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Carlos Montezuma (Wassaja)
illustration ©2013 Arigon Starr
Carlos Montezuma (c.1866–1923) was born a full-blooded Apache, somewhere near Four Peaks, Arizona Territory. At age five, he was captured by Pima raiders and sold to Italian immigrant and photographer Carlos Gentile for $30. He was removed from his native Yavapai land to Chicago, not to return for thirty years. Gentile adopted Wassaja as his own son and renamed him Carlos Montezuma. Carlos was an excellent student. He graduated with honors from Urbana High School and enrolled at the University of Illinois at age fourteen. After graduation, he returned to Chicago and received his Doctorate of Medicine from Chicago Medical College in 1889, the first Native American to earn a medical degree in an American University. Dr. Montezuma became a nationally known Indian leader, and attacked the government for the conditions imposed upon Native Americans. He was an outspoken opponent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and helped found the Society of American Indians in 1911. His poem appears in Native American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22.