Apache History: The Apache and the coming of white men
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Apache History: The Apache and the coming of white men
Geronimo chronicles the Bedonkohe Apache people's first experiences with white men.
Source: As told by Geronimo, Public Domain Documents
About the time of the massacre of "Kaskiyeh" (1858) we heard that some white men were measuring land to the south of us. In company with a number of other warriors I went to visit them.
We could not understand them very well, for we had no interpreter, but we made a treaty with them by shaking hands and promising to be brothers.
Then we made our camp near their camp, and they came to trade with us. We gave them buckskin, blankets, and ponies in exchange for shirts and provisions. We also brought them game, for which they gave us some money.
We did not know the value of this money, but we kept it and later learned from the Navajo Indians that it was very valuable.
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Every day they measured land with curious instruments and put down marks which we could not understand.
They were good men, and we were sorry when they had gone on into the west. They were not soldiers. These were the first white men I ever saw.
About ten years later some more white men came. These were all warriors. They made their camp on the Gila River south of Hot Springs. At first they were friendly and we did not dislike them, but they were not as good as those who came first.
After about a year some trouble arose between them and the Indians, and I took the war path as a warrior, not as a chief. I had not been wronged, but some of my people had been, and I fought with my tribe; for the soldiers and not the Indians were at fault.
Not long after this some of the officers of the United States troops invited our leaders to hold a conference at Apache Pass (Fort Bowie).
Just before noon the Indians were shown into a tent and told that they would be given something to eat. When in the tent they were attacked by soldiers.
Our chief, Mangus Colorado, and several other warriors escaped by cutting through the tent, but most of the warriors were killed or captured.
Among the Bedonkohe Apaches killed at this time were Sanza, Kladetahe, Niyokahe, and Gopi.
After this treachery the Indians went back to the mountains and left the fort entirely alone. I do not think that the agent had anything to do with planning this, for he had always treated us well. I believe it was entirely planned by the soldiers.
From the very first, the soldiers sent out to our western country and the officers in charge of them did not hesitate to wrong the Indians.
They never explained to the Government when an Indian was wronged, but always reported the misdeeds of the Indians.
Much that was done by mean white men was reported at Washington as the deeds of my people.
The Indians always tried to live peaceably with the white soldiers and settlers.
One day during the time that the soldiers were stationed at Apache Pass I made a treaty with the post. This was done by shaking hands and promising to be brothers.
Cochise and Mangus Colorado did likewise. I do not know the name of the officer in command, but this was the first regiment that ever came to Apache Pass.
This treaty was made about a year before we were attacked in a tent, as above related.
In a few days after the attack at Apache Pass we organized in the mountains and returned to fight the soldiers. There were two tribes, the Bedonkohe and the Chokonen Apaches, both commanded by Cochise.
After a few days' skirmishing we attacked a freight train that was coming in with supplies for the Fort.
We killed some of the men and captured the others. These prisoners our chief offered to trade for the Indians whom the soldiers had captured at the massacre in the tent.
This the officers refused, so we killed our prisoners, disbanded, and went into hiding in the mountains. Of those who took part in this affair I am the only one now living.
In a few days troops were sent out to search for us, but as we were disbanded, it was, of course, impossible for them to locate any hostile camp.
During the time they were searching for us many of our warriors (who were thought by the soldiers to be peaceable Indians) talked to the officers and men, advising them where they might find the camp they sought, and while they searched we watched them from our hiding places and laughed at their failures.
After this trouble all of the Indians agreed not to be friendly with the white men any more. There was no general engagement, but a long struggle followed.
Sometimes we attacked the white men, sometimes they attacked us. First a few Indians would be killed and then a few soldiers. I think the killing was about equal on each side.
The number killed in these troubles did not amount to much, but this treachery on the part of the soldiers had angered the Indians and revived memories of other wrongs, so that we never again trusted the United States troops.
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