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Uncle Sam and his Unruly Wards

When Kearny was about to set out from Santa Fe for his march to California he appointed Charles Bent to act as Governor of New Mexico. By virtue of his office as Governor, Bent became also Superintendent of Indian Affairs. For many years he had lived in or near New Mexico, so he was well qualified to supply the Government at Washington with exact information concerning the various Indian tribes inhabiting the Territory. This he did in a condensed but illuminating report to William Medill, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. First, Bent mentions the Jicarilla Apaches, numbering five hundred souls. He characterizes them as a wandering tribe without permanent home, lazy and cowardly, living almost wholly by thefts from the New Mexicans, since game had grown scarce in their region and they lacked the courage to compete with other Indians of the plains in the pursuit of the buffalo. Their only article of manufacture was a crude kind of pottery, capable of resisting fire. This ware was much used by the New Mexicans in cooking, and the Jicarillas gave it in exchange for the bare necessities of life. Because of their thieving habits these Indians were a great nuisance to the white settlers. Bent next describes what he calls “the Apaches proper who range through the southern portion of this Territory, through the country of the Rio del Norte and its tributaries and westward about the headwaters of the River Gila. They are a warlike people, are about 900 lodges and from 5000 to 6000 souls; know nothing of agriculture or manufactures of any kind but live almost entirely by...

Victory with Dishonor

When General Nelson A. Miles relieved Crook, April 12, 1886, there were still at large thirty-six Chiricahua hostiles seventeen men, including Geronimo and Nachez, and nineteen women and children. In addition to this murderous band, led by Geronimo and Nachez, Mangus was still somewhere in the Sierra Madre with a party of eleven men, women, and children.1 He had, however, cut himself off from all contact with the other renegades in August, 1885; and, so far as was known, had committed no depredations since that time. On the other hand, of the five hundred and twelve Chiricahua and Warm Spring Apaches whom Crook had brought back and placed on the reservation, three-fourths had remained loyal and were still living at or near Fort Apache. The orders issued to Miles by Lieutenant-General P. H. Sheridan at the time he was placed in command were more drastic than those under which Crook had operated. Crook’s instructions were “to secure the surrender of the hostiles without conditions, if possible; with conditions, if necessary.” Miles was ordered to carry on ceaselessly “the most vigorous operations looking to the destruction or capture of the hostiles.” He was never able either to capture or to destroy the renegades; and the fact that he failed to carry out the exact orders of President Cleveland and General Sheridan at the time he accepted Geronimo’s surrender led later to almost endless dispute and his own discomfiture as a result of criticisms aimed at him by his superiors, President Cleveland and General Sheridan. He had been ordered to capture these Indians, without any promise of mercy whatsoever, or to...

Texas Lipan Apache, Troublesome Tribe

The Lipan Apaches of Texas, a very troublesome tribe, were crafty enough, when hard-pressed by their wild foes, the Comanches, to seek peace with the Spanish and a settled mission life. Neither the padres nor the soldiers put much faith in their sincerity. The Fathers were willing to experiment, however, and a mission was founded for the Apaches on the Guadalupe River. This action was approved as early as 1750 but was not carried out until 1756, and then the mission was located, not on the Guadalupe, but on the San Saba River. The Apaches were now friendly enough, but when elaborate preparations had been made for missionary supervision, they were shifty and, for one reason or another, declined to settle permanently at the mission. Their real object was to secure the Spanish as their allies against the Comanches and other enemies. As a result of what had already been done, the animosity of the Comanches was now directed against the Spanish. The Apaches warned the Spaniards that the Comanches, now their common foe, were about to strike a blow; but it was too late. Under friendly guise, a Comanche chief with a thousand warriors gained entrance to the Apache mission. They made a thorough job of it–plundering and burning the buildings and killing nearly all the Spaniards. Two padres were killed, and a party sent from the presidio to reenforce the mission was led into ambush. The wily Apaches suffered little, for only a few of them were present at the time of the attack. This disaster brought such blame upon the padres that they offered to abandon...

Soldiers, Citizens and Savages

Carleton had done his best to conquer and control the Apaches, but had failed after all. It is natural that an enlightened American who coolly reads today the events of the past should suppose that with the close of the Civil War our Government would have turned its attention seriously to the solution of the Apache problem in the Southwest. But it did not do this. There were pressing and clamorous postwar issues that absorbed the attention of populace and officers of government alike. New Mexico and Arizona were very remote; the white population scant; and knowledge of the condition and needs of the people in that region meager indeed. As a result, Apache hostilities went on unabated. It seems to us now that the failure of the Government at that time to devise some clear, firm policy for the disposition and control of the wild Apaches was stupid and reprehensible. The untold loss of life and destruction of property on the part of whites as well as Indians, and the unimaginable sufferings that came to individuals of both races during the next seven years, must be laid squarely at the feet of the Federal Government. Both soldiers and citizens did the best they could; and, as for the savage, he struggled in primitive darkness to maintain his existence and his hitherto free domain in the only way he knew–by murder and plunder, the A B C of his education and that of his ancestors. It should have been as plain to the United States Government at that time as it is to us today that the only policy...

The Primitive Apache

The earliest Americans who came in contact with the Apache were able to study him in his original condition. As yet he was untouched by the ways of civilized man. He was strictly the creature of his environment; and, for her part, Nature had turned him out a perfect physical specimen. In appearance he was attractive rather than repulsive. The head, well formed and somewhat broad, was set firmly on a short, muscular neck. He had high cheekbones, well-formed nose, black eyes that blazed with fire and energy, strong jaws, and firm-closed lips-not thin, yet not too full. The hair, black, thick, and very coarse, was allowed to fall to the shoulders, but in front was trimmed straight across at the level of the eyebrows. Apache men had sparse beards. Such scattered hairs as did grow on their faces were plucked out one at a time with tweezers made of bent strips of tin. The lean, supple, sinewy body of the Apache was capable of extraordinary activity and endurance. The legs and arms of an Apache brave, neither round in contour nor scrawny and thin, were shapely enough, and lacked nothing in agility and dexterity. The back was well developed and sturdy, the chest both broad and very deep, the waist slender. Rarely did the Apache attain a height of more than six feet, and just as seldom did he fall below five feet. Dr. John B. White in 1873 actually measured one hundred Arizona Apache men and one hundred women. The average results he reported as follows: “The men measured without any selection five feet, six and one-half...

Reaping the Whirlwind

For several years the Indian Bureau had been sowing the wind; now it was harvest time and it was to reap the whirlwind. In his annual reports Agent John P. Clum smugly implies that the transfers, one after another, of Indians from Camp Verde, Camp Apache, the Chiricahua Reservation, and Ojo Caliente, and their concentration on the San Carlos Reservation were successful and satisfactory. It was in reality far otherwise. In every instance the removal of the Indians was a breach of good faith on the part of the Government, was contrary to the best judgment of Army officers in command, and was in opposition to the desire of the Indians. Nor was the transfer in any case completely effected. Many members of the various bands refused to come along, and always it was the best fighting men who slipped away. The failure of these attempts was shown clearly in the abortive transfer of the Chiricahua and Warm Spring band. In his annual report of August 15, 1877, General August V. Kautz, Commander of the Department of Arizona, calls attention to the conflicting reports of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the years 1875 and 1876. Quoting the figures as set down for these two years, he says: “The two agencies, Warm Spring and Chiricahua, contained in 1875, before they were broken up, according to the report of that year, 965 and 2,100; total, 3,065. The number removed were 325 and 454; total, 779. There are therefore 2,286 Indians unaccounted for since 1875. It is unnecessary to comment on these discrepancies.”1 Add to this statement of Kautz the comment...

Origin and Distribution of Apache Indians

The author of this volume has no desire to put on a wise look or to ape the manner of erudite scholars. He prefers, rather, to come to grips at once with the subject that interests him–the Apache Indians. The fact is, no scholar has been able to trace satisfactorily the exact origins of this spectacular people or to say just when they made their appearance in the Southwest as a distinct nation. Concerning one simple fact all ethnologists agree: the Apache belongs to the Athapascan family, the most widely scattered of all North American Indian linguistic families. In remote times it covered the greater part of the continent. Its various tribes inhabited the Arctic and the Pacific coasts and extended as far south as northern New Mexico and as far east as the Rio Grande. Such are the peculiarities of the Athapascan languages that they may be definitely discriminated from the languages of all other American Indians, even though, during the long period of time that this family has been dispersing itself over the North American continent, differences in language and physical appearance have arisen in widely separated groups. The peculiarities of the languages of the Athapascan family Dr. Frederick W. Hodge describes as follows: “Phonetically they are rendered harsh and difficult for European ears because of a series of guttural sounds, many continuants, and frequent checks and aspirations. Morphologically they are marked by a sentence verb of considerable complexity, due largely to many decayed prefixes and to various changes of the root to indicate the number and character of the subject and object. Between the various languages...

The Apache Bands

The local group was an ideal unit for any cooperative activity. So small that it could be instantly mobilized, and not too large to move rapidly and with perfect coordination, it constituted the nerve center for raiding and warfare. The closeness of families together permitted the maximum of social enjoyment, also; and while each family was economically independent of every other family, there were cooperative advantages that came to all from their proximity to each other. When the time came to lay in a supply of piñon nuts, or to gather and roast mescal, the women of half a dozen families found it to their advantage to go together and later divide up what had been secured on the expedition–to each family its due share. It was pleasant for the whole community to join in a great hunt. The women would all go along to take care of the meat and to perform all necessary menial tasks. However, after the hunt was over, there was a fair division of the game and each family was once more on its own. In every local group several able leaders would develop. Such men came to the front by virtue of native ability and weight of personality. Though leaders, they had no claim to the title of chief, nor did they exercise any command over the group that had not been voluntarily conferred upon them. Such headmen could not bind their associates to any particular action or guarantee that they would stand by a treaty that might be made in their name. This is why, in the early days, it was so...

Mangas Coloradas Attempted Escape

In the night West was aroused from sleep and informed that Mangas Coloradas had attempted to escape and had been shot dead by the guards. The accounts of the capture and execution of this famous Apache are confusing and contradictory. More than one soldier who was present at the time has left on record the assertion that the captive was tormented and enraged beyond endurance, and when forced to angry complaint, was shot. I give West’s own account of the event. He says that he investigated the death of Mangas Coloradas at once and found that he had made three attempts to escape between midnight, when he was placed under guard of a sergeant and three privates, and one o’clock when he was shot while, for the third time, attempting to escape. It seems too likely that General West had so deeply impressed the guard with the common feeling of himself and his command, that the rascal deserved death, that the soldiers believed they were carrying out the real desire of the commanding officer with respect to him. It is probable that the old chief was improperly treated in order to arouse his fury and give the guard an excuse for shooting him. When Shirland took Mangas Coloradas, it was understood that the chief was to be permitted to return to his people at a certain time. The troops now marched to Pinos Altos and upon arriving there were approached by the followers of Mangas Coloradas. They were attacked by order of Captain McCleave, and eleven Indians were killed and one wounded. This affair was on January 19, 1863....
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