The Camp Grant Massacre

The Cayuse Indian War

( – promoted by navajo)

During the 1870s most non-Indian residents of Arizona developed xenophobia, paranoia, fear, and an attitude of genocide with regard to the Native American people they considered to be “Apache.” For the most part, the Anglo residents of the territory were unaware that there were many different autonomous Apache groups. Basically, the Anglos just wanted them all dead.  

In 1871, more than 500 Aravaipa Apache under the leadership of Eskinzin, approached Lieutenant Royal Whitman of Camp Grant and asked for the commander’s permission to quit the fighting and camp under the protection of the military. Lieutenant Whitman told them that he did not have the authority to make a treaty with them and wrote a detailed account to the government asking for guidance. His letter was returned unopened as he had not followed the military procedure of specifying the contents on the outside of the envelope.

In the meantime, the Apache were starving and in desperate need of clothing. Lieutenant Whitman agreed to feed them and the Apache settled near the fort. The Apache men, women, and children chopped and delivered hay for a penny a pound. The commander made sure that the Apache were not cheated when they dealt with American traders. He warned the Apache that any raiding on their part would destroy the truce. He also arranged for nearby American farmers to hire the Apache to harvest barley.

Word of the peaceful arrangement at Camp Grant soon spread to other Apache groups. Lieutenant Whiteman estimated that there would soon be 1,000 Apache settled permanently at Camp Grant.

The good relations between the military and the Apache at Camp Grant, however, did not sit well with certain residents of nearby Tucson. While many American merchants benefited from trade with the peaceful Apache, others worried that the outbreak of peace would end their lucrative military contracts.

Spreading fear among many residents of Tucson, an angry mob quickly became an informal army determined to exterminate the Apache. The mob, accompanied by some Tohono O’odham men, rode to Fort Grant. They massacred 144 Aravaipa Apache who had peacefully settled near the fort. Of those killed, only 8 were adult men. While the military agent watched, the Tucsonans murdered, raped, and mutilated the Apaches and carried away 29 children to be sold into slavery. The massacre convinced President Grant that the Apache needed a reservation to protect them from the Americans.

The citizens who participated in the massacre were tried for murder, but after 15 minutes of deliberation all were acquitted.  As a consequence of his sympathetic stand toward the Apache, Lieutenant Whitman became one of the most reviled public figures in Arizona.  

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