Chris Chavis (Tatanka)

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Stilling, Glenn Ellen Starr. Chris Chavis (Tatanka). Unpublished essay.


Chris Chavis, Lumbee, is a 6’2”, 285-pound professional wrestler who is now known as Tatanka or “the Native American.”

He began wrestling as Chris “War Eagle” Chavis. He has wrestled since 1989, including six years with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and a heavy schedule on the independent circuit.

Chris Chavis was born on 8 June 1960 in Pembroke, North Carolina. His parents are Stoney and Patricia Chavis. He attended Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia, where he was a member of the Virginia state championship football team. He attended James Madison University for one year. Soon thereafter, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and continued his bodybuilding training and competitions while selling memberships for Bally’s Health Club. He met Buddy “Nature Boy” Rogers, who encouraged him to go into professional wrestling. Chavis consented and was sent to Larry Sharpe’s Monster Factory, a wrestling school in New Jersey.

Chavis’s early wrestling action was with George Scott’s North American Wrestling Association (renamed South Atlantic Pro Wrestling or SAPW). In 1990 he was Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s runner-up for rookie of the year. By defeating Ken Shamrock in a Lumberton, North Carolina, match in 1991, he became the SAPW heavyweight champion.In 1991, Vince McMahon persuaded Chavis to sign with the WWF and helped him enhance his identity as a Native American wrestler. Chavis adopted the name Tatanka (Lakota for “big bull” or “big buffalo”) and developed wrestling moves such as a fall-away slam (“Indian Death Drop” or “End of the Trail”) and the tomahawk chop from the top rope. Tatanka had a two-year undefeated streak in the WWF and carried on several lengthy feuds with wrestlers including I.R.S., Lex Luger, Bam Bam Bigelow, Rick Martel, and Yokozuma.Tatanka left the WWF and his 300-day-a-year schedule in late 1996, taking time off to renew his commitments to family and religion.

When he returned to wrestling after a two and a half year hiatus, he began a personal campaign to convert people in the wrestling industry to Christ and to create a cleaner image for professional wrestling. He assumed a heavy schedule (thirteen to twenty-one days a month) of appearances and matches on the independent circuit. After his reentry into wrestling, his heavyweight championship titles included South African, U.C.W., North American Stampede, Mid-Atlantic, and I.W.A. In January 2002 he defeated Vance Nevada for the Top Rope Championship Wrestling International title.

He has been involved in both home-based and international business. His third child was born in March, 2004. He also wrestled with a federation called W.X.L., appearing before large crowds in Lima, Peru. In early 2004 his activities included appearances on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, the International Wrestling Superstars (Philadelphia, PA), and an interview shoot for a video.


Bonham, Chad. 2002. “Tatanka.” Wrestling with God: 10 Stories of Modern Day Warriors Who Came Face to Face with the Creator. Tulsa, OK: RiverOak Publishing. 17-35.

“, the official site for Chris ‘Tatanka’ Chavis.” Accessed July 28, 2013.

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Written June 2002; updated June 24, 2004.