The Chiricahua Apache are also known as the Chiricagui, Apaches de Chiricahui, Chiricahues, Chilicague, Chilecagez, and Chiricagua. The White Mountain Apache, including the Cibecue and Bylas groups of the Western Apache, called them Ha’i’ą́há (meaning 'Eastern Sunrise"). The San Carlos Apache called them Hák’ą́yé. The Navajo, a group distinct from the Western Apache although related in language, call the Chiricahua Chíshí.
Several loosely affiliated bands of Apache came to be known as the Chiricahua. These included the Chokonen, Chihenne, Nednai and the Bedonkohe. Today, all are commonly referred to as Chiricahua, but they were not historically a single band.
Many other bands and groups of Apachean language-speakers ranged over eastern Arizona and the American Southwest. The bands that are grouped under the Chiricahua term today had much history together: they intermarried and lived alongside each other, and they also occasionally fought with each other. They formed short-term as well as longer alliances that have caused scholars to classify them as one people.
The Apachean groups and the Navajo peoples were part of the Athabaskan migration into the North American continent from Asia, across the Bering Strait from Siberia. As the people moved south and east into North America, groups splintered off and became differentiated by language and culture over time. Some anthropologists believe that the Apache and the Navajo were pushed south and west into what is now New Mexico and Arizona by pressure from other Great Plains Indians, such as the Comanche and Kiowa. Among the last of such splits were those that resulted in the formation of the different Apachean bands whom the later Europeans encountered: the southwestern Apache groups and the Navajo. Although both speaking forms of Southern Athabaskan, the Navajo and Apache have become culturally distinct.
From the beginning of EuropeanAmerican/Apache relations, there was conflict between them, as they competed for land and other resources, and had very different cultures. Their encounters were preceded by more than 100 years of Spanish colonial and Mexican incursions and settlement on the Apache lands. The United States settlers were newcomers to the competition for land and resources in the Southwest, but they inherited its complex history, and brought their own attitudes with them about American Indians and how to use the land. By the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the US took on the responsibility to prevent and punish cross-border incursions by Apache who were raiding in Mexico.
The Apache viewed the United States colonists with ambivalence, and in some cases, enlisted them as allies in the early years against the Mexicans. In 1852, the US and some of the Chiricahua signed a treaty, but it had little lasting effect. During the 1850s, American miners and settlers began moving into Chiricahua territory, beginning encroachment that had been renewed in the migration to the Southwest of the previous two decades.
This forced the Apachean people to change their lives as nomads, free on the land. The US Army defeated them and forced them into the confinement of reservation life, on lands ill-suited for subsistence farming, which the US proffered as the model of civilization. Today, the Chiricahua are preserving their culture as much as possible, while forging new relationships with the peoples around them. The Chiricahua are a living and vibrant culture, a part of the greater American whole and yet distinct based on their history and culture.
Although they had lived peaceably with most Americans in the New Mexico Territory up to about 1860, the Chiricahua became increasingly hostile to American encroachment in the Southwest after a number of provocations had occurred between them. In 1835, Mexico had placed a bounty on Apache scalps which further inflamed the situation. In 1837, the American John (aka James) Johnson invited the Chihenne in the area to trade with his party (near the mines at Santa Rita del Cobre, New Mexico). When they gathered around a blanket on which pinole (a ground corn flour) had been placed for them, Johnson and his men opened fire on the Chihenne with rifles and a concealed cannon loaded with scrap iron, glass, and a length of chain). They killed about 20 Apache, including the chief Juan José Compá. Mangas Coloradas is said to have witnessed this attack, which inflamed his and other Apache warriors' desires for vengeance for many years. The historian Rex W. Strickland argued that the Apache had come to the meeting with their own intentions of attacking Johnson's party, but were taken by surprise.
After the conclusion of the US/Mexican War (1848) and the Gadsden Purchase (1853), Americans began to enter the territory in greater numbers. This increased the opportunities for incidents and misunderstandings. In 1851, miners tied Mangas Coloradas to a tree and whipped him after he tried to convince them to move away from the Pinos Altos, New Mexico area he loved. His followers and related Chiricahua bands were incensed by the treatment of their respected chief. Mangas had been just as great a chief in his prime (during the 1830s and 1840s) as Cochise was then becoming.
A few years later, in 1861 the US Army killed some of Cochise’s relatives near Apache Pass, in what became known as the Bascom Affair. The Chiricahua called the incident "cut the tent." In 1863, American soldiers killed Mangas Colorados as he entered their camp to negotiate a peace. His body was mutilated by the soldiers, and his people were enraged by his murder. The Chiricahua began to consider the Americans as "enemies we go against them." From that time, they waged almost constant war against US settlers and the Army for the next 23 years.
In 1872, General Oliver O. Howard, with the help of Thomas Jeffords, succeeded in negotiating a peace with Cochise. The US established a Chiricahua Apache Reservation with Jeffords as US Agent, near Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory. It remained open for about 4 years, during which the chief Cochise died (from natural causes). In 1877, about three years after Cochise's death, the US moved the Chiricahua and some other Apache bands to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, still in Arizona.
The mountain people hated the desert environment of San Carlos, and some frequently began to leave the reservation and sometimes raid neighboring settlers. They surrendered to General Nelson Miles in 1886. The most well-known warrior leader of the renegades, although he was not considered a chief', was the forceful and influential Geronimo. He and Naiche (the hereditary leader and son of Cochise) together led many of the resisters during those last few years of freedom.
They made a stronghold in the Chiricahua Mountains, part of which is now inside Chiricahua National Monument, and across the intervening Willcox Playa to the northeast, in the Dragoon Mountains (all in southeastern Arizona). In late frontier times, the Chiricahua ranged from San Carlos and the White Mountains of Arizona, to the adjacent mountains of southwestern New Mexico around what is now Silver City, and down into the mountain sanctuaries of the Sierra Madre (of northern Mexico). There they often joined with their Nednai Apache kin.
General George Crook, then General Miles' troops, aided by Apache scouts from other groups, pursued the exiles until they gave up. Mexico and the United States had negotiated an agreement allowing their troops in pursuit of the Apache to continue into each other's territories. This prevented the Chiricahua groups from using the border as a shield; as they could gain little time to rest and consider their next move, the fatigue, attrition and demoralization of the constant hunt led to their surrender.
The final 34 hold-outs, including Geronimo and Naiche, surrendered to units of General Miles' forces in September 1886. From Bowie Station, Arizona, they were entrained, along with most of the other remaining Chiricahua (as well as the Army's Apache scouts), and exiled to Fort Marion, Florida. At least two Apache warriors, Massai and Gray Lizard, escaped from their prison car and made their way back to Arizona in a 1,200-mile (1,900 km) journey to their ancestral lands.
After a number of deaths of Chiricahua at the Fort Marion prison near St. Augustine, Florida, the survivors were moved, first to Alabama, and later to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Geronimo's surrender ended the Indian Wars in the United States. However, another group of Chiricahua (aka the Nameless Ones or Bronco Apache) who were not captured by U.S. forces refused to surrender. They escaped over the border to Mexico, and settled in the remote Sierra Madre mountains. There they built hidden camps, raided homes for cattle and other food supplies, and engaged in periodic firefights with units of the Mexican Army and police. Most were eventually captured or killed by soldiers or by private ranchers armed and deputized by the Mexican government.
Eventually, the surviving Chiricahua prisoners were moved to the Fort Sill military reservation in Oklahoma. In August 1912, by an act of the U.S. Congress, they were released from their prisoner of war status after they were thought to be no further threat. Although promised land at Fort Sill, they met resistance from local non-Apache. They were given the choice to remain at Fort Sill or to relocate to the Mescalero reservation near Ruidoso, New Mexico. Two-thirds of the group, 183 people, elected to go to New Mexico, while 78 remained in Oklahoma. Their descendants still reside in these places. At the time, they were not permitted to return to Arizona because of hostility from the long wars.
Since the "band" as a unit was much more important than "tribe" in Chiricahua culture, the Chiricahua had no name for themselves (autonym) as a people. The name Chiricahua is most likely the Spanish rendering of the Opata word Chiguicagui (‘mountain of the wild turkey’). The Chiricahua tribal territory encompassed today's SE Arizona, SW New Mexico, NE Sonora and NW Chihuahua. The Chiricahua range extended to the east as far as the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and to the west as far as the San Pedro River Valley in Arizona, north of Magdalena just below present day Hwy I-40 corridor in New Mexico and with the town Ciudad Madera (276 km northwest of the state capital, Chihuahua, and 536 km southwest of Ciudad Juárez (formerly known as Paso del Norte) on the Mexico–United States border), as their southernmost range.
According to Morris E. Opler (1941), the Chiricahuas consisted of three bands:
Chíhéne or Chííhénee’ 'Red Paint People' (also known as the Eastern Chiricahua, Warm Springs Apache, Gileños, Ojo Caliente Apache, Coppermine Apache, Copper Mine, Mimbreños, Mimbres, Mogollones, Tcihende),
Ch’úk’ánéń or Ch’uuk’anén (also known as the Central Chiricahua, Ch’ók’ánéń, Cochise Apache, Chiricahua proper, Chiricaguis, Tcokanene), or the Sunrise People;
Ndé’indaaí or Nédnaa’í 'Enemy People' known as the Southern Chiricahua, Chiricahua proper, Pinery Apache, Ne’na’i), or "those ahead at the end".
local group (lived in NE Sonora and adjacent Arizona, in Guadalupe Canyon, along the San Bernardino River, northwestern parts of the Sierra San Luis, in the Batepito Valley with the Sierra Pitaycachi, east of Fronteras, as their stronghold)
local group (lived east of Fronteras in der Sierra Pilares de Teras in Sonora)
local group (lived in the Sierra de los Ajos northeast of the Sonora River, along the Bavispe River towards Fronteras in the north)
Bedonkohe (Bi-dan-ku - ‘In Front of the End People’, Bi-da-a-naka-enda - ‘Standing in front of the enemy’, often called Mogollon, Gila Apaches, Northeastern Chiricahua, lived in the Mogollon Mountains and Tularosa Mountains between the San Francisco River in the West and the Gila River to the southeast in west New Mexico)
Chihenne (Chi-he-nde - ‘Red Painted People’, often called Copper Mine, Warm Springs, Mimbres, Gila Apaches, Eastern Chiricahua)
Warm Springs (Spanish: Ojo Caliente - Hot Springs)
southern Warm Springs (Warm Springs proper, settled around Ojo Caliente near the present-day Monticello along the Canada Alamosa River, between the Cuchillo Negro Creek and the Animas Creek, controlled the San Mateo and Negretta Mountains as well as the Black Range west of the Rio Grande to the Rio Gila, used the hot springs around the vicinity of Truth or Consequences - hence called Warm Springs or Ojo Caliente Apaches, southern local group)
local group (lived in southern New Mexico in the Pyramid Mountains and Florida Mountains (called by the Chihenne Dzlnokone - Long Hanging Mountain) moved to the Rio Grande in the east and south to the Mexican border, southern local group)
Nednhi (Ndé'ndai - ‘Enemy People’, ‘People who make trouble’, often called Bronco Apaches, Sierre Madre Apaches,Southern Chiricahua)
Janeros (lived in NW Chihuahua, SE Arizona and NE Sonora in the Animas Mountains, Florida Mountains, south into the Sierra San Luis, Sierra del Tigre, Sierra de Carcay, Sierra de Boca Grande, west beyond the Aros River to Bavispe, east along the Janos River and Casas Grandes River toward the Lake Guzmán in the northern part of the Guzmán Basin and traded at the presidio of Janos, likely called Dzilthdaklizhéndé - ‘Blue Mountain People’, northern local group)
Carrizaleños (lived exclusively in Chihuahua, between the presidios of Janos in the west and Carrizal and Lake Santa Maria in the east, south toward Corralitos, Casas Grandes and Agua Nuevas 60 miles (97 km) north of Chihuahua, controlled the southern part of the Guzmán Basin, and the mountains along the Casas Grandes, Santa Maria and Carmen River, likely called Tsebekinéndé - ‘Stone House People’ or ‘Rock House People’, southeastern local group)
Pinaleños (lived south of Bavispe, between the Bavispe River and Aros River in NE Sonora and NW Chihuahua, controlled the Sierra Huachinera, Sierra de los Alisos and Sierra Nacori Chico, the mountains had a large stock of Apache Pine forest – hence they were called Pinery Apaches, southwestern local group).
The Chokonen, Chihenne, Nednhi and Bedonkohe had probably up to three other local groups, named respectively after their leader or the area they inhabited. By the end of the 19th century, the surviving Apache no longer remembered such groups. They may have been annihilated (like the Pinaleño-Nednhi) or had joined more mighty local groups (the remnant of the Carrizaleños-Nedhni camped together with their northern kin, the Janero-Nednhi).
The Carrizaleňo-Nednhi shared overlapping territory in the surroundings of Casas Grandes and Agua Nuevas with the Tsebekinéndé, a southern Mescalero band (which was often called Aguas Nuevas by the Spanish). The Spanish referred to the Apache band by the same name of Tsebekinéndé. These two different Apache bands were often confused with each other. (Similar confusion arose over distinguishing the Janeros-Nednhi of the Chiricahua (Dzilthdaklizhéndé) and the Dzithinahndé of the Mescalero.
Notable Chiricahua Apache people
Baishan (Spanish name Cuchillo Negro - “Black Knife”) (ca. 1816-May 24, 1857), chief of the southern Warm Springs local group of the Chihenne band
Mildred Cleghorn, first tribal chairperson at the Fort Sill Reservation, elected in 1976
Cochise, (K'uu-ch'ish aka Cheis - “having the quality of strength of an oak”), (ca. 1805-Jun. 8, 1874), chief of the Chihuicahui local group of the Chokonen band
Mangas Coloradas, (Kan-da-zis Tlishishen - “Red Shirt” or “Pink Shirt”, also Dasoda-hae - “He Just Sits There”), (c.1793–Jan. 18, 1863), chief of the Copper Mines and Mimbreño local groups of the Chihenne
Dahteste, woman warrior and companion of the famous woman warrior Lozen
Gouyen (in MescaleroGóyą́ń - "the one who is wise" or “Wise Woman”) (c. 1857-1903), was a woman from the Warm Springs local group of the Chihenne band noted for her heroism, with her son Kaywaykla and her second husband Ka-ya-ten-nae she escaped the Battle of Tres Castillos, her infant daughter was said to have been killed in the attack
Geronimo, (Goyaałé - "one who yawns"), (June 16, 1829 – February 17, 1909), warrior, medicine man of the Bedonkohe band
Juh, (Ho, Whoa, and sometimes Who), (c. 1825 – Nov. 1883), chief of the Janeros local group of the Ndéndai (or Nednhi) band
Lozen, ("Dextrous Horse Thief"), (c. 1840-1890), woman warrior and prophet of the Chihenne band, sister of Victorio and companion of the woman warrior Dahteste
Massai, (c.1847-1906 or - 1911), warrior of the Mimbres local group of the Chihenne band
Naiche (Nache, Nachi, or Natchez - "meddlesome one" or "mischief maker"), (ca. 1857-Mar. 16, 1919), second son of Cochise, was the final hereditary chief of the Chihuicahui local group of the Chokonen band
Nana, (“grandma” or “lullaby”, in Apache: Kas-tziden - “Broken Foot” or Haškɛnadɨltla - “Angry, He is Agitated”), (1800? – 1896), chief of the Warm Springs local group of the Chihenne band
Taza, (ca. 1840-Sep. 26, 1876), son of Cochise and successor as chief of the Chihuicahui local group of the Chokonen band
Victorio, (Bidu-ya, Beduiat), (ca. 1825–Oct. 14, 1880), chief of the Warm Springs local group of the Chihenne band
Fun (*1866 - †1892, Yiy-gholl, Yiy-joll, Yiy-zholl, also known as Larry Fun), warrior
Ka-ya-ten-nae (Ka-e-te-nay, Kaytennae, Kadhateni or Kieta - "Fights Without Arrows", "Cartridges All Gone"), chief of the Warm Springs local group of the Chihenne band, second husband of the heroic Gouyen and stepfather of Kaywaykla
^Kathleen P. Chamberlain: Victorio: Apache Warrior and Chief, University of Oklahoma Press 2007, ISBN 978-0-8061-3843-5
^Monticello (originally named Canada Alamosa Spanish for "Canyon of the Cottonwoods") was headquarters for the Southern Apache Agency before a post was established at nearby Ojo Caliente in 1874. About 500 Apaches lived at Canada Alamosa in 1870. Cochise and his Chiricahuas visited the area in 1871. Most of the Apaches were gone by 1877. The Chiricahuas called it Kegotoi - “Dilapidated Houses”.
^Edwin R. Sweeney: Mangas Coloradas: Chief of the Chiricahua Apaches, University of Oklahoma Press 1998, ISBN 978-0-8061-3063-7
^William B. Griffen: Apaches at War and Peace: The Janos Presidio 1750-1858, University of Oklahoma Press 1998, ISBN 978-0-8061-3084-2
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Seymour, Deni J. (2008) A Pledge of Peace: Evidence of the Cochise-Howard Treaty Campsite. Historical Archaeology 42(4):154-179. With George Robertson.
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Seymour, Deni J. (2008) Surfing Behind The Wave: A Counterpoint Discussion Relating To “A Ranchería In the Gran Apachería.” Plains Anthropologist 53(206):241-262.
Seymour, Deni J. (2008) Pre-Differentiation Athapaskans (Proto-Apache) in the 13th and 14th Century Southern Southwest. Chapter in edited volume under preparation. Also paper in the symposium: The Earliest Athapaskans in Southern Southwest: Implications for Migration, organized and chaired by Deni Seymour, Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver.
Seymour, Deni J. (2009) Evaluating Eyewitness Accounts of Native Peoples along the Coronado Trail from the International Border to Cibola. New Mexico Historical Review 84(3):399-435.
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