John E. Hamilton, AKA Grand Sachem Rolling Cloud was President and founder of the National American Indian Defense Association, Inc., established in 1939. He was also Grand Sachem (tribal leader) of the Mohegan-Pequot People from 1933-1988. John Hamilton was one of the most noteworthy Native American Activists and Leaders of the twentieth century. John E. Hamilton dedicated his life to protecting Native American People and fighting for Native American Rights issues across the country from the 1930's through his death in 1988.
John Hamilton was the official land claims representative and represented and/or advised the Mohegan, Pequot, Stockbridge, Brotherton, and Munsee Tribes, among many other tribes across the Nation, in land claims cases. Many times, he traveled to Washington to speak on Capital Hill and the Indian Land Claims Commission on behalf of these issues. He was the Mohegan Chief who led the effort for federal recognition. In 1978, it was John Hamilton's name and seal that appeared on the Letter of Intent to petition the BIA for recognition of the Mohegan People. It was John Hamilton's documentation of his efforts over those years that enabled one faction of Connecticut Mohegan, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, to achieve federal recognition using John Hamilton's original Letter of Intent to petition.
During the first quarter of the century, John Hamilton worked in a dozen states and Canada as a cowboy. He was a lover of the arts, a pianist and composer with his own orchestra. However, his primary passion for securing Native American rights was that of a warrior. As Grand Sachem and President of the National American Indian Defense Association, he made many requests of various U.S. Presidents over the years, including, Truman, Eisenhower, and Nixon. John Hamilton also requested aid for the Nation for the American Indian Movement (AIM) in their battle for justice at Wounded Knee. He is quoted as saying, "Get behind the Sioux at Wounded Knee put an end to this terrible situation that our Brothers and Sisters are going through".
In his lifetime, he visited over 270 Indian Tribes to report on the injustice suffered by Native Americans in an attempt to expose these problems and improve conditions for all Native Americans. He worked on many initiatives from promoting food and clothing drives for reservations to campaigning for the First American Indian Day in Connecticut. In 1941, the First American Indian Day was observed in Connecticut.
John E. Hamilton, Chief Rolling Cloud, born on June 22, 1897, Connecticut, was the son of Norman Eugene Hamilton and Alice Story, AKA Princess Bright Star. He was the one of 9 children. John Hamilton was a direct descendant of Uncas, the First Grand Sachem of the Mohegan Tribe in the 16th century and Tamaquashad, Grand Sachem of the Pequot Nation.
John Hamilton married Colette Ruddy on July 8, 1916. John and Colette Hamilton had one son, Ernest Ruddy Hamilton, born on March 25, 1917. Ernest died on December 31, 1976 at the Massachusetts General Hospital after heart surgery. Ernest was survived by his four sons, Michael, Jeffrey, Mark, and Jonathon.
On April 14, 1988, John Hamilton produced and signed an affidavit appointing Eleanor Fortin "as successor to me [John Hamilton] in my capacity as Chief and Grand Sachem of the Mohegan Tribe with full power to act and govern and more particularly to be substituted and act in my stead as my lawful successor in an action brought on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe and Nation against the State of Connecticut and others, said action now pending in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and in all such other matters and actions as may be brought on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe and Nation for the benefit of said members of the Tribe."
John Hamilton, Chief Rolling Cloud, died on May 10, 1988, in Groton, CT. His grandchildren, Mark, Jonathon, Michael, and Jeffrey Hamilton, were the only direct descendants named in his will. Eleanor Fortin was again named in his last will and testament as his successor with reference to the April 14, 1988 affidavit cited above.
John Hamilton was a man of vision who worked his whole life for Native American rights. The fruits of his efforts have been realized by only a handful of Connecticut Native Americans. However, his legacy will continue and let no man doubt that John Hamilton, Chief Rolling Cloud, lived and died a warrior.