The Apache Wars

To those unfamiliar with the history of the conflicts between Native Americans and the United States Cavalry, the sheer number of historic figures, the varied locations and diverse bands can seem daunting and confusing. Hollywood has added to this confusion, often combining the clothes and traditions of various tribes to create a generic “Indian.” Although the following is brief and simplified, it is presented to provide an introduction to one of the most fascinating of the conflicts: the Apache Wars. Along with the history, the geography is simplified. Before reservations, there were no facile boundaries to draw around the native peoples.

Three broadly-related groups of Native Americans inhabited the areas which became Arizona and New Mexico Territories: the Navajo and Pueblo to the north and the Apache in the south. Like the names given to many groups of Native Americans, “Apache” describes a collection of tribes loosely associated by a common culture and language. They were not a single political entity and they ranged over a vast area of land. Some of the individual bands campaigned in battles, others didn’t. Often that did not matter to the army, they were lumped together.

  • Common name: Apache
  • Name they used to describe themselves: Dine, pronounced “Din-eh,” meaning “the people.”
  • Bands (tribes): Arivaipa, Chiricahua, Coyotero, Faraone Gileno, Llanero, Mescalero, Mimbreno, Mogollon, Naisha, Tchikun and Tchishi.
  • Famous leaders and warriors: Mangas Coloradas, Cochise, Victorio, Nana, Lozen and Geronimo.

For the first part of the 19th century, the Apache territory was part of northern Mexico. In 1835, Mexico set a bounty of $100 per male Apache scalp and $50 per female initiating a wave of massacres. Others were captured as slaves. One of those who was killed was the father-in-law of the Chiricahuan Apache leader, Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves). He initiated a series of retaliatory raids. (first two chapters: Dead Man’s Trail).