Pawnee runner

Pawnee runner
A faster runner than today’s milers? (Image adapted from Frederic Remington illustration.)

Frontier scout, Luther North, related a story about the Pawnee scout, Big Hawk Chief, who may well have run the mile faster than anyone either then or now. Here’s the story:

“Black Hawk Chief . . . one of my favorites, was the fastest runner in the tribe, and I believe the world . . . while at Sidney after coming down from the Dull Knife expedition, another man and I timed him, both with stop watches. He ran the first half in 2 minutes flat and the second in 1:58 or the mile in 3.58 – so much faster than ever done before that we didn’t believe the track was right, and had it measured with a steal [sic] tape.

I had him run again. To this day [written in 1930] no man has ever equaled it―my reason for believing that he was the fastest man on his feet. The army stripped him and went carefully over him, stating afterward that Big Hawk Chief was the most perfect specimen of man he had ever seen.”1

Luther dates this run happening in 1876 or 1877. It wasn’t until June 21, 1954, that Australia’s John Landy equaled Black Hawk Chief’s time of 3:58 for the mile which at that time was the world record.


  1. Jeff O’Donnell, Luther North Frontier Scout (Lincoln, NE: J&LLee Co., 1995), 195.
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