Fifty Years of Apache Peace

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By November 7, 1886, four hundred and ninety-eight Chiricahua Indians from Arizona had arrived in Florida as prisoners of war. Ninety-nine were men; three hundred and ninety-nine, women and children. Seventeen of the hostile warriors were confined at Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Florida, away from their families. Up to April, 1887, all the rest of the adults were kept in camp under guard at Fort Marion (the ancient Spanish fortress, San Marco), St. Augustine, Florida. The families of the prisoners at Fort Pickens were then sent to them there.[1] All the rest were taken to Mount Vernon Barracks, near Mobile. In May, 1888, all those at Fort Pickens were likewise removed to the camp at Mount Vernon Barracks. Previous to December, 1889, a hundred and twelve boys and girls had been sent to the Indian School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Thirty died there; twelve came back to their parents on account of sickness; and seventy were still at Carlisle in December, 1889.

On December 23, 1889, Lieutenant Guy Howard, Aide-deCamp to the Commander of the Division of the Atlantic, who was in immediate charge of the Chiricahua prisoners in Florida, addressed a letter to the Adjutant-General of the Army acquainting him with the following facts: Eighty-nine of the Apaches held in captivity in Florida had died since their arrival three years before. Counting the children who had died at school, death had taken one hundred and nineteen of the Chiricahuas. At the time Howard made his report there were not more than thirty men among these prisoners who would have been capable of bearing arms. The remaining four hundred and thirty were old men, or cripples, and women and children. Yet they were all being held prisoners of war under conditions so wretched as to be almost positively inhuman. Howard pointed out that the normal death rate among civilized people was two per cent; while among these people it was more than three times as great. One fourth of these Apaches had died since they were brought to Florida a little more than three years before.

The Report of Herbert Welsh, previously referred to, and the above facts set forth by Lieutenant Howard convinced good and thoughtful citizens that the Government had dealt dishonorably with the Chiricahua Indians–particularly with Chatto and others who had long lived peaceably on the reservation. Humane people were greatly aroused and pressure was brought upon the Government authorities. As a result, January 13, 1890, the Secretary of War transmitted to President Benjamin Harrison the Report of Lieutenant Guy Howard and a Report of General George Crook, with endorsements by General Howard and General Schofield, recommending that the Chiricahua Apaches be removed to Fort Sill in the Indian Territory with a view to their permanent settlement there. President Harrison, on January 20, recommended to the Senate and the House of Representatives that provision be made by law for the placing of these Apaches on lands in the Indian Territory. The next step in the slow-moving drama was the passing of a resolution by the Senate, January 28, directing the Secretary of War to submit to it all the evidence in his possession bearing on the imprisonment of the Apaches, particularly with reference to the manner in which Chatto and his associates were induced by the Government to visit Washington with assurance of safe conduct and were later seized and confined as prisoners.

Accordingly, the whole mass of military correspondence and official reports that had to do with the fortunes of these Chiricahuas between July, 1886, and January, 1890, was placed before the Senate. Let it not be thought, however, that Congress took speedy action to alleviate the condition of these people. The Secretary of War promptly requested authority to make the transfer, but it was not until August 6, 1894, four years after Lieutenant Howard’s report had been submitted, that Congress authorized their removal. Finally in early October, 1894, they were located on the military reservation at Fort Sill under control of the garrison. Some seventy families were represented and they numbered in all at this time two hundred and ninety-six. There were only fifty able-bodied men and they were permitted to enroll as soldiers and were subject to regular military discipline. Each family was allotted a fenced plot of ground for cultivation. A thousand acres of virgin prairie was broken for them; six hundred head of cattle were bought for them by the Government; a sawmill was erected to supply them with building material; and the children were sent to near-by Indian Schools. A good many of the Chiricahuas became fairly good farmers and cattlemen, and grew more and more attached to the little farms apportioned to them. By December, 1909, they owned stock, implements, and other property valued at one hundred and sixtytwo thousand dollars.

The Fort Sill Military Reservation was within the bounds of the territory that had been allotted to the Kiowa and Comanche Indians. By a treaty made in February, 1897, the Kiowas and Comanches ceded to the Apache pilgrims enough additional land in their reservation to provide each Apache, man, woman, and child, a farm of one hundred and sixty acres. But let not the unwary reader leap to the conclusion that this land actually came into the possession of those for whom it was provided. Twelve years passed and in 1909 they were still deprived of individual ownership of this land. Meantime, additional tracts had been set aside for them, specifically; so that now the territory they occupied amounted to approximately eighty thousand acres. Yet it was necessary for the Board of Indian Commissioners in 1909, and again the next year, to point out emphatically to the Government that the land upon which these Apaches were settled had been provided for them by special agreement, and that in all honor it ought now to be allotted to them in severalty. Very able Army officers who had been in command on the reservation and had observed the steady progress made by these prisoners were urging that they now be given individual ownership of their farms. One of these officers, Captain (later General) Hugh L. Scott, who had jurisdiction over them for many years, said that while they were in his charge “they built more than 70 houses, hauling the material 33 miles from the railroad. They dug their own wells with a well machine, around 200 feet in depth. . . . They raised in one year at Fort Sill 300,000 pounds of KaffirCorn, put up and sold to the Government 1,000 tons of hay, 500 tons of it being baled by their own labor, besides building fences, taking care of 2,500 head of cattle, various gardens, etc.” He concludes: “They know how to work if opportunity and encouragement are given them.”

In 1909, in their annual report to the Secretary of the Interior, the Board of Indian Commissioners had this to say: “As a whole, older and younger together, these Apaches have made remarkable progress in the arts of industry and in habits of self-support. We believe that the time has come to recognize this fact, and to change their status from that of prisoners of war to that of free men.” Yet in the light of all the facts stated above, it was not until 1913 that these Indians were given their land in severalty. At that time each Apache prisoner was personally interviewed and given his choice whether he would remain at Fort Sill or be removed to the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico. During the year 1913, one hundred and eighty-seven members of the band stated that they desired to return to Mescalero. The remainder, most of whom had grown up in captivity under the supervision of competent and humane Army officers, and, in consequence had known nothing of the tribal life of their turbulent ancestors, were allotted suitable tracts of land at Fort Sill. So by March, 1914, twenty-eight years after their entrance into captivity, the last prisoner was released from the jurisdiction of the War Department. It was understood that those who decided to return to the old tribal life on the Mescalero Reservation should have individual allotments of land there instead of holding their property in common with other members of the tribe.

“Old” Nana, one of the fiercest and ablest of the renegade chiefs, survived to reach Oklahoma, and there died at a great age–unreconstructed. Loco lived to reach Fort Sill and died there. He was a capable and famous chief. In general he was not ill-disposed toward the white man. Milder than most of the other renegade chiefs, he was more sinned against than sinning. After coming in with Crook in 1883, he enlisted as a scout and remained loyal to the Government. He was a member, with Chatto, of the delegation that Miles persuaded to visit Washington, and was sent to Florida with the rest. At Fort Sill he enlisted as a soldier and remained a quiet, well-behaved Indian. He died saying that he felt as if he had no country. Two sons survived him, Dexter, who came to Mescalero and died there, and Johnny Loco, who lives in Oklahoma.

Chihuahua was among the seventy-seven renegades who surrendered to Crook in March, 1886. With the rest he was brought to Fort Bowie and sent to Fort Marion, Florida, April 7. During the remainder of his life he was sober and well behaved. He tried his best to be a good Christian, attending Church, and positively refusing to drink or gamble. In Florida he was rather laughed at by his associates for walking thus so seriously in ways of righteousness. He reached Oklahoma, enlisted as a United States soldier, and died at Fort Sill, still a prisoner of war. Two remarkable children of Chihuahua, Ramona and Eugene, now in their late sixties, reside at White Tail on the Mescalero Reservation. They have an enlarged, framed photograph of their father which they show with pride. Both of them talk good English. I visited Ramona in her tidy, well-furnished little home at White Tail. She is a fine, intelligent Christian woman, a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, the best example of what education and religion can do for an Apache that I met on the reservations. Ramona’s husband is Asa, son of Juh, successor of Cochise as war chief of the Chiricahuas. Eugene, Ramona’s brother, is an industrious and successful farmer. He has a grandson named Chihuahua for his great-grandfather.

Chatto was among those who came back to the ancestral hunting grounds. In his youth he had been a violent renegade –a leader of extraordinary skill and daring. He admired Crook exceedingly and tried hard to follow his advice and establish himself in the ways of the white man; but his treatment by the Government after July, 1886, was grievous and depressing. All the remaining years of his life were embittered by the thought of it. O. M. Boggess, formerly superintendent of the Mescalero Reservation, writes: “I knew him very well, indeed. He was an excellent citizen, had a satisfactory home, and was favorably known to both the reservation Indians and to the white residents of Otero County.” The Reverend Richard Harper, also, who was missionary at Mescalero, and saw much of Chatto, speaks highly of him. He describes him as a man of striking bearing and dignity of character, and states that he was held in general respect by his tribesmen. He lived to be a very old man. He died on the reservation in March, 1934, as the result of an automobile accident. With others, he had been visiting up in a canyon, and the entire party had been drinking. On the way down the Canyon the automobile left the road and turned turtle in the creek. Chatto had two ribs broken, pneumonia followed, and he died within three days. In the agency safe at Mescalero are the medal given him by the Government in 1886, and his copy of Britton Davis’ The Truth about Geronimo.

Geronimo died at Fort Sill, February 17, 1909. Throughout his life he displayed marked gifts as an advertiser. White exploiters, too, made the most of him during the period of his captivity at Fort Sill. He was given ample opportunity to display his vanity and bravado at the St. Louis World’s Fair, and at the Buffalo and Omaha Expositions. He was permitted to appear as a sensational figure in the procession in honor of the inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt. Indeed, wherever supreme whoopee was made, there Geronimo was to be found in the midst. This was all very pleasing to him, as he was able to turn a good many extra pennies by the sale of bows and arrows and photographs of himself. As for mawkish white sentimentalists, male and female, nothing gave them more exquisite enjoyment than to shake hands with one so notorious for deeds of infamy and bloodshed. Geronimo was never a chief. He belonged to the band of which Juh, and later Nachez, was” chief. At the height of his career he held the allegiance of only a small number of his own band. He was feared as a medicine man. Apaches believed that no bullet could kill him. He was a man of immense courage, energy, and effrontery; was resourceful, daring, and impudent; but for the rest he was a cruel, perfidious rascal, hated and distrusted by Apaches and white men alike.

In 1903 Geronimo joined the Dutch Reformed Church, but his attendance at services was irregular. Surely, whatever may have been his profession, he was a poor practitioner. Honor and integrity, whether in accordance with Apache or Christian standards, were alien qualities to him. On the Jicarilla Reserva tion, I talked with Miss Hendrina Hospers, field matron of the Dutch Reformed Church. She spent many years at Fort Sill and Mescalero. She knew Geronimo well. On the day that he met with the accident that resulted in his death, she met him on the road as he was on his way to Lawton to sell a bow and arrow. She wanted to buy them herself, but did not have any cash with her, so Geronimo drove on to town. With the money he received for the bow and arrow he got drunk; and on his way back home fell out of the buggy. A cold rain was falling, and he lay there in the road all night. When discovered, he was taken to the military hospital where he died a few days later. His widow and his son Robert were among those who returned to the Mescalero Reservation. During the World War Mrs. Geronimo bought a Liberty Bond and wore a Red Cross button. Robert Geronimo is a leading Indian at Mescalero, President of the Cattlegrower’s Association, and the most successful stockman on the reservation.

Nachez was among those who returned to the Mescalero Reservation and settled at White Tail. General Hugh L. Scott records that in captivity he retained a high degree of self respect and did with docility whatever was required of him. At Fort Sill he held a place of leadership among his tribesmen and was praised and respected by the white people. Cochise was his father; and, though he did not inherit the prowess and force of personality of that mighty warrior, Scott affirms that he was a sterling and capable man. On the Mescalero Reservation he was one of the Indian police; and up to his death was recognized as the leading man of his tribe. During all his years at Mescalero he lived a sober and righteous life. He was an honored member and regular attendant of the Dutch Reformed Church, speaking and praying in public, and doing everything he could, by precept and example, to plant the Christian religion deep in the hearts of his people. He did not harbor resentment because of his treatment by the Government. In conversations with Mr. Harper he sometimes commented on the great hardships and dangers that the Apaches endured on the warpath, and expressed approval of the present manner of life at Mescalero. Both Mr. Wilson, Agency farmer, and Mr. Harper knew him intimately for years, and both of them genuinely admired him, and spoke with enthusiasm of his superiority and earnestness of character. He died in the hospital at Mescalero of influenza in 1921. Four children: a daughter Amelia and a son, Christian Naiché,[2] on the Mescalero Reservation, a married daughter in Oklahoma, and Barney, a fireguard on the San Carlos Reservation. His son Christian is a member of the Tribal Council, and associate judge. He leaves several grandchildren, also, the great-grandchildren of Cochise.

Of the historic figures who were sent to Florida as prisoners in 1886, and who later returned to New Mexico, there remain five to be accounted for: Noche, Kayitah, Martine, Ka-ya-ten-na, and Toklanni. Noche was one of Crook’s trusted scouts. After Miles took command, he consulted Noche as to the best means of capturing Nachez and Geronimo. Noche’s advice was to send two Chiricahua emissaries into the camp of the renegades to propose terms of surrender. It was he who named Kayitah as the best man to send, and advised that it be left to him to choose a companion. Both Kayitah and Martine were related to Geronimo by marriage, and Noche believed that no other two men could have entered the camp alive. Noche died of tuberculosis at Mescalero, April 14, 1914. Mr. Harper esteemed him highly, and was with him at the time of his death. Uncas, the blind interpreter at Mescalero, is a son of Noche, and a grandson, the son of Uncas, is a Boy Scout.

Kayitah died of old age at Mescalero, February 15, 1934. He was interested in farming and appreciated his home at White Tail. He was a man of milder temper than Martine, and was pleasant to deal with. He was never a troublemaker; nor did he have much to say by way of complaint because he was sent with the hostiles into captivity, though he always affirmed that Miles made them big promises in case they succeeded in bringing in Geronimo. Martine, now almost eighty years old, is still living at Mescalero, and I talked with him there. Very feeble in both body and mind, he is cared for at the Agency hospital. He was in one of the stores in the village the day I saw him. His son George, who talks good English, introduced me and helped me in my conversation with him. Ka-ya-ten-na, who disputed the authority of Britton Davis at Turkey Creek, was, in consequence, sent to Alcatraz Island for eighteen months, and later, wholly reformed, became one of Crook’s most useful scouts, died in the hospital at Mescalero of pneumonia in 1918. Mr. Harper states that he was of medium size, not at all militant in appearance; was, indeed, so mild and respectful on the reservation that it seemed difficult to realize that what history records about him could be true. Bourke, at the close of Chapter XXIX of his book, On the Border with Crook, names Toklanni as one who was sent a prisoner to Florida and dealt with in the same manner as were the renegades, though he was not a Chiricahua at all but had only recently married a wife of that band, and though he had never been on the warpath, except as a soldier of the United States. Toklanni is still alive at Mescalero, hale and hearty. He is nearly six feet tall, and is alert and soldierly. He has a genial, winning smile, possesses a sense of humor, and everyone who knows him is his friend. He presented himself before me neatly dressed, displaying on the breast of his blue coat a bright badge of the Veterans of Indian Wars.

So much for the prodigals and prisoners! But now what about the good Apaches who stayed at home and worked for their Uncle Sam? This is a long story, too, and most difficult to set down in brief. In order to sum up and interpret the net result of these fifty years of peace, I have patiently scanned the reports of Indian agents, Army officers, officers of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and special commissions covering the whole half-century from 1886 to 1936. Moved by a deep desire to be accurate and just, and to bring the record down to the moment, I have also visited the Apache reservations several times during the past four years to observe for myself the present condition of the Apaches. After such studies one vividly realizes how slow and painful has been the struggle of the Apaches toward civilization and enlightenment.

The forces against which these people have had to contend were twofold: that which operated from within–their own deep-seated habits of savagery, and that which constantly beset them from without–the greed, hatred, stupidity, and injustice of the white man. These forces have acted and reacted upon each other with concomitant and almost equal strength; and certain it is that neither the force working within nor the force working from without has tended greatly toward righteousness. Let it be remembered that fifty years ago these Indians were still nomadic, murderous savages by instinct and habit. They still adhered to their primitive fetishes, superstitions, and customs, and still nursed in their breasts the untamed passions of their ancestors. They dressed in primitive fashion and were primitive in all their ways of living. They loved liberty and felt that it was their right to roam. They lusted for what belonged to others and actively cherished the doctrine

That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.

They were polygamists. They were superstitious; were largely under the sway of the medicine men, and the medicine men were often bad men. They were deeply addicted to the vices of gambling and drinking.

Now from the point of view of the American all this had to be changed; and the moment we gained physical control over the Apaches attempts were made to enforce these changes. Sad to say, during the two or three decades they had been more or less in contact with the American, they had found little in him to arouse their admiration, and certainly nothing that provided them with “the expulsive power of a new affection.” Yet, from this time on, Army officers, Indian agents, and Christian missionaries were to be their monitors and judges; and the degree to which they gave up their former ways and took on the ways of the American was to be the mark and test of their progress toward civilization. Army officers and the Indian agents tried to get them to dress as white people did, to settle in one place, to live in houses, to raise crops and breed cattle, and to do other useful work, to give up gambling and tizwin drunks, to live with one wife, to send their children to school, to come to the doctor when they were ill and, when necessary, go to the hospital for treatment, to maintain law and order and democratic government through native justices and policemen of their own choosing; and, when the missionaries came, they tried to induce them to attend church and become Christians. We shall nearly all agree, I think, that these were good American ways, well calculated to forward the civilization of these Apaches. I have listed these various objectives as standards by which to record the degree of progress made by these people during this half-century. These are the points that I find stressed as I read the annual reports of the Indian agents to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior. These reports point out, year by year, improvement or lack of improvement in all these things.

In spite of the devil, of themselves, and of their white enemies and detractors, these Apaches manifestly have improved during the past five decades. But before attempting a general summary of their progress, I must give a little attention to the obstacles they have had to overcome from without. In the first place, the Government itself was at fault. Indifference, vacillation, procrastination, and, at times, downright injustice marked its dealings with these people. During the earlier decades, agents were paid little and were shifted often. The Indians received an insufficient supply of food and clothing, and what they did get was of poor quality; there was failure to provide good seed for planting at the proper time; the buildings at the agencies were little more than adobe shacks, too small to house properly either agents, pupils, or sick people. There was frequent change of policy. High officers of the Government recommended from time to time that permission be given to citizens and corporations to work the mines, or cut the big timber, or control the ranges on the various reservations. From the moment that hostilities ceased there was petty, insistent, groundless opposition to the program of peaceful progress that humane and Christian citizens were earnestly trying to promote. For example: Governor Zulick, of Arizona, in his annual report to the Secretary of the Interior, September, 1886, urges that the Apache Reservation be cut down in order that white men may occupy it. The next year this same governor, though he makes no charge that depredations have been committed, arraigns the Apaches in Arizona as bitterly as he and other citizens had denounced the Chiricahua renegades in their most violent days, and once more demands that they be removed from the Territory. Governor Wolfley, his successor, in his annual report of 1889, recommends that the San Carlos Reservation be cut down, and that the coal lands be taken from the Apaches. In his report of September, 1888, Governor Edmund G. Ross of New Mexico demands that the Jicarilla Reservation be cut down for white occupation, though he admits that the Jicarilla Indians are doing well, and are causing no disturbance. Likewise, Governor N. O. Murphy of Arizona, in his report of 1890, urges that the Apaches be removed and that their reservations be opened for settlement. In 1914 there was an active movement on foot by El Paso businessmen to turn the Mescalero Reservation into a National Park; and, as late as 1918, Mr. Malcolm McDowell, Secretary of the Board of Indian Commissioners, reported that leading men of El Paso were again attempting to introduce a bill in Congress looking to the turning of the Mescalero Reservation into a National Park.

If, to all that the Government did or failed to do for these groping savages, we add the barking of political hyenas, the clamorous greed of citizens who desired to exploit the Indians, the crafty and persistent attempts of vile traders and viler whisky dealers to invade the reservations, or, failing of that, to hang upon the outskirts just beyond reach of the federal arm, we are able to get some idea of why the Apaches have moved forward somewhat slowly toward the shining heights of civilization. Yet progress has been made; and today, rank and file, the Apaches are very different beings from what they were half a century ago.

For one thing they have endured. They are not a decadent or diminishing race. On the contrary, we find, by comparing the annual reports of the Department of the Interior for 1886 and 1936, that there are in the United States today, 1,306 more Apaches than there were half a century ago. In 1886 there were 6,142 in all–5,644 in Arizona and New Mexico and 498 in Florida; in 1936 there were 7,448 in all–7,124 in Arizona and New Mexico and 324 in Oklahoma.

One other important thing is to be said before we take a final glimpse of these tribesmen on their reservations today. Repeatedly, as the decades have come and gone, we have had good reports from agents, Army officers, and civilians concerning the Apaches as workers. Crook was the first to show the Apaches that work is dignified and that it has its sure and solid rewards. From the time that he set them to raising crops, and cutting hay, and chopping wood with the assurance that they should receive full pay for such labor, the Apaches have shown themselves to be good workers. As time went on there was ever-increasing demand for their labor, not only in supplying hay and wood for the Army posts, but as toilers in the mines, as diggers of ditches, as builders of fences, and, preeminently, as road builders. More than a generation ago in Globe and other mining towns Apaches were in demand as laborers, and their behavior was so good when working for their own profit on the reservation that it was not difficult to get permission to work wherever they could find jobs.

In 1905, under the direction of American engineers, the Apaches became famous for the construction of one of the best roads built in Arizona up to that time–the eighty-mile stretch along the original Apache Trail between Phoenix and the Roosevelt Dam site. Those who observed these Indians at their work declared that they seemed to have an inborn knack for road building–employing dry masonry, yet choosing their material with such care and laying it with such skill that the result was a solid and enduring roadbed. Some of the work they did at that time has lasted longer than the concrete and steel work that was done at the same time. The Apaches helped to build several of the best roads that were constructed in Arizona a generation ago. They carried on whether or not under the eye of the foreman; took pride in their work; and could be depended upon for steady labor in hot weather as well as in cold.

In 1904 Mr. Louis C. Hill was supervising engineer in charge of Roosevelt Dam construction work. He was among the first to employ Apaches in large numbers for day labor. In an extended letter to me under date of April 12, 1937, he gave an account of his experience with these Indians as workers at that time. I quote: “They used to work all day on the road like the white men, but when the day was finished and the foremen yelled ‘All off,’ the Indians started for home up the canyon and ran to the top of the hill and on over to their camp at a good fast dog trot. They ran from about where the foot of the grade is now clear up to the old town of Roosevelt near Cottonwood Creek. My opinion is that if they had been properly treated by giving them time and thought and interest, so that they would feel they were getting somewhere, there would never have been any trouble. They were good workers, and I never knew an Apache to beg.” They are good workers today, as I can testify from my extensive travel through all four reservations in Arizona during this month of June, 1937.

There are no finer tracts of land in the world than those on which the Apaches now securely dwell. They comprise more than three million acres of mountainous country at an average altitude of about five thousand feet. The sun continually shines over these vast expanses; the stars forever burn in bright splendor. The temperature is rarely either very hot or very cold. Surely nowhere on earth are there grander mountains, finer cattle ranges, more fertile fields, trout streams swifter, cooler, more retired. Of late the Government seems to have done its best to match Nature in material benefits. On every reservation there are modern schoolhouses and hospitals as well equipped and satisfactorily conducted as are the schools and hospitals in the typical American town. Up-to-date sanitary dormitories house the Indian boys and girls during the school year. The agency grounds resemble college campuses in rural towns, adorned as they are with flowers, trees, and smooth-clipped lawns. Superintendents have homes comparable in comfort and convenience with those of superintendents of schools in large towns, while other employees live either in modern attractive cottages near the agency offices, or in wellconducted agency clubhouses. Good roads are maintained throughout the reservations. Telephone lines reach the remote homes of head stockmen, rangers’ stations, and fireguards in their mountain lookouts. Pure water is piped into every home and public building at the agency; houses and other buildings are electrically lighted; radios are common; and moving pictures are presented at suitable times in school auditoriums.

All these things Nature and Uncle Sam are now doing for the Apache Indians. What additional benefit or pleasure could be desired by the physical man? Surely, no outward comfort is lacking. If anything good is lacking, it must come from within. So we turn now to consider whether the Apache has the desire and ability to utilize this civilized life that has been built around him.

More and more, on all the reservations, the Apaches are adapting themselves to the modern manner of dress. The men nearly all have barbershop haircuts, though now and then one sees an old man from far back on the reservation whose uncut hair extends to his shoulders; and on the Jicarilla Reservation men and women alike plait their hair in two long braids that fall over the shoulders in front. On all the reservations the men wear Levy’s with soft shirts of various colors and qualities, and all have large black or gray hats that they wear cowboyfashion. Both men and women buy comfortable store shoes of fairly good grade, with low heels. The women continue to array themselves in voluminous calico skirts that fall to their heels, with loose blouse of the same brilliant material. It requires fifteen yards for a dress pattern. They make their own garments, and apparently dress in this style from a genuine sense of modesty. The younger girls, at the schools and around the agencies, wear shorter skirts, but when they return to their remote wickiups out on the reservation, they revert to the earlier fashions, shamed into so doing by the ridicule of their elders and the potent power of custom. The women wear no hats, and allow their hair to fall loosely around their shoulders as of old. As of old, too, a woman carries her papoose in a light, cradle-shaped basket, supported by a broad strap over her head.

Housing conditions vary greatly on the different reservations. On the White River and San Carlos Reservations the Indians nearly all continue to live in primitive wickiups. Here and there very small frame houses are occupied, or partially occupied, for short periods; but usually they give evidence of abandonment and neglect. Sometimes they are turned into storage sheds for corn, saddles and saddle blankets, and farm tools. They are almost wholly unfurnished, and, if occupied in cold weather, windows and doors are kept tight shut, and refuse is allowed to accumulate, so that, on the whole, they are more unsanitary than wickiups; for it is a prime virtue of a wickiup that it may be burned down when dirt and garbage become unendurable, or when a death occurs.

The Jicarillas are a pastoral people. In winter they drive their flocks to the warm open grazing grounds at the southern end of the reservation, and live in tents, or extemporized shelters. In the mountainous areas at the northern end of their territory they occupy log or adobe shacks and huts, or, still more commonly, now, square canvas tents. Almost none of them live in tepees or wickiups.

The most marked improvement in housing I found on the Mescalero Reservation. Here there is scarcely a wickiup to be seen. For the Chiricahuas who returned to Mescalero in 1913 and 1914, the Government built small frame houses at White Tail, eighteen miles from the Agency. During their long captivity the Chiricahuas had learned to dwell in houses, so, at once, they set a good example to their kinsmen on the reservation, and, as a result, not a few abandoned their wickiups for houses. At present, Mr. E. R. McCray, the superintendent of this Agency, is promoting the most ambitious housing program that has ever been attempted on an Apache reservation. His plan includes the erection of one hundred and fifty new, up-to-date little four-room frame houses, with adjoining barn, chicken house, and privy. These cottages are fitted out with neat, substantial modern furniture–a wood stove for the living room, a good range and sink for the kitchen, and, for other rooms, iron bedsteads and suitable chairs, tables, and dressers. All this furniture is of as good quality as is to be found in the home of the ordinary white man. Some of these houses have already been erected to replace those built for the Chiricahuas twenty-five years ago. Already, a little community of old people (humorously referred to as Townsend’s Village) no longer able to work, and regularly rationed by the agency, are living in these new, attractive cottages. When the program shall have been completed every Indian on the reservation will have a sanitary, well-furnished house to live in if he will occupy it; and the encouraging fact is they are actually living in them.

At present, on all the reservations, the Apaches are industrious and prosperous. In consequence of the somewhat too lavish expenditure of federal money at this time, no one is without a job who is able and willing to work. A good many of the older Apaches still draw pensions as former Army scouts; many intelligent younger people are employed in various indoor positions at the agencies; and still others are engaged in manual labor on various projects. Most of these Indians own cattle or sheep, and a great many have horses. Some years ago the Government gave to every adult Indian who was willing to care for them, each with his own private brand, an allotment of cattle or sheep. This stock is herded on the reservations under the supervision of experienced white stockmen, the Indians themselves serving as cowboys and shepherds. Once a year, or oftener, there is a general round-up; the cattle are taken to the nearest shipping station, are there sold and weighed, and each holder of a brand is paid for the stock he markets. A small percentage of the money received goes into the Tribal Fund for general and administrative expenses incurred. The rest goes into the pockets of the individual owners.

On all the reservations the superintendents are doing their best to induce each adult Indian to take over a small allotment of farm land to hold and cultivate for himself. These little farms are selected and worked with the advice and aid of the white farm manager of the agency. Many of the Indians, in addition to running their cattle, are now successfully working their small plots of land. As in many other respects the greatest progress in farming has been made by the Chiricahuas on the Mescalero Reservation. They had practiced farming to a considerable extent during their long sojourn in Oklahoma, and in other particulars had taken on the ways of civilization. Most of them speak English as well as does the ordinary immigrant farmer from Europe, and they dress very much like other farmers throughout the United States. Nearly all of them are good and fairly industrious agriculturists. Their small fields, of from five to twenty acres, and adjoining modern cottages are situated in lovely canyons or valleys at an elevation of seven or eight thousand feet, with views of lofty mountains in every direction. They have horses, cows, and chickens, farm wagons, and a good many now have Fords or Chevrolets.

Economically the Jicarilla Indians present an interesting situation. This is a small tribe, numbering only about seven hundred and fifty. Until recently they have seemed to be the weakest and most backward of the Apache groups. About two decades ago they were dying off rapidly from tuberculosis. Then the Government took active steps to check the inroads of this disease. They were dying from insufficient food and lack of shelter. Through the timely and vigorous efforts of local white men, Mr. Emett Wirt and Mr. Denton Simms, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs was brought sharply to book and the Jicarilla tribe was saved from destruction. A hospital was established particularly for the treatment of tuberculosis. The death rate was quickly checked, and then, steadily, year by year, the Jicarillas began to increase in numbers. Large flocks of sheep were bought for them, to be paid for later out of the Tribal Revolving Fund, and as a result of all this wise action they are now financially more secure than are the members of any of the other tribes. The average income from the sale of wool is large; nearly every family is self-supporting; and some men among them, the more intelligent and industrious, are growing well-to-do.

Until recently it has been very difficult to persuade the Apaches to go to white doctors when they are sick, or to enter the hospitals for treatment. Of late, though, they have been freeing themselves, more and more, from their old superstitions, and there has been gradual weakening of the hold of the medicine men upon them. Every reservation now has a good hospital, with trained doctors and nurses in charge, and more than ever before sick people are entering these hospitals for treatment. It is rather common now for Apache women to come to the hospital to have their babies, and men and women alike are now willing to go there for surgical attention and for the treatment of serious illness; so the beds are usually nearly all occupied. Doctors and nurses are careful when possible to remove patients who are at the point of death to tents or rooms outside; for it is hard for the Apache to conquer his horror of a building that has been contaminated by death.

On all the reservations now there are good schools, and children between six and eighteen who are mentally and physically able to go to school are in attendance. Some of the best of these schools are conducted by religious denominations, but of course the bulk of the school population attend Government schools. Buildings, playgrounds, inside equipment, and teaching efficiency are about on a par with the average smalltown school for white children throughout the United States. Not many pupils show a desire for higher education, but a few become ambitious to learn more and to fit themselves for definite positions in life. What hope there is of steady and solid advancement for the Apaches is to be found in these very few young people who catch visions of higher things. Here and there a teacher or a missionary has pointed out to me a girl or a boy in whom he centers his pride and his hope.

In matters moral and religious there is at present little to encourage the missionary and the humanitarian. Neither young people nor old show marked progress in goodness and sobriety, in loftiness of aim, or stern self-control. On the whole the white man, as he presents himself today, is not a very lovely being to imitate, yet, always, the Indians are exhorted to follow in the steps of the white man. Unhappily it is easier to follow the vices of the white man than his virtues. It is the general impression of agency officials, missionaries, and other seriousminded white people who have long resided on the reservations that drinking and gambling are on the increase at present among both old and young; and they think there is considerable moral laxity between sexes. Drink has always been the chief curse of the Apache; and men and women alike have always had a passion for gambling. At present the Indians continue to have their secret tulapai parties, in spite of the vigilance of the officials. In addition they now buy liquor from saloons adjacent to the reservations, and from bootleggers. Now, also, they are able to buy at the stores ingredients from which to concoct powerful intoxicants. The white people at the agencies believe that this increased tendency to drinking, especially among the young, is traceable to the repeal of prohibition and the resulting marked increase in drinking and drunkenness among citizens everywhere. It seems impossible to eradicate the gambling habit among the Apaches; but, fortunately, the effects of gambling are not so deadly and degrading as is addiction to the drink habit. As to all these vices, including sexual promiscuity, it is my belief that the Apaches are no worse than the white men in average American communities. On the reservations marriage must now be entered into in accordance with the federal law. Divorces, however, may be granted by the Tribal Council. Separation has become rather easy; so there are a good many divorced men and women on the reservation.

The Christian religion is making almost no headway among the Apaches. Never has the Apache nature seemed to respond to Christian doctrine and conduct. For a generation or more missionaries of very high quality intellectually and morally have labored devotedly among them and have been greatly respected by them. The Indians attend their services and their mission schools to some extent; but their course of life, except in rare cases, has remained almost unaffected by the Christian creed and code of action. Some of the Chiricahuas on the Mescalero Reservation do appear to have become genuine Christians; and the same is true, I believe, of a few young people on the Jicarilla Reservation. Nearly all the returned Chiricahuas incline toward the Protestant faith, as they had early been brought under the influence of the Dutch Reformed Church at Fort Sill. Many of them are now consistent members of this church. I think, for example, of Ramona, Chihuahua’s daughter, and of Uncas, son of Noche. These two fine elderly people seem to me to exhibit the true marks of Christianity-sober, mild, industrious, and kindly as they are. Both have suffered deeply, and both seem to have learned from their suffering lessons of godliness and submission. I am not sure but that two or three very young Jicarillas whom I saw give evidence of those refinements of character and conduct that we like to call Christian.

I have asked myself often, and I asked missionaries, teachers, traders, and Government officials on the reservations, “What is the best that we may hope for the Apaches–twenty-five, fifty, one hundred years from now?” It is hard to believe that much can be expected beyond what I have recorded in the paragraphs written above. If still further progress is made, it must come as the result of some inward light and propulsion. No force from without, however wise and humane, can avail to draw the Apache upward to racial attainment, enlightenment, greatness of character. The ideal, the motive power, must emanate from within if the Apache is ever to mount upward to a place of nobility and distinction among the races of men. No people can achieve independence and win a worthy place for itself among civilized nations unless it can generate its own lofty racial ideals and an accompanying passion to make these unique ideals prevail. At this time it does not seem likely that there reside in the Apache nature the passion and the power to attain racial eminence and independence.

Footnotes

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  1. This was the result of a Report made by Herbert Welsh, corresponding Secretary of the Indian Rights Association. In the spring of 1887 he had been sent by the Executive Committee of the Association to get exact information concerning the dealings of the Government with these prisoners.
  2. From the time of his surrender, Nachez is usually referred to as Naiche, and his name is spelled Naiche in the Mescalero Agency records.


MLA Source Citation:

AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 30 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/fifty-years-of-apache-peace.htm - Last updated on Aug 1st, 2013


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