The Pima Indians, who live on the banks of the Gila River (pronounced in Spanish Heela), are the most civilized of any North-American Indians. They live in houses, manufacture useful articles, and are known for simplicity of character, peacefulness, and honesty. But they have had their wars. A battle took place near the “broad trail,” which is now sometimes called the Temple Road. Ursuth was the chief then, and he led his people against a band of 54 Apache Indians. The Pimas were far outnumbered by Apache warriors, and yet many were killed on both sides, but, although Ursuth received three wounds, he was able to keep the Apaches back till the Pima women and children had escaped and reached a place of safety.
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The Apaches always began the wars, but the Pimas were never slow to follow and fight them; they gained the advantage sometimes by making night attacks. They would come upon the Apaches with clubs and knives, and kill them in their sleep. Then, like all Indians, the Pimas would carry off as many captives as they could secure. These they sold in Mexico for sixty to one hundred dollars apiece, being paid in clothes or live stock. After a battle they would have wonderful dances to celebrate a victory.
When Ursuth grew too old to lead the warriors, Antonio took his place and became the war chief. Soon afterward there came a year when there was no food in all the Gila Valley, so the Pimas took their wives with them to the San Pedro River. Here they made a camp for the women, and the men mounted the few Indian ponies and rode off in search of food. When they returned the camp and all the women were gone, for the wild Apaches had stolen in and taken everything. This was a fearful return, but Antonio lost no time; he and his warriors did not rest till they had overtaken the robbers in the Sierra Mountains. Here they had a terrible battle, but the Pimas won, and rescued the women who had been taken captive.
Later Uncle Sam had a fort near where the Pima Indians lived, and he sent General Alexander, one of his officers, to take care of it.
After a while, in the year 1868, this officer was obliged to make war upon some Apaches, for they were stealing cattle and horses from Pimas and white people. A hundred Pima Indians went with General Alexander and helped him make many charges over hills, rocks, and streams. Their wild ways and brilliant dresses delighted him during his great march into the mountains.
The Pimas are proud of the fact that they never killed a white man. They hate the Apaches and make war against them, but have always been the white man’s friend. General Alexander and his wife were great friends of these Indians, but were sorry to that they believed in many foolish things; Antonio as well as all the rest. They tried to cure sick people by rapping on rude drums or shaking rattles day and night beside them. Some of the chief men of the tribe taught the warriors to get drunk at their feasts, and to play games which made it possible for a few and to gain all the property of the tribe. They did all sorts of silly things, too, in time of famine, to bring food. The General often talked to Antonio and told him that there were good white people who lived far away in the East and that some day they would send a good man to live among the Pimas. He would not want their land or their money, but would come because he loved the Indians and wanted to do them good. What he told them would be the truth, and Antonio could trust him when he came. The chief listened. He believed and waited for the great teacher to come. Three years went by, then a German named Koch went to live in Arizona. He was a Christian missionary and he wanted to help the Indians. The Indian agent built a small school-house for him, and here he began to teach the Indian children. Louis, one of the boys, could speak Spanish, and with his help the children taught the Pima language to their teacher. The German word Loch is the same as Cook in English, and Mr. Cook, as he was called, worked hard till he could speak Pima, while the Indian boys and girls learned to speak English, though so carefully did they follow their teacher that these children, born and brought up in America, spoke English with the same German accent that Mr. Cook had, though he was born far away in Germany.
After this good man had learned to speak the Indian language he talked to the older Indians. The chief had been waiting for the coming of just such a teacher and he listened to what he taught, and profited by it.
In 1872 some bad white men went to live on the banks of the Gila River, above where the Indians had their homes. They dug deep ditches and drew away a large part of the river. Of course, their fields and gardens were well watered in this way, but they cut off a great deal of water from the Indians who depended upon water from the river to make things grow in that dry country, where hardly any rain falls. More than half the crops of grain and vegetables were lost in consequence and the fruit-trees were nearly dead and could not bear fruit. Before these white men came the farms had been watered by ditches from the river which took water far up on to the land and then branched, so that water run over each Indian’s land and made the soil very rich. Some of the Indians were very angry and loudly complained, but these selfish white men only said: “The Pimas can not have the whole Gila; if we are above them that ‘s their bad luck.” Some of the young Indians wanted to fight, and I was sent to see what I could do to arrange matters.
When I first saw him, the chief, Antonio, was a lame old man of medium height, with a bright intelligent face; his black hair, a little, mixed with gray, hung in two short braids down his back. His forehead was clear and high, and his dark eyes, always gazing straight at you, were steady and searching. With him was his son, Antonito, about twenty-five years old. He was stouter than his father, and kept his eyes always on the ground until we were better acquainted, when he would look into my face.
We met in the office of the Indian agent, Mr. Stout; and Mr. Cook was there with Louis to help as interpreter. Mr. Cook told Antonio who I was. He said he would like to show me his house, so we walked three or four hundred steps to Antonio’s house. It was a like a big beehive outside, of rounded form and twenty or thirty feet across. The roof seemed to be made of hard clay such as is called by the Spanish work adobe. One side was square, and a door about four feet high and three feet across opened into it. As we entered after Antonio we stepped down two feet to the floor of hard sand and clay. On one side blankets were rolled up and placed against the wall. Saddles, guns, and belts hung opposite, and between were benches and some two or three Indian dogs. The Pietas have always lived in villages and built this kind of house, not as do other Indians, who live in tents. We talked a while but did not stay, for without any window or chimney the smell and smoke were too much for a white man to stand very long. On our way back to the office we often stopped to look about us and I saw that the Gila was a very strange river. It flows rapidly along on its way to the Colorado for some distance, then the water suddenly disappears and only a river bed filled with sand is seen, the surface of which is usually dry and white. A little farther on the water appears again. I thought at first there must be a channel beneath the sand and that the water followed on underneath, but our engineer told me that the sand, like a sponge, takes up the water of the Gila for a short distance in several places before it reaches the Colorado River. After our first talk Antonio opened his heart to me. He told me that wicked men had led his young people away and taught them bad ways. He said his people had been on the war-path in the past, but that they loved best to cultivate the land, raise fruits, and be at peace. “Some of our young men,” he said, “now want to fight these bad white men who steal our water. Louis and Antonito think that way, but Mr. Cook says `no.’
He is our teacher. The children have been to school to him and as soon as he knew our language he told them everything, about the President, the United States Government, and many other things. They have told me.”
Some time after this, a hundred miles west of Antonio’s village, I gathered part of five tribes of Apaches, two tribes of the Pueblos (those Indians who live in houses), many Mexicans, white citizens, and some American soldiers. This was to be a great peace meeting, and I wanted Antonio, who was my friend, to come and tell the other Indians about me. But he was too old and lame, so Mr. Cook and Louis came, and Antonio, the chief of the Pimas, sent his son, Antonito, to the council in his place. He said his son would soon have to speak everywhere for the tribe and “might as well begin now.”
At the end of the council the old enemies, Apaches and Pimas, embraced each other, while tears of joy ran down their cheeks. One strong active warrior said to Louis: “Look on the man you killed in battle many suns ago.” It was indeed an Indian Louis had left for dead on the battle-field, and seeing him he was greatly frightened, for he was very superstitious. But when he realized that this man was quite alive they embraced each other in promise of future good fellowship. Later Antonito went with me to New York and Washington with a party of ten Arizona Indians, and the new and startling experiences did much to bind them forever to the interest of this great peace. I made a second trip to Arizona later and on my way north visited the old Chief Antonio. Mr. Cook and Louis with Antonito had returned safely from the East, and Antonio never tired of hearing about the marvels they had seen and heard.
When I left with Antonio’s consent and Antonito’s encouragement, I took two Indian lads with me, intending to place them in school. At first they were pleased with the idea of going where Antonito had been, and of seeing the wonderful things he talked about, but when we reached a stage station beyond Marecopa Wells the boys were so frightened and homesick that they cried aloud. The interpreter could not quiet them, but a rough woman in the station, who had said she hated Indians and believed they should all be killed, was so very sorry for the boys that she began to cry too and begged me not to take the children away. I sent the lads back to Antonio by the interpreter, but a few years later Antonito brought these same boys with some others, including his own son, to the school at Hampton, Virginia, and stayed with them there for about a year, learning all that he could. He was very lonely so far away from his own people, and was delighted, “when he found out that my son, whom he had seen in Arizona, was on duty at Uncle Sam’s great fortification called Fortress Monroe, which was less than ten miles from Hampton.