Genocide The Genocide of the Chiricahua Indian Tribe United States history is taught in public schools when we are old enough to understand its importance. Teachings of honorable plights by our forefathers to establish this great nation are common. However, specific details of this establishment seem to slip through the cracks of our educational curriculum. Genocide by definition is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group. The Chiricahua Indian Tribe of the American southwest and northern Mexico suffered almost complete annihilation at the hands of the American policy makers of the late nineteenth century, policy makers that chose to justify their means by ignoring their own tyrannical ways.
It has been discovered that Apaches in the late 1800s were reported to exist in four separate bands, or clusters of rancherias, although how far back in time the division occurs is unknown (Griffen 5). The native name for the easternmost band was the Chihene, or red painted people; they were also known as Victorio, Mangas Coloradas, and Loco Apaches after the Spanish names of important leaders. To the south and west were the Chokonen or Rising Sun People. These people were often called Central Chiricahua, True Chiricahua, and Cochise Apaches. North and west of the Chokonen were the Bedonkohe, In Front at the End People sometimes called the Geronimo Apaches. The southernmost Chiricahua band was the Ndeinda, enemy people.
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They were also called the Nedni and Nednai, Southern Chiricahua, Pinery, and Bronco Apaches (Cole 10). These names differ among some scholars, but the majority of them can agree consistently on at least four bands, even if the names are different. Apache history is rich in custom, tradition, and worship of an all-powerful supernatural force known as The Power. Although accounts are different, after the creation of the world, Ussen created “White Painted Woman”. This supernatural female was the most important figure in Chiricahua religious belief.
She was at once the progenitor of the Chiricahua people, the symbol of female activity and life, and the sponsor of all that was peaceful and gentle in human relationships. According to Chiricahuas, it was White Painted Woman who befriended the G’an, thus winning the sponsorship of the Apaches in a world filled with dangerous forces. White painted woman also bought forth two sons who survived infancy. One was Killer of Enemies, conceived from the sun. The other, Child of the Water, was the conception of lightning (Cole 14-15).
It were these mythical characters that provided the basis for basic understandings of nature as well as the beings who were venerated in various ceremonies among the Apaches. It is important to understand the importance of the aforementioned Power and its idea that nothing could be accomplished without it. Raiding and war were common aspects of Chiricahua behavior. Far more productive than agriculture was the practice of raiding (Cole 48). Usually raiding communities of Northern Mexico called Fronteras; equipment and supplies were obtained through these activities. It was not unusual for the Chiricahua to raid neighboring bands or rancherias as well.
War on the other hand was normally an act of revenge, an ethical commitment to retaliate for the deaths of murdered relatives, a religious act that bound a man to the larger complex of Apache values and ideals (Griffen 11). The leaders of the bands were usually chosen at the time and planning capabilities of each raid or war. Successful raids could mean a higher position or more respect among the band, while failure could bring the tag or a loss of Power to the warrior. The older, more respected warriors normally did planning. After raids Apaches celebrated their victories with ritual and religious symbolism, large quantities of food, tiswin (a mild fermented alcoholic beverage), singing, dancing and distribution of the booty taken on the raid (Griffen 13).
Training was an essential endeavor for the young Apache because raiding and war were normal ways of life and a means of survival. Ideally, boys trained rigorously and practiced running long distances, mounting horses, shooting with the bow, parrying with the lance, jumping into cold water and similar activities to toughen themselves and perfect fighting skills. The young man was taken under the wing of an older, more experienced warrior where he was basically a servant. For his services, he was given knowledge about the animals and their tendencies, as well as skills in hunting for food. He learned to be truthful, to listen respectfully, to remain silent until spoken to, to avoid activities that would jeopardize the safety of the group, and to endure hardships without complaint (Griffen 13).
Women on the other hand, were given training with regards to domestic affairs. Cooking, gathering, treating hides, and other essential daily requirements were taught at a fairly young age, usually by the grandparents. Since roles of both male and females were held with high regards to each other, a mutual respect between them was present. Americans appeared in the southwest in the closing years of the Spanish Empire. They were unofficial representatives of United States interests, usually trappers seeking the abundant amount of beaver in the waters of the area. The Chiricahua were not hostile to Americans initially, unless they were mistaken for Spaniards or Mexicans.
Events occurring in Mexican provinces such as Chihuahua and Hermosillo led to the eventual gaining of enemy status by the trappers. The Mexicans at one hundred dollars offered a warrior, fifty for a woman, and twenty-five for a child’s scalp scalps of Chiricahua as bounty a warrior, fifty for a woman, and twenty-five for a child’s scalp. One party led by a man named John Johnson was encouraged by the Mexican concessionaires at Santa Rita to attack the Chihene in the region. Playing upon the credulity of the Chihene leader, Juan Jose, Johnson lured the Apaches to a fiesta ambush. As Indians scrambled for gifts in the plaza, they were shot down, and clubbed by Mexicans and Americans. Many of the Apaches were killed and the rest fled (Cole 72-73).
Needless to say, the trappers of the region had now obtained official enemy status. Following the massacre at Santa Rita, the Johnson massacre, and other events caused increased Apache hostilities. Kinsmen of the slain, apparently relatives of an important chief of the Chihene, Mangas Coloradas attempted to avenge their deaths (Griffen 174). Together with Chokonen, Bedenkohe, and Nednai, the mountains were swept clear of trappers. In retaliation, more scalping activities against the Apache were executed. Large numbers of Chiricahuas were killed in such diverse areas such as Janos, the headwaters of Yaqui, and near Casas Grandes, Arizona.
Some local groups were entirely destroyed. No longer did Chiricahuas gather in large encampments for winter for fear of attack. As a result of these bloody encounters, many of the Apache bands began campaigns of scalping as well. No longer were prisoners taken and they were always put to death in slow painful ways (Cole 74-75). The Mexican War of 1846-1848 brought United States military forces into the southwest. Americans entered the region with pre-conceived ideas of the savage Apache. Following the Mexican War, and in accordance with the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo Article XI, Americans were to compensate any raids into Mexico from the new borderlines established.
Attempts at stopping the raiding from Unites States geographical Apaches proved to be an agitation for officials of the region (Cole 77). Subsequently, the Gadsden Purchase Treaty of 1854, which abrogated Article XI, increased the amount of land claimed by the United States. Since the Chiricahuas did not recognize the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo, they refused to agree to the Gadsden Purchase. They held the belief that Mexicans could not cede land or sell Apache lands they had never controlled (Cole 78). In my research I have discovered that one of the most respected and highly regarded Chief among the Chiricahua Tribe was Cochise, usually referred to as Oak by his people.
As 1861 dawned, Cochise had already spent more than three-quarters of his life had in relative obscurity as far as the non-Chiricahua world was concerned. He was approaching fifty and had two wives, the first of whom bore him two sons, and the second one son (Sweeney 142). It was said that Cochise possessed remarkable skills in tribal diplomacy as well as encounters with white generals and politicians (Sweeney 1). He was the leader who was present at the incident that opened hostilities between the Chiricahuas and the Americans: The Bascom Affair at Apache Pass, known by the Indians as Cut the Tent a reference to Cochise’s means of escape (Sweeney 144). The Bascom affair started on January 27, 1861, by two parties of Apaches who raided the ranch of John Ward eleven miles south of Fort Buchanan.
They stole a reported twenty head of cattle and kidnapped a twelve year old boy named Felix. Detachments of soldiers from Fort Buchanan were dispatched led by First Lieutenant George Nicholas Bascom, a brave young officer with no Indian experience. While investigating the matter, tracks led toward the San Pedro River into Chokonen country, therefore implicating Cochise’s people. Public opinion supported the belief, although historically it is believed that the raiders were probably White Mountain Apaches (Sweeney 146). Bascom’s command element, headed by a man named Colonel Morrison, issued orders to retrieve the boy and the stock by any means necessary and to punish those responsible (Sweeney 146). Cochise meanwhile may have sent messengers to inquire about the Ward boy from his neighbors to the west. Bascom’s men had marched directly into Apache Pass and had set camp near there about one mile from the stage station. I feel that it is important to point out that the Chokonen or Cochise’s people were well received by the people of this area; they were not enemies so to speak. Bascom reportedly waited impatiently for the arrival of Cochise who was probably awaiting word from his runners in the west (Sweeney 149).
Then it is difficult to account for what happened next because of different accounts, but I will go with the most popular story. Apparently Cochise arrived with several members of his family, including his brother, two or t …