If i apply some historical logic, i would deduce that the surname "Chief" came about as a post contact happenstance. The surname Chief, prior to contact was initially Masinighizik.
In my native culture we followed a CLAN system. Traditionally, in the Temiskaming area, , the Chief of the tribe always came from the Masinighizik Clan
Since the non-natives referred to the leaders of the tribe as the chief, in the fast developing new english world, it would make sense that the surname would eventually become the standard.
Another explanation of this surname modification could have been convenience. The people who were dealing with, communicating with, and keeping records of the natives of the time would have had a much easier task with the word Chief as opposed to Masinighizik.
There are other Clan names that were modified in such a manner that makes me tend to lean toward the convenience side of the issue. The Wabighizik Clan are now known as Wabie.
Prior to settlement ,Masinighizik and Wabighizik were the two largest clans of the Temiskaming area. Surnames almost lost to change but are fortunately making their way back into our community since members are becoming more aware of their backgrounds and would prefer to use their true native name.
This undoubtedly causes a problem when i attempt to trace my geneology since as i go backward with the surname Chief, at some point along the line, Chief will disappear. However, the journey should be quite interesting indeed.