Chapter LIV.


The Apache Indians--Ideas Concerning God--A Statement

Concerning the Jesuits--Treachery of Kerker--Slaughter of the Apaches--The Navajoes--Colonel Chavez' Horse Race --Loss of Government Horses--War with this Tribe--The Yaqui Tribe--The Tarumaries--A Peculiar Custom

THIS chapter will be devoted to what I have seen and learned about Apaches and other Southern Indian tribes. The common supposition is that the Apaches are by nature and desire a blood-thirsty people, and have always been so. This is a mistake, but it is a fact that we have to go back almost a century to find them a peaceable people.

Their own story is that they were once vegetarians. They were so opposed to killing that they would say to the bear, "God made you; go in peace, I will not kill you." And to the birds, "God made you with feathers to protect you in cold air, and wings to fly. How good God has been to you!" And even to the rattlesnake they would say, "You have rattles and tell us where you are so that we can get out of your way. We will not kill you."

I am giving this as the Apaches gave it to me. They believe in God the Father, and in a God Mother; and that God dwells in a place where he can see and understand what they do; that they once dwelt with Him, and that when they die if they have done good they will go back to dwell with their Father and Mother, but if unworthy they are sent away from them in sorrow. They pray in the evening that they may be protected from their enemies and have good dreams, desiring that their dead friends may visit and talk to them.

They believe that they once had more power with God than they now have, and acknowledged that they had done wrong in killing their own people; saying that for that reason their prayers were not heard and answered as formerly. They say that Americans do not honor God, but throw his name at their mules and cattle the same as they do clods or rocks, and that it is their duty to destroy the wicked blasphemers from off the earth; that none have a right to live unless they honor their Father's name.

They reckon that by killing white men at the ratio they have been that eventually they will exterminate the white race. This was their belief a few years since. Possibly they are beginning to think differently by this time.

They say that the cause of their fighting with the Catholic Mexicans is that when Mexico was conquered by the priests, they wanted the natives of Mexico to cease to worship the real Father God, and worship gods made of wood and stone. Most of the natives submitted to this, but the Apaches refused and went into the mountains away from the priests. After a while the Indians that commenced to worship the wood and stone gods made war on them by order of the priests, and drove them to bloodshed. After a while they agreed to submit and made a treaty to listen to the priests, but they soon found they were bad men and had been enemies ever since.

Now for a little history, partly written and partly traditionary.

Some two hundred miles in a westerly direction from the city of Chihuahua, among the Sierra Madre mountains, there is a beautiful valley of about fifty thousand acres of land, well watered and surrounded with timbered mountains. The Mexicans call this Paradise, or Garden of Eden.

About eighty years ago the Jesuits planted a mission among the Apaches in this beautiful valley. Everything went on happily for a season. The head priest had considerable influence with the natives, using his power for his own convenience.

In connection with many other selfish customs, the priests required of the Indians one of their handsomest daughters to live at the mission, making them believe that there was some religious ceremony essential to their welfare, that required the presence of this maiden. A daughter of the chief was selected.

The priests had told the Indians that they lived pure lives before God.

After a while the daughter of the chief was missing. When the Indians made inquiries for her, they were told that she had been taken to heaven in a miraculous manner and was made a saint. The chief did not believe the story and suspected treachery. There was an old woman who had had charge of the Indian girl. The Apaches seized and tortured her until she confessed the truth. The priest had lived with the daughter as a wife. And when her condition became such as to betray him he had her killed and buried. The Indians found her body and confirmed this treachery. They then raised and killed all connected with the mission and destroyed everything possible. They swore vengeance on the priests and their followers and vowed that no Catholic should ever inhabit this valley.

I have seen the ruins they made within the last few years, and heard this story from the Mexicans living within a day's travel from this valley. They all dread the Apaches to this day. No Mexican has ever dared to make a home there. From that time until the present the Apaches have been at war with the Mexicans.

When white men first went to the region where the Apaches roam, the Indians looked upon them as a different class of people and did not make war upon the few white traders they met on the road to the city of Chihuahua, but they would go in and trade with merchant trains owned by Americans, and in no way molest them.

This peaceful state of affairs was broken up in the year 1843. At that time the State of Chihuahua was having a hard time with the Apaches, and the government offered a large reward for their scalps, ranging from $100 to $150 per head.

This offer got to the ears of Col. Kerker, of Texas. He raised a company of Texans and went to the city of Chihuahua, and contracted with the Governor for Apache scalps.

The Colt revolver had recently been brought into use. This company of rangers carried these weapons concealed under their coats and went to Galliana, a town on the Rio Santa Maria, in the north-western part of Chihuahua, near the mountains where the Indians dwelt.

This Kerker arranged to have the Apaches come to a feast prepared for them, agreeing to meet them unarmed, as friends. The Indians, believing these white men real friends, came in without suspicion, and, while partaking of the hospitality, the rangers commenced with their revolvers and killed over a hundred of them. The Indians could make no resistance, but were literally slaughtered. Kerker got his money, but lost the respect of all decent men.

A few years after this I was in the Apache country. They were killing both whites and Mexicans at every opportunity. Thirty-five years after I was again in that country and it was still the same.

For many years when a white man was killed by an Apache, the whites would remark, "There is another of Kerker's victims."

I saw this same individual in 1849 in Santa Fe, when he was there for a few days. So indignant were the people at him that there was a strong talk of lynching him.

Individually, I succeeded in making friends with most of these Apaches. I have talked with them, but they have no confidence in the Mexican or white man.

The move made by Gen. Crook that at the time proved a success, namely, getting one band to fight another, finally ceased to work and the scouts enlisted for the last few years have done but little killing. By the whites these Apaches are considered the worst Indians on the continent.

I have never heard an apology or excuse for their conduct by any one, so, like the old miner who attended a Methodist revival, when the preacher called on all who were for God to rise to their feet, all got up but the old miner. When all for the Devil were called to stand up the old miner arose. The Parson asked him why he voted for Satan. The reply was that he never liked to see any man without a friend.


A short sketch of this tribe may be interesting. They inhabit the country west of the settled portion of New Mexico.

In 1847, when I first knew them, they were great thieves, but not much given to killing. Their philosophy was to spare the herders so that they could raise more stock. They were great sheep thieves, often taking whole herds, and sometimes taking the herders along. The Mexicans feared to follow them through the canyons, and when the Indians once reached the mountains they were generally let alone.

After the U. S. government was extended and New Mexico became a territory, the U. S. forces commenced to try to stop these raids and, after many years, partially succeeded, and troops were stationed in the Navajo country. There was a battalion of Mexican volunteers, cavalry, under Col. Chavez, stationed at one of the outposts.

The Indians were seemingly subdued. They were always considered smart and somewhat politic, as well as thrifty and industrious, so they soon accepted the situation. When they found the U.S. government was determined to make them behave, they made a treaty and agreed to quit stealing and allowed these troops to be stationed in their country and live in peace.

This Colonel Chavez was a great gambler and horse racer. The Navajoes were fond of racing also. The colonel had a fine horse that he considered a "world beater." A race was gotten up with the Indians, who were willing to bet anything on their horse.

So sure was Colonel Chavez of winning that he bet some five hundred head of government horses, against the same number of Indian ponies. The Indians looked upon the colonel as owner of these horses. When the race came off, the Indians won. The Colonel was in a scrape. He refused to give up the horses, so the Indians took them.

I don't remember whether a fight ensued immediately, or not, but I believe there did. At any rate the report was circulated that the Indians had declared war, and had run off all the soldier's horses.

A war of extermination was declared against these Indians, and troops were sent into their country. Their ranches, farms, and stock were destroyed, and many of them were killed. The remainder were stripped of everything. They were taken prisoners and put upon a reservation in the eastern portion of New Mexico. Here they remained in poverty for some years.

I do not know whether the facts were ever known by the government or not, but I believe they were. After a time the Indians were allowed to go back to their old country, a reservation set apart for them and some stock was given them to make a start. Being industrious and thrifty, they soon began to pick up. They made blankets and traded them for ponies.

Many of them about the years 1874-75 came into the Mormon settlements, some few carrying enough blankets on their backs to buy a mare pony. An Indian that could load a little Mexican donkey with blankets was considered a good trader.

It was not many years until these Navajoes had large bands of horses and sheep. They are again quite rich and prosperous.


A few words about the Yaquis might be interesting also. They inhabit the Rio Yaqui in Sonoro. They are an agricultural people and were occupying this same country at the time of the Conquest and were peaceable and quite numerous.

After the government under Spain was well established they offered to make a grant of the Yaqui country to the inhabitants. The Indians declined the offer, saying the country was and always had been theirs and that they did not ask it to be granted to them.

This was rather an insult to the arrogant Spaniard. The offer has been repeated from time to time, but the Indians have always declined the grant on the same old grounds. So the Yaqui country stands on the maps of Mexico as government lands.

Efforts have been made several times to oust these Indians from their lands. Grants have been given from time to time as was the Brannan grant, but the Indians have never given up their idea of prior rights.

There are a great many of the best citizens of Mexico in sympathy with the Yaquis.


This tribe inhabits the mountain country in the western part of the state of Chihuahua. There are many villages situated in the Sierra Madre Mountains, accessible only by very difficult pack-trails.

At the time of the conquest these people occupied, not only these mountain villages, but many of the fertile valleys along the foothills.

Many of the present towns of western Chihuahua bear the old Indian names and are inhabited by people descended from the ancient inhabitants. With a little foreign mixture, the pure bloods greatly predominate.

In many of these towns there are bands of these people who keep up their old customs, name, and language, but are recognized as citizens. They submitted to Catholicism in form, but of late years have almost entirely lost respect for the padres; saying that they cared more for their coppers than they did for their souls.

These people, both natives and mixed are very hospitable and industrious, and are more honest and virtuous than are the average Mexican.

The villagers of the mountains are peculiar. They seem to have a dread of mixing or associating much with anyone, even the Mexicans whose neighbors they are. It is their habit, when anyone approaches their village, for all the inhabitants to leave their houses and retire a short ways, leaving their doors open and everything exposed so that if anything is wanted by the travelers they can help themselves. But one thing must always be done. The pay for the article taken must be left in sight or without grace the party taking ever so small an article without pay, will be waylaid and will be very lucky if he escapes with his life. So positive are these rules that no one dare take the risk, and the people have commanded the utmost respect for ages by all who pass through their country. Unless imposed upon and insulted they molest no one.

These mountain Indians are excellent hunters. Deer, Turkey and bear are plentiful in the mountains. They often go into the city of Chihuahua to trade. They pack most of their trade on their backs, traveling in single file, paying no attention to anyone except to do their trading and go straight back home.

Some years since, at the town of Santa Rosa, these Indians, while on a trading trip, were insulted and abused by the inhabitants. The Indians went home, gathered some four hundred armed men, marched back through a number of settlements, attacked the place and almost exterminated the people, then went home satisfied. They were never called to account for the act.

An account of the affair has been given to me several times by different Mexicans, who invariably tell it in honor of the character of these Tarumaries.

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