Buffalo Child Long Lance and Adoption


Long Lance (born Sylvester Long) claimed to be a Blackfoot or Blackfoot-Cherokee chief. In fact he was almost certainly not a Blackfoot at all, but rather of mixed ancestry, including African-American, white, and possibly Catawba and Lumbee. The rest of his family identified themselves as African American, but young Sylvester always thought of himself as a Native American.

When he was 12 he left home to join a wild west show. He attended the US Bureau of Indian Affairs school at Carlisle from the age of 18 (registering as a Cherokee), graduating top of his class in 1912, and then attended Dickinson College for a year. He served in the Canadian army during World War I, then settled in Calgary, where he worked as a journalist, writing many stories about the Native Canadians of the western provinces.

He was adopted as a chief by the Blood tribe (a branch of the Blackfoot) in 1922. Also in 1922, after he set off a crude bomb -- possibly only as a prank -- in the mayor's office, he was fired, and moved to Vancouver and Winnipeg, before returning to the USA. He was also prominent as a photographer and film actor (The Silent Enemy, 1930).

His claim to be a Blackfoot has parallels to those of Forrest Carter (Little Tree) and Archibald Furmage (Grey Owl). He committed suicide in 1932 as rumors about his real origins began to circulate.


Long Lance, Buffalo Child. Long Lance. (1928, repr. Jackson: Banner Books, 1995) Smith, Donald B. Long Lance: The True Story of an Impostor. (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1982); the film Long Lance (1986) is based on this book Glenbow Library. "This Week in Western Canadian History: March 15-March 21." Available at: Ruoff, A. LaVonne Brown. "Western American Indian Writers, 1854-1960." Available at: