John Smith was the simple name the Chippewa Chief adopted. Wonder why he changed it?…His Indian name was Kahbe nagwi wens, Ka-be-na-gwe-wes, Ka-be-nah-gwey-wence, Kay-bah-nung-we-way or Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce—translated into English as “Sloughing Flesh”, “Wrinkle Meat”, or Old “Wrinkled Meat,” and that’s why John Smith was the name the Chippewa Chief gave himself. To the local white population, he was simply “The Old Indian”.

White Wolf, a/k/a Chief John Smith, was a Ojibwa Chippewa Indian who lived in the northern Minnesota woodlands. He resided for most of his life by Cass Lake and Lake of the Woods. John Smith was a remarkable 137 years old when he died in 1922.

John Smith had eight wives, yet only one son (Tom Smith), who was adopted. He is known to have been elected chief of the Chippewa but declined as he was not willing to take on that responsibility. Little else is known about his life.

When the Great Northern Railway was constructed through the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in 1898, Smith was already renowned for his extreme age. He was used by local photographers for postcards to depict a stylized version on Ojibwe life, and he would carry and sell these himself. He travelled free on trains that ran through the Reservation.

Known for his wrinkled, ancient appearance, he was famous in his local area, and in 1920 he was the focus of a travelling motion picture exhibition which featured old Native Americans. The exhibit toured the US.

John Smith was hit by a train in 1920 while crossing tracks, yet he recovered in only a few weeks. He was active right up until 1922, receiving visitors in his son’s home and reciting stories for them. He died in 1922 after contracting pneumonia.

But was he really 137 years old?

Source: Compilation from various Google web sites.

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