #86, 1954

Recommended Reading: Batman #667-669

 

A US war veteran, Man-of-Bats has been seen patrolling the Dakota plains since joining Batman’s “Club of Heroes” in the 1950s, along with his son and sidekick, Little Raven. Years later, a grown Little Raven, now operating under the name Raven Red, would represent his father in joining the ranks of Batman, Incorporated. Man-of-Bats himself is now retired from crime fighting, devoting his time to direct community activism.

 

 

BRAVE BOW

 

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Nation: Sioux/Navajo

First Appearance: Adventure Comics #262, 1959

Recommended Reading: Secret Origins #38

 

Brave Bow is a Native American chieftain who may have never fought crime directly, but played an essential role in the history of the Arrow family. Though referred to as Sioux in early appearances, later issues more reliably depicted him as a Navajo chief. Brave Bow was close friends with Roy Harper Sr., an Arizona forest ranger who was killed in the line of duty when his son, Roy Jr., was only three. Brave Bow took in young Roy Harper and raised him as his own — and while this has never been confirmed, many speculate that Roy’s mother may have originally been Navajo herself. It was with this family that Roy Harper learned to master archery, preparing him for the vigilante lifestyle with his future mentor Oliver Queen.

 

 

THE NAVAJO ACE (JOHNNY CLOUD)

 

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Nation: Navajo

First Appearance: All-American Men of War #82, 1960

Recommended Reading: Superman #8

 

Johnny Cloud was a high-flying member of The Losers, a hard luck troop that fought impossible odds behind enemy lines through the European combat theatre of World War II. Despite a lifetime of racial prejudice, Johnny Cloud rose through the ranks of the military to become one of the most respected and renowned combat pilots of his time. When flying into action, Johnny Cloud’s arrival was often symbolically heralded by the image of a stallion in the clouds — a sign that the Ace would soon be here to bail out his brothers-in-arms from certain doom.

 

 

SUPER-CHIEF

 

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Nation: Iroquois

First Appearance: All-Star Western #117, 1961

Recommended Reading: 52 #22-24

 

Canonically speaking, Super-Chief isn’t just a Native American Super Hero… he’s the FIRST American Super Hero. Dating back long before the arrival of Columbus, the title of Super-Chief was a mantle handed down from father to son to protect the Five Nations of Iroquois, with the assistance of the mystical Manitou Stone. The bearer of the Manitou Stone was imbued with “the strength of a thousand bears,” “speed that surpasses the fastest of deer,” and “jumping prowess that surpasses those of the wolf.” (Although it should be noted that “Manitou” is an Algonquian word, not Iroquois.) The tradition of the Super-Chief continued into the modern day, where its bearer Jon Standing Bear used its abilities to participate in an interim incarnation of the Justice League of America.

 

 

LITTLE SURE SHOT (LOUIS KIYAHANI)

 

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Nation: Apache

First Appearance: Our Army at War #127, 1962

Recommended Reading: Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy

 

Louis Kiyahani hustled through the trenches as a member of Sergeant Rock’s legendary Easy Company, taking on the toughest challenges the Axis had to offer American troops as the company’s designated crackshot sniper. Like many members of Easy Company, Kiyahani distinguished himself with a particular affectation - in his case, affixing red and white plumes of feathers to the side of his helmet. He was eventually succeeded by his grandson, Chad Kiyahani, as a member of the extraterrestrial and supernatural threat-battling Human Defense Corps.

 

 

APACHE CHIEF (TYE LONGSHADOW)

 

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Nation: Apache

First Appearance: Super Friends, “The Antidote” (1977)

Recommended Viewing: Young Justice: Invasion

 

Perhaps the most famous of all Native American Super Heroes, Apache Chief was one of several characters designed to diversify the ranks of TV’s Super Friends. With a cry of “inukchuk” -- a rather incongruous reference to the giant “inuksuk” figures sculpted by Canadian First Nation peoples -- Apache Chief was able to grow to tremendous heights, often squaring off against his Legion of Doom counterpart, Giganta. Years later, Apache Chief was reintroduced in Young Justice as fan-favorite Tye Longshadow, a conflicted teenage apache coming to terms with his metahuman powers, and a close friend to the Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes.

 

 

OWLWOMAN

 

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Nation: Cherokee

First Appearance: Super Friends #7, 1977

Recommended Reading: Justice League Europe #2-4

 

Before the rise of Justice League International, the first globalized super-team were the Global Guardians. Each member of the Guardians was a hero of a different nation, and the USA was represented by Owlwoman: a Native American woman from Oklahoma with the power of flight. Sometimes seen as an ally to Hawkman and Hawkwoman, Owlwoman was involved in a romantic relationship with the Irish Global Guardian, Jack O’Lantern.

 

 

DAWNSTAR

 

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Nation: Ancestral Puebloan

First Appearance: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #226, 1977

Recommended Reading: Legion Lost

 

An ancient Native American group and forerunners to the modern Pueblo, Dawnstar’s people disappeared from America long ago. In The Legion of Super-Heroes, we learn that Dawnstar’s people were abducted from Earth in the 13th century, and migrated to the far-off planet of Starhaven. In the 31st century, Dawnstar represents her people as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes as the greatest tracker in the known universe — with powers which allow her to travel unaided through space at faster-than-light speeds, and follow trails across lightyears of distance.

 

 

RAINMAKER

 

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Nation: Apache

First Appearance: StormWatch #8, 1994

Recommended Reading: Gen13

 

Sarah Rainmaker is a weather manipulating member of Gen13, a group of metahumans struggling with their powers and hormones as WildStorm’s premier team of teenage heroes. Rainmaker’s interests include flying, social justice, and an unrequited crush on her team leader, Caitlyn Fairchild. Eventually, Rainmaker was incorporated into The New 52 in The Movement, where she once again fraternized with her team leader, Virtue. Although that time, she would find much more success.

 

 

SENECA

 

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Nation: Seneca Iroquois

First Appearance: Justice League International #63, 1994

Recommended Reading: Justice League International #63-66

 

Possessing immense super strength, Seneca was one of a number of heroes from marginalized communities who were duped into joining the cause of the Immortal against the Justice League International. Seeing that he was once again merely being exploited by another enemy, Seneca eventually turned against his posturing savior to fight him alongside the Justice League. Seneca’s true identity and current whereabouts are unknown, but he surely must be out there somewhere continuing to fight the good fight.

 

 

CHINDI

 

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Nation: Navajo

First Appearance: Steel #17, 1995

Recommended Reading: Steel #17-19

 

Russell Wolf was a flying, force field projecting Navajo hero, who dedicated himself to pursuing John Henry Irons for the weapons of mass destruction he helped design before leaving that life behind him to pursue a career in justice and social reform. It took some time for Steel to convince Chindi that they were on the same side, but these two men of honor and conviction eventually saw eye to eye.

 

 

MANITOU RAVEN & MANITOU DAWN

 

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Nation: Ancestral Apache

First Appearance: JLA #66, 2002

Recommended Reading: JLA #66-100

 

Inspired by Apache Chief, the husband and wife crime fighting team of Manitou Raven and Manitou Dawn made their debut in Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke’s JLA. The couple actually rose to power thousands of years ago, dating back to the pre-sunken days of Atlantis as part of the people who would eventually become the Apache nation. (Although, once again, in the real world, the word “Manitou,” which refers to a revered spirit, is not part of Apache culture, but Algonquian.) Transported nearly 3,000 years into the future, the Maintous navigate culture shock as they aid the moden Justice League in their battles against a number of ancient evils — eventually joining forces with a splinter team, the Justice League Elite.

 

 

BLACK CONDOR (JOHN TRUJILLO)

 

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Nation: Navajo

First Appearance: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #3, 2006

Recommended Reading: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters

 

When Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti reinvented the patriotic Freedom Fighters in the mid-’00s, they sought to recreate them as a team which more accurately represented the American experience. As such, it would be an egregious oversight not to include a Native American in their ranks. So came the rise of John Trujillo, inhabiting the role of the Black Condor from his historically white predecessors. John Trujillo patrols the Arizona desert with powers of flight and wind granted to him by Tocotl, a Mayan spider-goddess, and fights for the American Way alongside the rest of Uncle Sam’s cadre.

 

 

WILDSTAR

 

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Nation: Ancestral Puebloan

First Appearance: R.E.B.E.L.S. #2, 2009

Recommended Reading: R.E.B.E.L.S.

 

Like Dawnstar, Wildstar is a member of the Ancetral Pueblo who were transported to the planet Starhaven. Unlike Dawnstar, Wildstar exists in the 21st century, implied to be a distant ancestor of both Wildstar herself and her future fellow Legionnaire, Wildfire. Rather coincidentally, Wildfire ends up joining the interplanetary team of R.E.B.E.L.S. led by Vril Dox -- A.K.A. Brainiac-2 -- ancestor of yet another Legionnaire, Brainiac-5. What do you even call a reunion, if it’s a thousand years before it originally happened?

 

 

TRACKER

 

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Nation: Chippewa

First Appearance: Men of War #1, 2011

Recommended Reading: Men of War #1-3

 

Tracker was first introduced as part of DC’s 2011 slate of wartime comics, as one of the two members of “Navy SEALs: Human Shields.” Alongside fellow SEAL Jonah “Ice” Berg, Tracker is a more aggressive soldier where Ice tends to practice caution. Together, the pair balances each other out like a wartime Hawk and Dove, seeing each other through the most harrowing of missions.

 

 

TOMAHAWK

 

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Nation: Iroquois/Shawnee

First Appearance: All-Star Western #13, 2012

Recommended Reading: All-Star Western #13-16

 

Originally, Tomahawk was a white man named Tom Hawk, who served in the military under George Washington in old Western DC titles. In 2012, Tomahawk was reinvented by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti as they did with Black Condor — though this time, Tomahawk fought AGAINST George Washington, who had ordered General Anthony Wayne to exterminate any Native American settlements he encountered. Born the son of two nations, this new incarnation of Tomahawk fought on behalf of all Native Americans, with a fervent mission in his heart to strike back against those who would harm his land and his people.

 

 

SKY ALCHESAY

 

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Nation: Apache

First Appearance: Aquaman #20, 2013

Recommended Reading: Aquaman and the Others

 

Just as Batman has his “Outsiders,” for a time in the New 52, Aquaman had his eclectic “Others” — a group of gifted individuals from across the globe who helped him locate and safeguard ancient and powerful Atlantean artifacts. One of these individuals was Sky Alchesay, who had the rare gift of communication with the dead. A rather useful skill to have, when you’re hunting weapons which were forged, used, and lost thousands of years before you were born. She also functioned as the team’s transportation at times, with the ability to walk through the Ghost Lands to any point on Earth.

 

 

CHIEF

 

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Nation: Blackfoot

First Appearance: Wonder Woman (2017)

Recommended Reading: Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor Special #1

 

The enigmatic soldier known only as “Chief” first appeared in 2017’s Wonder Woman film, played by Eugene Brave Rock. Chief was a notoriously capable and daring smuggler, getting people and goods across wartorn Europe during World War I to where they were most needed. Chief aids Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman on their mission to defeat Ares and Doctor Poison, and in the process is hinted to actually be, like Diana herself, a demigod in his own right: that of Napi, a trickster spirit from Blackfoot folklore, in human guise. Demigod or not, Chief is incorporated into comics lore shortly after, as a member of Steve Trevor’s special ops team of “Oddfellows.” This version of Chief was once a member of the Shadow Wolves, a real life Native American unit of ICE, until he defected to start aiding the desperate refugees he was tasked with deporting.

 

 

TIMBER (KESHENA CARPENTIER)

 

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Nation: Menominee

First Appearance: Dark Days: The Forge #1, 2017

Recommended Reading: The Immortal Men

 

The newest Native American hero to the DC Universe paradoxically began his life in the 19th century, as a member of the Menominee nation. Wielding a giant blue ax, Timber has the power to grow to enormous sizes, like Apache Chief before her — and it is implied throughout her appearances that the American folk tales of Paul Bunyan may actually be stories of her. Timber eventually joins up with the Immortal Men, facing hidden threats to mankind as old as man itself.

 

 

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