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 plundering the Mexican settlements. For many years past they have been in the habit of committing constant depredations upon the lives and property of the inhabitants of this and the adjoining territories and states from which they have carried off an incredible amount of stock of all kinds. The only article of food that grows in their general range is the maguey plant and that spontaneously and in very small quantities.” 1

In his reports Bent included facts about the other Indian tribes in New Mexico and pointed out that the United States, in taking over this portion of Mexico, had assumed responsibility for about forty thousand Indians. He made it dear to the Government that the control and management of these tribes presented an immediate and most serious problem; and, at the same time, offered certain wise and constructive suggestions, namely: the necessity of providing suitable presents for the Indians in all attempts at friendly communication with them; the establishing of stockade forts at crucial and strategic points; and the taking of representatives of each tribe to Washington so that they might gain some notion of the United States and come to see how unwise it would be to continue their predatory habits when opposed by so powerful a government. The real predicament in which our Government found itself at this early stage of its dealings with the Apaches must be studied in the light of the very complicated relationships of the Indian tribes among themselves and the animosity of each tribe toward the Mexicans; but I must, for lack of space, limit myself to the Apache aspects of the situation.

When the United States signed the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty in 1848, it entered into very grave responsibilities with respect to the control of the Apaches along the frontier of the two countries involved. We were not prompted to such action by motives purely humanitarian. It was forced upon our Government by the necessities of the case. It would have been impossible to frame a treaty with Mexico without guaranteeing that her border provinces should be safeguarded from Apache incursions. So, by Article 11 of the treaty, the United States bound itself to restrain the Indians from raids into Mexico, or, in case of failure to do so, to give full satisfaction for such breaches of the agreement, to forbid any American to acquire from the Indians either property or captives stolen in Mexico, to rescue captives brought into the United States from Mexico and return them to agents designated by the Mexican Government, and, finally, speedily to enact laws by which these agreements should be rendered effective. True, James Buchanan, American Secretary of State at that time, affirmed that we had “both the ability and the will to restrain the Indians within the extended limits of the United States from making incursions into Mexican territories, as well as to execute all the other stipulations of the eleventh article.” Yet he must have realized, and many of our statesmen did realize, that it would be impossible for our nation to live up to the letter of these agreements. Indeed, this article did not pass the Senate without strong opposition; and very soon it was all too manifest that we were unable to keep these promises, much as our country desired to live up to its obligations.

The difficulties of the situation were stupendous. The territory involved was very remote; the savages were ever on the move, and were scattered over vast stretches of land, mountainous, unexplored desert country, where much of the time the heat was terrific. The American people knew almost nothing about the region or the Indians that inhabited it; Congress was as dilatory as it was uninformed; both civil and Army officers were left without adequate support or coordinated policy; and the whole country, citizens and statesmen alike, almost to the exclusion of other urgent national problems, was passionately absorbed in the struggle over slavery. At first the Army and the Department of Indian Affairs had to shoulder responsibility. But the number of troops sent to New Mexico was entirely inadequate to cope with the situation; especially were we deficient in cavalry. Infantry could not possibly meet the demands of warfare against a well-mounted wide-roving enemy in a terrain the roughest and most and in America. Our soldiers were barely able to protect themselves, to say nothing about visiting punishment upon a proud and wily foe inured to this sort of warfare during three centuries.

It was most fortunate that the first Indian agent sent to New Mexico, James S. Calhoun, was an able and zealous officer. In March, 1849, soon after President Taylor took office, the Indian Agency at Council Bluffs was removed to New Mexico; and April 7 Calhoun received his commission as Indian Agent at Santa Fe. Though he set out at the earliest possible moment, he was not able to reach his new field until July 22. Two years and more had elapsed since Kearny took over the Territory in the name of the United States and things had been going from bad to worse. With intelligence and indefatigable energy Calhoun went to work to master the situation. Immediately he gathered an immense amount of valuable information concerning both the nomadic and settled Indians of his territory, and this knowledge he transmitted fully and promptly to his superior in Washington. Indeed, unprovided as he was with either money or troops, there was little he could do except gather facts and submit them to the proper officers in Washington. His recommendations from the first were wise and practicable. October 1, 1849, he writes as follows to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: “Numerous bands of thieving Indians, principally Navajos, Apaches and Comanches, are straggling in every direction, busily employed in gathering their winter supplies, where they have not sown. Not a day passes without hearing of some fresh outrage, and the utmost vigilance of the military force of this country is not sufficient to prevent murders and depredations and there are but few so bold as to travel ten miles from Santa Fe. How are these wrongs to be remedied? I answer, by a compulsory enlightment and the imposition of just restraints, both to be enforced at the point of the bayonet. It is now stated upon a more intimate knowledge of the various tribes of Indians in this region that a vast majority of the Apaches and Comanches live chiefly by depredations; that they look upon the cultivators of the soil with contempt as inferior beings, the products of whose labor, except in war, and in love, and the chase is degradation; and the man who has not stolen a horse, or scalped an enemy, is not worthy of association with these lords of the woods.

“The wild Indians of this country have been so much more successful in their robberies since General Kearny took possession of the country, they do not believe we have the power to chastise them. Is it not time to enlighten them upon this subject and to put an end to their ceaseless depredations?” 2

In a supplementary letter sent to Commissioner Medill, October 5, 1849, Calhoun urges that the country be thoroughly explored and surveyed so that the more dangerous and evasive of the Apaches may be rooted out of their lurking places; insists that two more mounted regiments be sent into the Territory; advises the opening of military roads and the establishment of army posts and depots. Eager that the Commissioner shall have in hand the necessary information upon which Congress may act when it shall meet the following winter, he makes another long report, October 15. He writes: “It is not necessary to repeat to you that the Apaches, although frequently roving east of the Rio Grande, when at home are to be found on the west side of the aforesaid river and on both sides of the boundary lines between the United States and Mexico, as indicated by the maps, running west several hundred miles to, or near, the Pima Villages. How are these people to subsist if you effectually check and stop their depredations? How are you to comply with your obligations under the aforesaid 11th Article without invading foreign territory?

“To establish a proper state of affairs in this country, with the economy which the Government of the United States should, and will, ever observe, requires a strong arm–and a prompt arm, guided by an enlightened patriotism, and a generous spirit of humanity.

“Expend your millions now, if necessary, that you may avoid the expenditure of millions hereafter.

“The Comanches and Apaches, with all the adjacent fragments of other tribes, must be penned up; and this should be done at the earliest possible day.” 3

Calhoun stresses the fact also that unprincipled Mexican traders are a potent source of evil; and are disaffecting the industrious and well-disposed Pueblo Indians, by assuring them that the Americans are more greedy and cruel than the Mexicans.

Writing from Santa Fe, February 29, 1852, to Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, Governor Calhoun says: “Such is the daring of the Apache Indians that they openly attack our troops and force them to retreat or become victims of the scalping knife of the savages. Parties are being entirely cut off on the Jornada between Fort Conrad and Fort Fillmore; between these points an escort affords no longer any protection. The mail from San Elizario, which reached here last evening, was attacked on the Jornada by the Apaches; an escort of ten men was furnished them from Fort Conrad, of which one man was killed and two wounded in the encounter. The San Antonio mail is entirely cut off, to a man; the only remains found of the bloody struggle were the irons of the carriage and the bones of the men in charge. Such, Sir, are the reports that reach us from day to day, and it is a lamentable fact that they are increasing rapidly, to such an extent that if such outrages continue much longer, our territory, instead of becoming settled with an industrious and thriving population, will be left a howling wilderness, with no other inhabitants than the wolf, and the birds of prey, hovering over the mangled remains of our murdered countrymen.” 4

On May 2, 1851, John R. Bartlett, United States Commissioner on the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, arrived at the Santa Rita Copper Mines in New Mexico in the very heart of the Apache country and there established headquarters. As he was representing our Government in an international activity of no little moment and had under his authority a large and very diversified party consisting of a military escort, numerous scientists, and many other civilians of almost every rank and description, we may say that he was the symbol and epitome of the United States Government to these wild and warlike Apaches during the four months that he remained in that region. He came into close and frequent contact with the most powerful Apache chiefs of the west–Mangas Coloradas, Dalgadito, and Ponce. His dealings with these savages constitutes, therefore, a very important link in the story of American relations with the Apaches. Bartlett was a man of great ability and fine poise, honorable, humane, and cultivated; an antiquarian, a trained observer, a good writer, and a skillful draftsman; and his account of the origin, dispersion, numbers, characteristics, and activities of the Apaches, including his own contacts and clashes with the powerful chiefs mentioned above, is extended and in some parts rich in details.

It was not until after Bartlett’s party had been at the Copper Mines for six weeks that the Apaches presumed to visit the camp of the Americans. However, nothing that the Americans did had escaped their attention. Bartlett had just returned from a somewhat prolonged journey into Sonora, when on June 23, Mangas Coloradas, the most famous Apache of his generation, accompanied by Dalgadito and a dozen more of his band, presented himself before the Commission. Mangas informed Bartlett that his warriors had watched every movement of his, since he set out on his journey into Mexico up to the present time, and warned him that he ran great risks in traveling with so small a company into unknown territory where bad Indians roamed. He said that, as for himself, he was altogether friendly toward the Americans and that he and his tribe desired peaceful relations. Bartlett replied in a like amicable tone, explaining to him the results of the war recently carried on between the United States and Mexico and telling him that this party of Americans were now marking off the boundary between the two countries. He assured him that Indians living on the American side of the line would be protected by the United States Government, but that if they murdered either Americans or Mexicans or stole their stock they would be pursued and punished. Mangas Coloradas could not see why we should extend our protection to the Mexicans, but when Bartlett made it dear to him that our treaty bound us to do this, he said that his people would not harm either Bartlett’s party or the Mexican Commission and promised that if any of Bartlett’s horses or mules were stolen by his young men or were found astray, he would have them sent back to the American camp.

Simple presents were distributed to the Indians–beads, cotton cloth, and shirts–but the Commissioner not only refused to give them whisky; he assured them that he had none with him. It was as hard for the savages to understand how a party of Americans could be without whisky as it was for them to comprehend why we insisted upon protecting the Mexicans. They continued to be skeptical on this point, and whenever they saw bottles containing liquid of any kind, they would ask for a drink of it, supposing, of course, that it was whisky. “I one day handed them a bottle of catsup and another of vinegar,” Bartlett writes, “and told them to ascertain for themselves. A taste put a stop to their investigations and they were afterwards less inquisitive.”

Two or three times during their stay at the copper mines difficulties arose as a result of the obligations imposed upon our nation by Article 11 of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty, and each time Bartlett with tact, but above all with firmness, stood by the terms of the treaty and made it clear to all concerned that the United States took its responsiblities seriously. The first difficulty arose in late June, 1851, when three New Mexican traders came to the headquarters of the Commission to secure provisions if possible. They had in their possession, secured by barter from the Pinal Apaches, a number of horses and mules and a Mexican girl about sixteen years old. The captive was a beautiful girl and it was their purpose to sell her wherever they could get the best price for her, which meant, of course, that she was to be doomed to a life of shame. The treaty with Mexico expressly forbade commerce in the states, whether in stolen animals or captive human beings, so when the facts were brought to Bartlett’s attention, he without delay sent a note to the Commander of the military escort to obtain the release of the girl at once and to hold the strangers until further notice. The order was promptly complied with; the young captive was held by the Commission and well cared for until Bartlett was able in person to restore her to her relatives in Santa Cruz, Sonora.

From the time that Bartlett arrived at the Copper Mines, the Indians and Americans had been on the best of terms. Mangas Coloradas and his people were encamped about four miles from the headquarters of the Commission, and men, women, and children frequently came in to see the Americans. The day after the release of Inez Gonzalez, the captive girl, there were many Indians at headquarters. Suddenly into the tent of Mr. Cremony, the interpreter, rushed two Mexican boys, the older one about thirteen years of age, the other perhaps two years younger, and begged him to save them from their captors. They were naked and their hair was cropped, but they were bright, fine lads. Mangas Coloradas and Dalgadito had learned that the boys had escaped and had sought the Americans for protection and these two chiefs were with Bartlett when the lads were brought before him. Mangas wanted Bartlett to buy them, but the Commissioner explained that Americans did not buy captives and at the same time reminded the chief that our Government was under obligation to protect captives found in the hands of the Indians and to return them to their own country. The Apaches either could not or would not understand the binding nature of our obligation under the treaty, or the repulsion of Americans, on grounds of humanity, to enslaving Mexican children and taking them away from their homes and parents. Talk was useless, and after a while the Indians went away in bad humor. Bartlett asked them to return the next day for further parley, for he was eager to keep on good terms with them, but they remained in a sulk for several days. As Bartlett had reason to believe that they would try to recapture the boys, he committed them to the hands of four brave and trusty men and, after providing them with good clothes, sent them off that night to the camp of General Condé, the head of the Mexican Commission.

After some days the chiefs and their followers came back to talk things over again, and with them came the former master of one of the boys. The arguments set forth by the Apaches were acute and eloquent. They ably made the best of their cause. They said the Americans had no right to take away their captives from them. Had they not long been on good terms with each other, coming and going openly to and from their camps, with their women and children and without any attempt to conceal their captives? They had believed that the Americans were sincere in their friendship, were their brothers. “Why do you take our captives from us?”

Bartlett replied that the actions of the Americans had been sincere and honest, explained that the dignity of our country compelled us to stand by our treaty with the Mexicans with whom we were now at peace. We had promised protection to the Mexicans and could not lie. We were eager to extend protection and friendship to the Indians likewise.

Said one of the Indians: “‘Yes, but you took our captives from us without beforehand cautioning us. We were ignorant of this promise to restore captives. They were made prisoners in lawful warfare. They belong to us. They are our property. Our people also have been made captives by the Mexicans. If we had known of this thing, we should not have come here.'” To all this Dalgadito added: “‘The owner of these captives is a poor man; he cannot lose his captives, who were obtained at the risk of his life and purchased with the blood of his relatives. He justly demands his captives. . . . Nor does the brave who owns these captives wish to sell them. He has had one of those boys six years. He grew up under him. His heart-strings are bound around him. . . . Money cannot buy affection. His heart cannot be sold. He taught him to string and shoot the bow and to wield the lance. He loves the boy and cannot sell him.'”

Bartlett answered: “‘I have no doubt but that you have suffered much by the Mexicans. This is a question in which it is impossible for us to tell who is right or who is wrong. You and the Mexicans accuse each other of being the aggressors. Our duty is to fulfill our promise to both. . . . We feel for our Apache brother and would like to lighten his heart. But it is not our fault. Our brother has fixed his affections on the child of his enemy. It is very noble. But our duty is stern. We cannot avoid it.

“‘The captives cannot be restored. The Commissioner cannot buy them, neither can any American buy them; but there is here in our employ a Mexican who is anxious to buy them and restore them to their homes. We have no objection that this Mexican should do so, and if he is not rich enough, some of us will lend him the means.’

“This last suggestion was accepted; and everyone concerned went over to the Commissariat where the price agreed upon, two hundred and fifty dollars worth of American goods, was laid out and accepted by the Apaches.” 5 And so the incident was closed.

Once or twice again serious disturbances arose and it seemed as if open warfare must ensue; but Bartlett’s fairness and ingenuity were always equal to the occasion. However, as the summer wore on, the Indians grew more and more insolent and hostile. Three different times they drove off the horses and mules of the Commission. The last time they also stampeded the cattle of a Mr. Hay who was working a gold mine near by. Colonel Craig was absent with the troop in pursuit of another party of marauders, but a volunteer company from the Commission followed the Indians and pressed them so hard that they had to scatter and leave the animals. Mr. Hay clearly identified Dalgadito as leader of this last thieving expedition. The time had now come for the Commission to move on westward to begin the survey so, late in August, the Copper Mines were deserted.

A more typical view of American ways and American ideals of honor than that presented by the high-minded Commissioner John R. Bartlett comes to us from the adroit pen of the pioneer wag, bon vivant, and diplomat Charles D. Poston. Poston had entered the Gadsden Purchase as early as 1854 and had then gone East to raise money for extended mining operations on the Santa Cruz River and in the mountains surrounding Tubac. In July, 1856, Poston was on his way back to Arizona with an ample supply of money and in command of a fairly tough outfit of frontiersmen “armed with Sharp’s rifles, Colt’s revolvers, and the recklessness of youth.” At El Paso the party rested. Says Poston: “As the waters of the Rio Grande are rather sandy, champagne was used as a substitute, and it required a month to recruit the animals for a pitch into Apache land.

“First, I was provided with credentials from Washington. Dr. Steck, the Indian Agent on the Rio Grande, offered to go out with the company and introduce us to the Apaches. He sent four wagon loads of grain ahead for the Indians to make tiz-win with and appointed a rendezvous at the old Spanish fort near the Gila, called Santa Rita-del-Cobre, a triangular fort constructed with military skill.

“I camped the company on the Mimbres, taking only five men on horseback as an escort; and Dr. Steck was only accompanied by a Mexican boy, who had been a captive among the Apaches, as an interpreter. There were about 350 Apaches in camp, the most noted being Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeve) a fine looking chief. The Apaches were as friendly and civil as could be. We camped in the old triangular fort and they camped outside. In the course of nearly a week spent there we had many talks. They said they had always been friendly with the Americans and wanted to continue to be friends, but that the Spanish and Mexicans had treated them badly and that they would kill them and rob them as long as they lived. We exhibited our new fire-arms which were then Sharp’s rifles and Colt’s revolvers, shot at marks and drank tiz-win, roasted venison and made the Indians some presents. What they appreciated most was some matches which they wrapped carefully in buckskin.

“Before we took our departure there was a clear understanding between us: the treaty with the Apaches provided that they would not disturb the Americans coming into Arizona and that the Americans would not disturb the Apaches in their raids into Mexico. When we returned to camp on the Mimbres one old mule was missing, and when I complained to the chief about it, he said some of the boys had stolen it and he would have it sent back; and he did.

“In the camp at San Simon about fifty Apaches came along returning from a raid into Mexico, with plenty of horses and mules, and six captives, all girls. They were under a Coyotero chief named Alessandro, father of Natush, afterwards wife to little Steve. They made some bluster at first because we would not sell them ammunition; but finally consented to be friendly. Natush told me many years afterwards that they could have killed me many times from ambush, but they would not do it. After we became established at the old Presidio of Tubac, the Apaches came along on their way into Sonora and could easily have killed our Vaqueros and carried off the herd; but they refrained from doing so out of respect to the treaty. To give the devil his due, the Apaches kept the treaty more faithfully than the Government of the United States had kept the treaty with Mexico.” 5

From 1855 to 1860 Dr. Michael Steck was Agent for all the Southern Apache tribes. These included the Mescaleros, the Mimbres, the Mogollons, the Coyoteros, and the Chiricahuas. After 1856 both the Mescaleros and the Mimbres had shown a good disposition and had expressed their willingness to settle down and cultivate the soil, or to submit to any other plans that the Government might think best adapted to their permanent welfare.

The agent knew little about the Mogollons and Coyoteros and almost nothing about the Chiricahuas. Their habitat was so remote from his headquarters at Fort Stanton, and the region over which they roamed so wild, that no close contacts had ever been made with them. In Steck’s report of August 7, 1857, we are supplied with accurate and adequate information concerning the state of affairs among the tribes under his care. It is true that the Mescaleros had been bad during 1855-1856, but their depredations were due to the fact that they were without food and had no way of securing it except by raids upon the white settlements. “There people are poor and very badly clad. . . . They devoured a dead mule with avidity, and eagerly eat up the leavings of dogs. They say there is not sufficient game in the country to keep them from starvation.” 6

With the exception of a few outlaws who had united themselves with the predatory Mogollons, the Mimbres band were eager for peace. They had shown an earnest desire to begin the planting of crops. As every other well-informed person had done since 1846, Steck makes it clear that the only hope of protecting the property of the white people in Mexico, New Mexico, and Arizona, and the only means of improving the condition of these savages and building them up in the ways of civilized life, is to locate them on well-defined reservations, provide them with food and tools, and instruct them in the cultivation of the soil. He emphasizes the fact that the Government must allow some time to accomplish the desired end and must in the meantime supply the Indians with provisions.

Specifically Steck urges that new treaties be made with these Indians and that immediately the Mescaleros, Mimbres, Mogollons, and Copper Mine Apaches, all of whom at one time or another have looked to Mangas Coloradas as their chief, and all others of like language and inherited customs, be assigned a reservation on the Gila River west of longitude 109, where they shall have their permanent home. He advises that good agents be located among them to issue to them the necessary goods provided by the Government for their immediate needs and to advise and instruct them in their new manner of life. He recommends, also, that a military post consisting of four companies at least be established on the Gila to look after them and also to control Apache bands that roam the country still farther west. He insists that such steps be taken at once, as delay is sure to result in further destruction of property and consequent claims against the Government by those despoiled, the payment of which would cost ten times as much as the money required to carry out this plan, to say nothing of the suffering and loss of life sure to result from continued hostilities. He concludes with these wise and earnest words:

“There is no comparison, therefore, between the cost of a pacific policy and that of whipping them into subjection; besides, no permanent good is obtained by fighting them, as the survivors after every campaign will be less able to maintain themselves than before it. The department will be compelled, therefore, in the end to choose between the policy of feeding them and providing for their wants, and that of their total extermination.”

During the summer of 1857 Colonel R. C. Bonneville in command of the Department of New Mexico carried on an extensive campaign against the Coyoteros north of the Gila, the most westerly of the Apache tribes. As a result of Bonneville’s invasion of their territory, it became evident that, while a few of the bad men of the tribe had been guilty of depredations, the Coyoteros had never felt any fixed hostility toward the Americans but, on the contrary, now, as in the past when Pattie and Kearny had come that way, it was the desire of their chief men to be on friendly terms with the Americans.

September 2, 1857, just after their fight with Bonneville on the Gila, three Coyoteros, led by a chief called Chino Pena, visited Steck at the Indian Agency. Pena said that a grand council of the Coyotero tribe had just been held and that, after being in conference three days and three nights, the tribe unanimously sent him to ask for peace. He said he had been sent as spokesman for all the chiefs between the Pinal and Mogollon Mountains, to say that they would “offer all their mountains, waters, wood, and grass in exchange for peace.” ColonelBonneville and another officer, Major Simonson, were present at the Agency when the Indians arrived and they, as well as Steck, were convinced that the Coyoteros sincerely desired to live at peace with the Americans. Steck responded in the same amicable spirit, and sent them back to their people with the assurance that the Americans “wanted none of their wood, water, mountains, or their gold, but that we desired peace.”

In his report of August 10, 1858, Steck says the Coyoteros have kept their promises and that, though as yet the Agency has no regular contact with them, his belief is that a good understanding could be reached with them if they were called into council, given presents, and supplied with implements for farming. He states further that though they are the largest and most powerful band in his territory, they are at the same time among the least warlike, even owning considerable herds and cultivating the soil to some extent, and raising crops of corn, wheat, beans, and pumpkins.

Steck’s report of August 10, 1858, gives a sad picture of the effects of Government control over the savages who are near the white settlements. There has been much drunkenness and this has resulted in quarrels and deaths among themselves. The white people have not only made them drunk; they have swindled them out of their houses; and the Mexican people of Mesilla have even murdered them in cold blood. The tribes that have been brought into closest association with the white settlements have contracted the diseases of the white men and been poisoned by their vices and consequently have died in large numbers. From all these they were comparatively free in their wild state. They are now not only more liable to attack of diseases, but less liable to resist the inroads of such diseases when they fall a prey to them, so they die from diseases that ordinarily do not prove fatal.

Steck’s report of August 12, 1859, is illuminating. At that time the Apache Agency extended from the Pecos River to the Colorado and included five distinct bands: the Mescaleros, the Gila Apaches (made up of the Mimbres, and the Mogollons), the White Mountain Coyoteros, the Pinal Coyoteros, and the Chiricahua Apaches. The Gila Apaches “never have recovered from the effects of the campaign made into their country two years ago by Colonel Bonneville. They were then compelled to scatter in every direction for safety. Most of them ran into the republic of Mexico and there, exposed to the heat and malaria of the low country, many of them died. Before that war, they numbered over four hundred warriors and now the two bands united number less than one hundred and fifty.

“The Chiricahua Apaches . . . had very little intercourse with the Americans until after the establishment of the great overland mail, which runs directly through their country. In view of the importance of giving security to travel upon this great thoroughfare to the Pacific, the agent received instructions from Superintendent J. L. Collins to hold a talk and distribute presents to this band in December, 1858. An interview was accordingly held at Apache Pass, and since that time no traveller has been molested upon the road through their country. This band of Apaches rove about in small parties and have always been termed the Apaches Broncos, or wild Apaches. They are the most warlike band west of the Rio Grande, and the least reliable. They number about one hundred warriors and five hundred women and children. . . .

“The White Mountain Coyoteros is that portion of the Apaches living north of the Gila, upon the Rio San Francisco and head waters of the Salinas. They occupy a fine country, with many beautiful mountain streams and rich and fertile valleys for cultivation. This division numbers two thousand five hundred souls, of whom six hundred are warriors. In all their intercourse with the Government, their deportment toward travellers and traders, they have shown themselves to be the most reliable of all the bands of Apaches. . . .

“The Pinal Coyoteros occupy the country watered by the Salinas and other tributaries of the Gila. They take their name from the Pinal Mountain, in and around the base of which they live. Their country is also rich in timber and fertile valleys. They number about three thousand souls, of which seven hundred are warriors. . . . With a view of bringing about a proper understanding with these Indians, the agent was instructed to visit this band. A meeting was appointed at Cañon del Oro during the month of February, 1859. Ten of their chiefs were present and three hundred warriors. At this council it was agreed that peaceful relations should hereafter exist between the Pinals and our people, and up to this time they have acted in good faith. Colonel B. L. E. Bonneville, commanding department, has just returned from that country and reports all quiet. And Indian Agent, John Walker, referring to these Indians, and the interview he had with them, in a report to the Superintendent dated August 7, 1859, says, ‘The result of these meetings was very satisfactory and, up to the present time, no well authenticated robbery has been committed by them. Many attempts have been made by interested and dishonest parties to create the impression that the Pinals are stealing, with the hope of inducing the department commander to send more troops to their territory. I know, however, that the country has never been so safe as at present.’

“The Pinal and White Mountain Coyoteros cultivate the soil extensively–raise wheat, corn, beans, and pumpkins in abundance. In this particular, they are far in advance of all the other Apaches. They have some game, mescal and tuna, and, as no settlements yet encroach upon their country, all they will need for a few years will be a liberal distribution of presents yearly and some hoes and spades to enable them to cultivate the soil more extensively.” 7Citations:

  1. Calhoun James S. The Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun, p. 6. Collected and edited by Annie Heloïse Abel. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1915.[]
  2. Calhoun James S. The Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun, pp. 31, 32. Collected and edited by Annie Heloïse Abel. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1915.[]
  3. Calhoun James S. The Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun, pp. 54-56. Collected and edited by Annie Heloïse Abel. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1915.[]
  4. Calhoun James S. The Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun, pp. 485-486. Collected and edited by Annie Heloïse Abel. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1915.[]
  5. From The Scrapbook of Samuel Hughes. Pioneers Historical Society, Tucson.[]
  6. Indian Affairs Report. House of Representatives, Executive Document No. 2, 35th Congress, 1st Session. Washington, 1857.[]
  7. Senate Executive Document No. 2, 36th Congress, 1st session, pp. 712-715.[]

Apache, History,


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top