Saturday, 6 September 2014

Tribes of the Far Southwest

Tribes of the Far Southwest
KNOW YOUR INDIANS
Department of Special Features
By A. Hyatt Verrill
From Double Action Western magazine, 1954 July. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, Sept 2014.

LIVING in the mountains, the canyons and on mesas and deserts of our Southwest, in New Mexico, Arizona and western Texas, were a number of tribes of many racial and linguistic stocks. Some were sedentary and agricultural Indians, with permanent villages; others were nomadic. Some were peaceful and friendly, while others were warlike and hostile.
Prominent among these were the so-called “Apaches”. As a matter of fact the real, original and only true Apaches were the Navajos, who were called “Apachu” or “Savage Enemies”, by the Zunis. This was corrupted to “Apache” by the whites, and was applied indiscriminately to a large number of tribes—among them the Mimbrenos, Akonves, Mescaleros, Jicarillos, Faraones, Llaneros, Chiricahuas, Queraebos, Pinaleros, Pinals, Arivaipas, Coyoteros, Megollones, Tontos, Gilas, Kiowa-Apaches, Lipans, Yumas, Mohaves, and others.
Although nearly all of these were of Athabascan stock, yet they differed greatly in their temperaments, habits, character, and many other respects. Many were nomads; others dwelt in permanent villages; some subsisted by hunting, and others cultivated the soil—had well-designed irrigation systems, and depended for a living upon their crops. Some were exceedingly primitive, while others had attained a fairly high culture; and while some were warlike others were peaceful, docile, and wished only to be left in peace. Also, in many instances some bands of a tribe might be hostile, while other bands of the same tribe were peaceful and even served as scouts for our Army.
No other tribes had the unenviable reputation of being as savage, as relentless, as cruel and bloodthirsty as these so-called Apaches. Partly, the reputation was well-deserved, but much of it was exaggeration and anti-Indian propaganda on the part of the whites. However, the Apache wars cost us millions of dollars and many hundreds of lives, most of which might have been avoided.
Although these Indians have been pictured as fiends incarnate, yet we must remember that they were fighting for their lands, their homes and their freedom—principles that we fight for, and consider patriotic and praiseworthy. And in most cases, our trouble with these tribes was the direct result of uncalled-for hostile actions on the part of the whites, who often mistreated and murdered those Indians who were inclined to be friendly. This was the case with the Mimbrenos, who were peaceful until a number of the tribe (who had been invited to a feast by the miners of Santa Rita) were murdered for the sake of scalp-bounties offered by Mexican officials.
The long and bloody campaign with Cochise was the result of our officers having, under a flag of truce, arrested him with two other chiefs—on “suspicion” that the Indians had kidnapped a white child (who was later found safe and sound). In their efforts to obtain a “confession” from the suspects, the Indians were tortured by the officers. Although Cochise managed to escape, despite his wounds, his comrades were hanged; under the circumstances we scarcely can afford to blame Cochise when he and his band went on the warpath.
The chances are that we might not have had any trouble with Geronimo and his band, had our Government kept promises and good faith. The famous chief was a well-to-do farmer, who had caused no trouble until he became disgusted with the Government when the officials failed to fulfill promises of irrigating his lands. Then white ranchers cut his fences, drove off his cattle, and destroyed his crops; quite naturally, he became hostile.
It must, however, be admitted that some of these southwestern tribes were born bandits and gloried in raiding and killing (whether their victims were other Indians or white), and who were past-masters at devising most painful methods of putting captives to a lingering death, and who were as thoroughly hated and despised by the other tribes as by the whites. Oddly enough, these savage Indians usually treated women prisoners with consideration. Female captives were not abused or maltreated, although virtually slaves; rarely were they ravished, and sometimes they married their captors. Because some of these tribes were inveterate killers and robbers, the whites (who did not discriminate) regarded all in the same category; yet, frequently one of the so-called Apache tribes would be waging a relentless war with some other “Apaches”, The Jicarillos were bitter foes of the Utes, and the Taos Indians and were deadly enemies of the Mescalero Apaches, with whom they were constantly at war. Although they were also hostile to the whites, the Taos caused comparatively little trouble. One of their chiefs declared, “We will leave the whites alone, as long as they continue to kill the Mescaleros.”
ALTHOUGH some of these tribes were raiders and killers by nature and inclination, there were far more who fought only in defense of their freedom and their homes; and even their worst enemies agreed that such Indians, once they became a man’s friends, remained steadfast regardless of whether or not they were at war. Also, like the majority of Indians, they never forgot a favor or some kindness. On more than once occasion, Cochise ordered his warriors to guard and protect the home and family of some white settler, who at one time had saved his life or had cared for him when wounded.
It may seem strange, but it is also true, that once these Apaches had made peace and abandoned warfare, they took to farming and ranching as a duck takes to water and became well-to-do farmers and ranchers—highly respected by, and on an equality with their white neighbors. In fact the whites not infrequently married Apache women, and several of the most highly respected and influential families of the Southwest are partially of Apache blood. Many of the Apaches took to railway construction work, and are considered among the best of all section hands, while others are expert structural steelworkers, and play an important part in erecting skyscrapers, bridges and other steel structures throughout the country and abroad.
As usual, there has been a vast amount of misinformation regarding the so-called Apaches and their more famous leaders. Cochise, as I have said, was driven to hostility and warfare by his ill-treatment by the whites, but he was noted for heroic courage, and was inherently honorable. He was as steadfast in his friendships as he was implacable in his hatreds; he never forgot a favor rendered, or forgave an injury. After peace was established he became an ardent and successful farmer, and died peacefully at his home in 1874.
Probably the most famous and notorious of the “Apache” chiefs was Geronimo, and probably no other famous Indian has ever won so much notoriety through his own propaganda and selfadvertising. Few of the noted chiefs of the past have had so little real claim to fame. Geronimo was a thorough believer in publicity; he became his own “press agent”, and spread tales of his savagery and his raids—fully realizing that the terror they inspired would accomplish as much as actual fighting. Also, he was a firm believer in the old adage that: “He who fights and runs away will live to fight another day.” Seldom did he engage in a stand-up battle, but usually managed to be one jump ahead of white troops, until ready to surrender and save his skin. Many of the disastrous raids attributed to him were carried out by his sub-chiefs; he took no active part in them.
When, after their surrender, he and his band (numbering 340 warriors), were deported to Fort Marion, Florida, thence to Alabama, and finally back to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he and his fellows made a lucrative business of selling photographs, handiwork, and their autographs to tourists and white visitors. The wily old medicine-man-chief of the Chiricahuas was first, last and all the time a sharp trader and keen businessman, who proved that it was possible to fool all of the public all of the time. However, his military genius, and his personal courage were never questioned; again and again he outmaneuvered and outfought white troops under General Miles and General Crook and managed to slip through their most carefully-constructed traps. He surrendered only when he fully realized the futility of carrying on hostilities further.
ALTHOUGH most persons, probably the majority, have the impression that the “Apaches” devoted the greater part of their lives to fighting, stealing, raiding, and killing, this is far from being the case. A number of these tribes dwelt in well-built lodges, in good-sized villages, and possessed quite a high culture with numerous arts and crafts. Their basketry, textiles, bead-work and other handiwork are of a very high quality, and very artistic. Practically all of the so-called Apaches used huge storage-baskets for the corn they raised, and these were often of gigantic size, or graceful form, and woven with harmonious colors in designs of geometrical patterns—often in combination with animal and human figures. Most of the baskets were water-tight and some of them were among the finest of all the Indian baskets. From cotton, wool, and other fibers they wove blankets and other textiles that were often the equals of the famed products of the Navajos. On the other hand, they never learned to make good pottery for containing liquids, but used baskets coated with pitch or clay. They were experts at tanning skins and hides, and decorated buckskin garments with fine beadwork and painted designs usually consisting of fine lines in open intricate motifs—in which the star, Greek Key sun, and triangular figures predominate and more often than not using two shades of one color, or black and white rather than a combination of bright colors that were popular with most other tribes.
Although during ceremonies and dances their costumes were quite elaborate, when on hunts or at war, the braves stripped to breechcloth and moccasins, seldom wearing feathers in their shoulder-length hair but wrapping turban-like strips of cloth or buckskin about their heads. Their moccasins were very different from those of other Indians, being knee-high, or nearly so with upturned toes and stiff soles —often with an ornamental toe-tab.
The only exceptions to this type of footwear were the moccasins of the Jicarillos who used low-cut moccasins, but with the upturned toes, and who wore fringed leather-leggings and had long hair often in braids like those of other plains tribes.
When “dressed up”, these various so-called Apaches wore fringed and beaded buckskin shirts and leather caps, or hats, decorated with painted designs and varying from skull-caps to high hats similar in form to the “shakos” of oldtime soldiers. More often than not these had long “tails” of scalloped and decorated leather, and had plumes or tufts of feathers, scalp locks, etc., at the top of the cap. At times horns of antelope, deer, buffalo or cattle were attached to the sides of the headdress. The familiar feather bonnet of the other plains tribes was never used as a part of the Apache costume, except when it had been taken from a slain enemy, and was donned as a trophy on special occasions.
All of these tribes had innumerable dances and ceremonials, the “devil dances” being the most popular. During these, the Indians wore huge grotesque painted headdresses and masks. They had many medicine-cults and secret societies, and were greatly addicted to the use of charms, amulets, fetishes, etc. Among such, were shells supposed to prevent illness, and figures cut and carved from trees that had been struck by lightning—the latter were believed to be safeguards against lightning.
Although among the first of our western tribes to obtain and use firearms, they were also among the last to abandon bows and arrows. Their bows were rectangular in section, rather short and broad, and were very powerful being reinforced by sinews glued to the wood. The arrows were of two types: one with a long shaft of cane with false wooden fore-shaft tipped with a stone or metal point. The other form had a short heavy wooden shaft. Sometimes the arrows were feathered, but many had no feathers and were so crooked that it seems almost a miracle that they ever should have hit the mark. Accuracy, however, was not vitally important, for most of the fighting was done at close quarters—where penetration and killing-power were more essential than accuracy.
In addition to bows and arrows, they used lances and war-clubs of various designs. Some clubs were wooden, but the favorite type was a stone-headed skull-cracker, attached to the half by a short thong so that the stone head swung freely from the handle.
For killing small game, such as rabbits, these Indians—as well as many others of the Southwest—employed a form of boomerang. They were not so abruptly curved as the Australians’ weapons, and did not return to the thrower; but they could be thrown with great force, and with remarkable accuracy by the Indians. Although “horse Indians”, the majority of the “Apaches” were not such splendid riders as the Comanches, Sioux, Cheyennes and other plains tribes, and were notoriously cruel to their ponies—or perhaps regardless of their ponies’ welfare is a fairer way of putting it.
IN ADDITION to the Coyoteros, Chiricahuas, Tontos, and other tribes classed as “Apaches”, there were many totally different Indians in our Southwest. Among these were the Lipans, the Kiowa-Apaches, the Pimas and Yumas, the Papagos, the Mohaves, Cahitas, Mayos, Arivaipai, Havasupai, and others. All, or nearly all, of these were often called “Apaches” by the whites—for, to the average white settler, any Indian with a rag about his short hair, and wearing high moccasins with upturned toes, was an Apache and a hostile.
Many of the tribes I have named were perfectly peaceful and friendly, while others were warlike and enemies of the whites—as well as of other tribes. Among these were the Lipans, or Naizan as they called themselves, who caused a great deal of trouble on both sides of the border. Pure nomads, they originally inhabited New Mexico and northern Mexico from the Rio Grande through Texas to the Gulf- coast. They were feared and dreaded for their depredations in Texas as well as in Mexico, and from 1845 until 1856 they were constantly at war with the Texans until finally driven off with heavy losses.
Taking refuge in Coahuila, Mexico, they joined the Kickapoos and raided, destroyed, and killed over a wide area. Eventually, having been reduced to a small remnant by their losses in warfare, and by smallpox, the nineteen known survivors returned to the United States in 1905, and were placed on the Mescalero reservation together with a few of the tribe who had remained in the States. They took readily to civilization and farming, but it is doubtful if a pure-blooded Lipan is alive today.
Another of these Southwestern tribes were the Yumas or Kwichans, who inhabited both sides of the Colorado River, They were a superior race physically, and when need arose they were most savage and valiant fighters; but they were not warlike, and dwelt in permanent villages and cultivated crops of fruits and vegetables. Although often included among the “Apaches”, the Yumas were never troublesome to the whites. Still other Southwestern tribes were the Pimas and Papagos, both of the same ancestral stock but differing greatly in many respects. Peaceful, agricultural people the Pimas gave no trouble, and are famed for their beautifully-woven baskets that are considered among the finest and best of all Indian baskets.
The Papagos or “Papah-Ootum” meaning “Bean People” originally inhabited Arizona in the vicinity of Tucson and southward into Sonora, Mexico. They subsisted by agriculture, their main crops being maize, beans, and cotton which they irrigated. But many wild plants were eaten, the most important being the mesquite beans and the fruits of cacti which were made into syrup and also into an alcoholic liquor. Nowadays they cultivate large fields of barley, and are also stock-raisers. Many of the men are employed as section-hands on railways or work on irrigation systems. They are a dark-skinned race, tall and hardy, industrious and honest and have always been friendly.
Very different were the Arivaipais, probably the most incongruously-named of all Indians, for their own name is “Ari-vapa” meaning “Girls”, although they were a very warlike and usually hostile tribe dwelling in the Arivaipa Canyon of Arizona, and usually included among the “Apaches”. The surviving members of the tribe are now on the San Carlos and Fort Apache reservations, and are peaceful ranchers and farmers.
Totally unlike the Arivaipais were the Havasupai or “People of the sky-blue Water” who were also of Yuma stock, and lived in the Cataract Canyon of the Colorado in northwestern Arizona. Originally pueblo-builders with permanent adobe villages, they were so subject to enemy raids that they took to the almost-inaccessible mountains, where they dwelt in caves during the winter, and in wattled huts during the summer. They were, and are, a very quiet, peaceful, sedentary tribe of agricultural Indians. They make superior baskets, and are famous for the high quality of their tanned buckskin but have never made good pottery, obtaining what they need by trading with the Hopis and other Pueblo Indians.
LARGEST and most warlike of all the Yuman tribes were the Mohaves, who inhabited both sides of the Rio Grande. Physically they are a very superior race and were famed for the elaborate painting of their bodies. Tattooing was universal among them, but was restricted to small areas. Although primarily agricultural and dwelling in square houses with low walls and flat roofs of brush covered with sand, yet they were savage fighters in defense of their lands and homes, and were frequently at war with the whites—who included them among the so-called Apaches.
Still another of these “Apache” tribes was the Kiowa-Apache, or “Na-i-shan-dina" meaning "We (or our) People”. Known to the Pawnees as the “Kaskaia” or “Bad Hearts” and to the Kiowas as the “Senat” or “Thieves” they were confused with both the true Kiowas and the “Apaches” by the whites although they are distinct from either, with a different language and customs. They have no relationship with the true “Apache” tribes, and had never even heard of the latter until about 1800. Although they became friendly with the Mescaleros, they were their most bitter foes for many years, but allied themselves with the true Kiowas.
Like the latter, their original home was in the northwest plains area, and they are of Shoshonean stock. Although allied with the Kiowas for mutual protection, and on friendly terms with the Mescaleros, they caused little trouble as a tribe and have been friendly with the whites since 1874.
Although, in the minds of most persons, the “Apaches” were the last word when it came to fiercely-fighting Indians, and enemies of the whites, yet the Kiowas and the Comanches were more feared and caused more deaths and destruction than the Apaches proper.
In the beginning, the Kiowas were peacefully-inclined toward their white neighbors, but they soon realized that it was a question of being exterminated or of wiping out the whites; they did their level best to accomplish the latter. It is true that they failed to eliminate the whites, but the most authentic and reliable statistics prove that, in proportion to their numbers, the Kiowas killed more white persons than any one other tribe. Of a distinct linguistic stock, related to the Shoshones, the Kiowas’ original home was the area of the upper Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. For some reason, they migrated southward to the region of the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers in Kansas and Colorado, and controlled large areas of Texas and eastern Arizona and raided as far south as Durango, Mexico.
Until 1840, they were allies of the Crows, and enemies of the Cheyennes, and the Arapahos, but later made peace and became allies of the latter tribes. Once having found by bitter experience that friendliness with the whites resulted only in their undoing, they carried on a relentless war throughout the entire area. Fearless and valiant fighters, and splendid riders, they became famed for their ferocity and were deemed the most bloodthirsty of all the western Indians by both whites and the other tribes.
Their first treaty with the whites was signed in 1837 and they were placed on a reservation with some Kiowa-Apaches and some other “Apache” bands. Old quarrels and enmities resulted in the breaking of promises, and ill-treatment by the Indian agents led to discontent and trouble. In 1874 they left the reservation and, joining the Comanches, went on the warpath. But despite their fighting abilities they  were doomed. Large numbers of their warriors were killed in battle, and over 300 died from an epidemic of measles. Having finally signed a lasting treaty of peace, the survivors settled on lands allotted to them and took to farming and ranching.
ALTHOUGH the Comanche war never attracted public attention to the extent of the Apache wars, yet in many ways it was a more disastrous war than our campaigns against the latter. As was the case with the “Apaches”, the whites applied the name “Comanche” to several tribes or bands forming a confederacy somewhat like that of the Dakotas.
Among the most important of these were the Yamarikas or “Root Eaters”, the Kutsptekas or “Buffalo Eaters”, the Kuahadies or “Antelope Eaters”, the Penetakas or “Honey Eaters”, and the Hokomies or “Wanderers”. All were, like the Kiowas, of Shoshonean stock and are considered offshoots of the true Shoshones of Wyoming, Both tribes speak the same dialect, and until quite recent times the two tribes were affiliated. Moreover, the traditions of the Comanches state that their original home was in the far Northwest.
During the early part of the Nineteenth Century they roamed over much of Kansas, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. As a rule they were friendly and peaceful toward the Americans, but were bitter enemies of the Mexicans with whom they waged constant warfare for nearly two hundred years, raiding deeply into Mexico. When the Texans declared their independence and fought with the Mexicans, the Comanches took sides with the Americans; regardless of this the Texans took possession of the Comanches’ best lands, and drove off the Indians who then added the Texans to their enemy list. For nearly forty years they waged war with the whites. Although their first treaty was signed in 1835, it was not until 1874-75 that, with the Kiowas and Kiowa-Apaches, the Comanches settled on a reservation between the Red and Washita Rivers in Oklahoma.
Despite the fact that they actually were a rather small tribe, by comparison with the Dakotas, the Cheyennes, and others, the speed of their movements, and the long distances between their raids, gave the impression of having far more warriors than actually was the case.
Regarded as the finest of all Indian cavalry, and possessing a great knowledge of military strategy, they struck swiftly, suddenly, where least expected, and disappeared before the surprised settlers or soldiers could mount and give chase. Unlike the majority of the plains tribes, they did not have large fixed base-camps when at war, but moved—bag and baggage, from spot to spot. When too closely pressed, they would slip cross the border and play merry hell with the Mexicans for a change. When at last, with the signing of the treaty of 1874-75, the Comanche War came to an end, the tribe had become greatly reduced by smallpox, cholera, and losses of braves; it is very doubtful if over 1000 pure-blooded Comanches are now living.
Recklessly brave, proud, and famed as the finest horsemen of the plains, the Comanches were noted for their high sense of honor, their truthfulness, their steadfast friendships, and implacable hatreds. Their language, sonorous, rich, and less difficult to learn than most Indian dialects, has become the trade-talk or “lingua-franca” of the Southwest.
Unlike the Kiowas, who were inclined to be tall, lithe and splendidly-built, the Comanches as a rule, were of the rather short, stocky type with heavily-muscled chests and shoulders— and often with a stoop that gave the effect of a slight curvature of the spine. Both tribes were lighter in color than the average “Apaches” and, as might be expected from their racial affinities and origins, the habits, customs, crafts, and costumes of the two tribes more closely resembled those of the more northerly plains Indians than those of other southwestern tribes.
ALTHOUGH, like the majority of plains Indians, they discarded all garments other than breechcloth and moccasins when hunting or fighting, when at home they wore fringed and beautifully-beaded buckskin tunics and leggings, with moccasins of the conventional hard-soled, soft uppers type. Although at times—as at dances and ceremonials—they wore the usual plains Indians’ feather bonnet, they had numerous typical forms of headdresses of their own, and were partial to upstanding “roaches” of dyed hair and feathers. Caps of otter or other skin with the fur on, and with feather plumes and “tails”, were popular; frequently the entire headskin of an antelope, with horns intact and fringed and crowned with feathers, was worn.
When on the warpath, they usually contented themselves with a hair-plume of one or two eagle feathers at the back of the head. Before they possessed firearms, their weapons were lances—often fourteen to fifteen feet in length—war-clubs (stone-headed skull-crackers), and powerful, well-made double-curved bows and heavy, rather short arrows.
Both the Kiowas and Comanches were very fond of ceremonials and dances, their most attractive dance being the “Eagle dance”, in which the dancers carried wands edged with eagle feathers which they moved and swung about like wings, at the same time going through very graceful and intricate movements imitating an eagle about to take flight.
Although the Comanches are thoroughly civilized, they still keep up their old tribal dances—partly for their own pleasure and as ceremonies, and also as a drawing-card for tourists.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.