Griffis, Joseph

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Griffis was born to a white father, a famous scout, and a mother who was half Osage (there is some dispute about this, but Griffis apparently believed he was a Native American, always identified himself as one, and registered his son as a Native American on his birth certificate).

When he was four he was captured by Kiowas, who killed his mother, and was then raised by a Kiowa stepfather and Cheyenne stepmother. In 1868 he and his stepmother were captured by white soldiers, part of General Custer's troops, for whom his own father had acted as scout.

Griffis was classified as a white captive and consequently separated from his stepmother to be fostered by a white family of ranchers. He soon escaped, however, and embarked on a life as a member of an outlaw Indian gang, scout, hobo and thief.

He eventually made his way to Canada, converted to Christianity and married a white woman. He was a Presbyterian minister, then moved to Oklahoma, left the ministry and became a lecturer.

He wrote an autobiography and a book of Oklahoma Native American tales.


Griffis, Joseph. Tahan: Out of Savagery into Civilization: An Autobiography. (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1915)
Ruoff, A. LaVonne Brown. "Western American Indian Writers, 1854-1960." Available at:


Native American and Alaskan Native, Inuit
19th Century
20th Century
Estrangement from Adoptive or Foster Family
Anti-social or Disruptive Behavior, Adhd
Homelessness, Drifting
Pre-school Years
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