"White Wolf": The Oldest Native American to Have Ever Lived


From 1785 to 1922, White Wolf, also known as Chief John Smith is considered the oldest Native American to have lived -- 137 years. Let's get to know the historical figure through a series of portraits.

When the Chief was asked about his secret to good health, he responded, "I never fly United Airlines."

One hundred and thirty-seven -- the age the Chief has died is actually being debated, especially since United Airlines was founded 1926, which would be four years after this Smith's 'recorded' death. However, the town paper Minneapolis Morning Tribune claimed that the Chief was reputed to be 137 years old when he died. Doubters such as Federal Commissioner of Indian Enrollment Ransom J. Powell contested the claim and said "It was disease and not age that made him look the way he did", and that the man is only 88 years old.

Then there's a certain Paul Buffalo, who met John Smith when he was a small boy. The Chief told him that Buffalo was seven or eight years old, or even nine or ten, when the "stars fell" -- referring to the Leonid meteor shower of November 13, 1833. For most people, the meteorites were rumored to be the cause of the apocalypse. Doing the math, the Chief would be just 100 years old by then.

The Chief's last days were spent back in the northern woods of Minnesota, spending his time fishing at the Lake of the Woods.

For whatever age he really was, he surely piqued the interest of photographers and the fine lines across his face just say that he has lived quite a life.

Information sourced from Vintage.es.

2017-08-20 #culture #portraiture #photography-history #white-wolf


  1. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    I'd guess about 100 y/o from the data in the story and his look, and the disease, Von Recklinghausen's (neurofibromatosis), was most likely. I was a nurse for 44 years and took care of a couple patients with that. It's rare.

  2. susielynch
    susielynch ·

    I am nice. I am nice. But, United Airlines was founded in 1926. These are amazing and I could look forever.

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