Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, The Glorious Impostor

Chief6Donald B. Smith

The unbelievable tale of Sylvester Long, a debonair and erudite journalist who worked is way into the circles of the wealthy and famous with his expertise and articles on the Plains Indians. Claiming to be a famous chief of the Blackfeet, he wrote articles for Cosmopolitan and the New York Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance

Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance

Long Lance became somewhat of a sensation and was often mentioned in print. No one suspected that, although he had some Indian blood, he was the son of a former slave and had left home to travel in a Wild West show. He did well in school and was recommended to attend Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. He told one of his first lies to be admitted, making himself one year younger on his application.

One must admire his sheer audacity as his lies become more elaborate and he performs bogus Indian dances or chants for etymologists and other admirers. The book makes for interesting reading though it doesn’t give much information about the actual practices and predicament of the dying out tribes of the early 20th century.

Sylvester Long aka Long Lance

Sylvester Long aka Long Lance

Nevertheless this is a fascinating tale by  University of Calgary history professor, Donald B. Smith. Not lyrical writing, just a walloping tale of a bold impostor who entertained America in the Jazz age.


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