Living History: 'Chief White Elk' turned out to be a big fraud

"Streetcars on State Street were filled to capacity on the afternoon of March 13, 1918. Hundreds of schoolchildren were among the crowds walking toward the Utah Capitol, and the streets were choked with automobiles heading in the same direction. More than 5,000 Utahns made their way to the Capitol grounds that day.

Promptly at 4 p.m., Salt Lake City Mayor W. Mont Ferry took his place at the top of the steps. He was joined by a tall man wearing beaded buckskins and a feathered war bonnet, carrying both a tomahawk and a peace pipe, and wearing blue moccasins with American flags beaded onto their toes.

Various bells, feathers, bird claws, ermine skins and a necklace of bison bones completed his ensemble. The man, known as Chief White Elk, was attended by five uniformed soldiers from the 20th Infantry, men from the Cheyenne, Choctaw, Delaware, Cherokee and Chippewa nations.

While claiming to be chief of the Cherokee Nation, White Elk also said he was a Navy veteran, mustered out after suffering injuries in a fall from the crow’s nest of a torpedoed government transport, the Antilles (reportedly his third torpedoing). "

Get the Story:
Living History: Chief White Elk was a show-stopper in Salt Lake City (The Salt Lake Tribune 11/5)

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