Inn-Nu-Woh the Sioux Chief, famous for his skills in swimming

Inn-Nu-Woh the Sioux Chief, famous for his skills in swimming.


Excerpt from: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh,

Inn-Nu-Woh, The Red Indian Chief (1875; three years later, Karl May re-worked the story to make the title character an Apache chief by the name of Winnetou).


The yellow-fever season, which made it a dangerous health hazard for the Whites to remain in New Orleans, had arrived. Those who weren’t compelled to remain there for urgent reasons hurried to leave the steamy environment of the lower Mississippi and head for more elevated localities.

The cautious aristocracy of the city had already left. Those who were still there for business considerations attempted to get away as fast as possible, because already there was talk of several sudden deaths and, therefore, I had also packed my few belongings and was waiting for the steamboat at the jetty, to travel to St. Louis, where relatives were awaiting my arrival.

Ned, the old, grey-haired Negro and factotum of the hotel had shown me particular affection and carried my luggage. He stood next to me and leant against a steel crane, with which the enormously heavy loads were heaved on board. Amid broad grins, which revealed his pearly whites, he made droll remarks about busy passers-by or others who, like us, patiently waited at the riverside. Unexpectedly, he grabbed my arms and swung me around so that I looked in the opposite direction. He pointed into the throng before us.

“Master see Indian there?”

“Who? You mean the sinister-looking fellow who’s coming our way?”

“Yes, master! Master know Indian?”


“Indian be great chief of Sioux. Name is Inn-Nu-Who and is best swimmer in United States.”

“Oh? It takes a lot for that!”

“Well, sir; but it actually be like that! Or does master think, Ned is lying?”

I didn’t respond and had a good look at the man with the proud bearing who walked past us and neither glanced left nor right. I knew his name; and had heard much about him, but always doubted the veracity of the wondrous stories that had been told about his skill and endurance in swimming. He wasn’t overly tall; but his stocky frame was of an unusually powerful and sturdy build and his broad chest especially caused my earlier doubts to diminish.

Just then an open coach that carried an elderly gentleman and a young, veiled lady rolled up. The uniformed coachman pushed the horses through the crowd with obvious lack of consideration and snapped the whip about the heads of those in his way. The alarmed people scattered and only the Indian kept walking. He remained calm and unconcerned despite the rising commotion behind him and didn’t deviate from his direction by as much as a hair’s breadth. There was enough room for the coach to pass, either on the far side on the cobblestones or on our side on the wide pavers.

“Out of my way, redskin! Are you deaf?” The coachman hollered. And when the Indian continued on his way without turning around, despite the rude and loud shouting, the driver brandished his whip again:

“Push off, nigger, or my whip will show you the way!”

Although the expression ‘nigger’ was the greatest verbal insult for an Indian, the pedestrian didn’t seem to take notice of it and instead continued walking. That’s when the whip cracked across the red man’s face and instantly left a visible trace of the strike. In an instant, the Indian stood on the coachman’s box and with a powerful uppercut tore the uncouth fellow’s lip and nose, then lifted him from the seat and tossed him off the coach with such force that he remained sprawled and unconscious on the pavement.

The entire encounter had played out so swiftly that the gentleman in the carriage had not found time to come to the aid of his driver; he pulled a revolver from his pocket and aimed it at the Indian:

“Tarnation, dog, this will be for you if my driver isn’t sitting on his box again within the minute!”

Expressionless, lightning-fast, and without batting an eye, the Indian pulled his rifle from below his serape and aimed it at the Yankee. The hammer cracked and there would have been a serious altercation between the men had it not been for the intervention of a few police who had hurried up. The officers asked the owner of the coach to put his weapon away again.

“Please drive on, sir!” cautioned one of them. “Your driver is on his feet again and aside from the torn face didn’t suffer any other injuries. He should have known that Indian law demands punishment by death for such a strike!”

More: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh