Nakaidoklini, Apache Spiritual Leader

President Ulysses Grant established the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona by Presidential Executive Order in 1872. The newly created reservation was a division of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and was intended for the Chiricahua Apache as well as other tribes. Under Grant’s Peace Policy, the Dutch Reformed Church was given charge of the reservation.

Americans generally have difficulty in distinguishing one Indian tribe from another.  With regard to the Apaches, the U.S. government had difficulty understanding that there were many distinct Apache tribes. There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache. The Western Apache include five groups: Cibecue, San Carlos, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. The traditional homelands of the Chiricahua Apache are south of the Western Apache in the mountains of southeastern Arizona.

In Arizona a new religious movement arose in 1881 when a White Mountain Apache medicine man called Nakaidoklini talked to the Apaches about a new religion in which dead warriors would return to help the people drive the Americans from their territory. He taught his followers a new dance in which the dancers were arranged like the spokes on a wheel, facing inward.

Nakaidoklini announced that he would bring back two chiefs from the dead if the people gave him enough horses and blankets. When the dead chiefs failed to materialize, Nakaidoklini announced that they had refused to return because of the Americans and that they would return when the Americans were gone.

The United States sent soldiers with orders to arrest Nakaidoklini or to kill him, or both, for his teachings. Nakaidoklini quietly submitted to arrest. On the return journey, the troops were followed by many Apache. As the Apache moved closer, their faces painted, the frightened officer in charge of the soldiers ordered the Apaches to move back and shooting broke out. The Apache scouts who had been with the army also began firing on the soldiers. The officer ordered Nakaidoklini killed and a soldier shot Nakaidoklini at point blank range.

Some of Nakaidoklini’s followers later attacked Fort Apache, but were driven back. Others sought refuge with the Chiricahua Apache on the San Carlos Reservation. Chiricahua leaders, including Geronimo, became alarmed with the arrival of additional troops. There were rumors that the soldiers intended to arrest the chiefs and place them in leg irons. Three Chiricahua bands left the San Carlos Reservation and headed to Mexico.

The “rebel” bands, with 74 men and 300 women, included the Nednhi led by Chief Juh and Geronimo; the Chokonen led by Naiche (the son of Cochise), Chato, and Chihuahua; and the Bedonkohe led by Bonito. The Apaches who remained on the reservation, including 250 Chiricahuas, generally opposed the breakout.

Three of the scouts who turned on the troops – Sergeant Dandy Jim, Sergeant Dead Shot, and Corporal Skippy – were court-martialed, found guilty of mutiny, and hanged. Several others were sent to Alcatraz.

The “rebel” Chiricahua bands then began a series of raids which resulted in a prolonged campaign by General George Crook to “pacify” the Apaches.

Some Apache Ceremonies

While the movies and popular books (including some textbooks) speak of the Apaches as if they were a single American Indian nation, there are many different, distinct, and autonomous Apache groups. There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache. East of these is also divided into discrete groups.

The Western Apache include five groups: Cibecue, San Carlos, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. While there was intermarriage between these groups, they considered themselves to be distinct from one another and had clearly defined territorial boundaries. The traditional territory of the Western Apache is in Arizona and ranges from as far north as Sedona to as far south as the San Pedro River Valley.

The Chiricahua Apache are south of the Western Apache in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. The term “Chiricahua” was coined by an anthropologist to refer to the autonomous tribes living in or near the Chiricahua Mountains. The word “Chiricahua” is actually of Ópata origin.

The Jicarilla Apache are divided into two bands: the Llaneros (the plains people) and the Olleros (the mountain-valley people). The Jicarilla borrowed culturally from the Plains tribes (especially the war and raiding complexes) and from the Pueblos (agricultural and ceremonial rituals).

The Eastern Apache include five groups: Gila, Mimbres, Coppermine, Warm Springs, and Mescalero.

Ceremonies are a part of the social and cultural glue that brings people together, allows them to pass on their heritage, and reinforces their sense of purpose. There are many different kinds of ceremonies including rites of passage—ceremonies which designate a change in social status such as the transition from child to adult—and healing ceremonies. A few Apache ceremonies are described below. There are no photographs, as photographs of spiritual events are often considered offensive to Native peoples.

Girls’ Puberty Ceremony:

Among the Western Apache the Girls’ Puberty Ceremony invests in young girls the qualities which are felt to be important for adulthood. The ceremony is known as Na’íí’ees which means “preparing her” or “getting her ready.” This is an elaborate ceremony which has consequences for the entire community. In the ceremony, the power of Changing Woman enters the girl’s body and lives there for the four days of the ceremony. The gift of Changing Woman is longevity and physical health. During the ceremony the people come together to reaffirm kinship ties and to benefit from the healing powers of the ceremony.

Among the Jicarilla Apache the ceremony is performed in a large tipi that faces east. During the four-day ceremony, the girl and her partner (an adolescent male of the same age) listen to sacred songs about tribal origins. The ceremony stresses the positive traits that people should imitate in their own lives.

Among the Chircahua Apache the Girls’ Puberty Ceremony is composed of a series of rituals which reinforce the basic values of Apache culture. During the ceremony, the girl is united spiritually and personally with the most revered of the Chiricahua’s ancestors, White Painted Woman. Chiricahua elder Elbys Naiche Huger notes:  “Here we say White Painted Woman, other Apaches might say Changing Woman or call this a Sunrise Ceremony.”

Cradle Ceremony:

 Among the Chiricahua Apache, the Cradle Ceremony is conducted four days after birth. The ceremony involves marking the child with pollen, presenting the cradleboard to the four directions, and then placing the child in the cradleboard. The ceremony is intended to ward off evil influences.

First Moccasin Ceremony:

 The Apache hold this ceremony to celebrate a child’s first steps. The ceremony is held at the new moon with the children wearing newly made outfits and their first moccasins. The purpose of the ceremony is to keep the children healthy and strong. The ceremony includes a feast and a gift give-away as well as songs, prayers, dances, and blessings with pollen.

Holiness Rite:

The Holiness Rite is an Apache long-life ceremony which is based on the story of Bear and Snake stealing two girls during the emergence of the People from the underworld. The girls were rescued and returned by the White and Black Gods. As a curing ceremony which relieves Bear and Snake sickness—that is illness which originate from Bear and Snake. The complex, four-day ceremony may treat up to 12 patients. During the ceremony, the patients are subject to treatments which are intended to frighten away the bear and the snake.

Among the Jicarilla, the Holiness Rite is also known as the Bear Dance and is usually performed for three days before and during the appearance of the full moon (for a total of four days). The ceremony cures bear, snake, and other sicknesses. The ceremony takes place in a large enclosure (about 80 feet in diameter) which has an opening to the east. Within the enclosure on the west side is a tipi which faces east. The patients are confined to the tipi during the ceremony.

Hoop Dance:

The Hoop Dance is a White Mountain Apache healing ceremony. During the ceremony, the sick person is seated on a blanket facing east. The dancers – one boy and one girl at each of the four cardinal directions – dance in toward the patient. The boys place their hoops over the patient’s head and the girls place the crosses which they carry over the patient’s head. This is repeated four times. Next, there are ceremonies involving the four directions in which the hoops are placed over the patient.

Lightning Ceremony:

The Lightning Ceremony is a White Mountain Apache ceremony which is done to protect the people from the danger of lightning. In addition, the ceremony brings the rain and insures good crops.

Death in Pueblo and Athabascan Cultures

Funerary practices and beliefs about death are more about the living than the dead. They provide some insights into the cultures of the people. The several Pueblo cultures and the Athabascan cultures (Navajo and Apache) live in close proximity to one another in New Mexico and Arizona. These cultures, in spite of their geographic proximity, have very different beliefs about death and how to deal with dead bodies. Some of their funerary customs and beliefs are discussed below.  

Athabascan Culture:

The Athabascan-speaking people – the Navajo and the Apache – migrated from the area north of Edmonton, Alberta.

In the late 1300’s and early 1400’s groups of hunting and gathering Athabascans began arriving in the Southwest from the far north in Canada. These were the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache peoples. While there are some scholars who feel that the Navajo and Apache could have begun arriving in the Southwest as early as 800 CE and some who feel that it was as late at 1500 CE, most tend to place their arrival between 1200 and 1400.

When the Spanish entered New Mexico, they recorded that the Tewa referred to one of the neighboring tribes as Navahú, in reference to large areas of cultivated lands. This is in reference to the Navajo practice of dry-farming in arroyos, and cañadas (canyons). The Tewa also referred to these newcomers as Apachü which means strangers and enemies. The Spanish would later refer to these people as Apache de Navajó meaning the Apaches with the great planted fields.

Among the southwestern Athabascan groups there is a fear of death and of dealing with both the bodies and the possessions of dead people. Among the Jicarilla Apache, for example, there is a great effort to keep children from seeing a dead person. In addition, children do not associate with other children who have family members who have recently died until the family has been cleansed by the proper ceremonies. There is a concern that children may be marked by the aura of death.

With regard to the Chiricahua Apache, at death the spirits begin a four-day journey to the spirit world. For the Chiricahua,  open burial sites are very dangerous between the moment of death and the time when the grave is covered. During this time the spirit of the deceased is loose and free. It is thus able to cause mischief or harm.  Funeral rites are expected to expedite the spirit’s journey.

Traditionally among the Navajo, the body of a dead person was left on the ground in the hogan (home) which was then abandoned or the body was immediately buried. The body was allowed to decompose because the memory, thoughts, and descendents are the part which lives on. The idea of putting someone in a coffin or putting chemicals in the body to preserve the corpse is viewed with disgust by traditional Navajo.

At death, the personal property of a Navajo is buried with the corpse or it is destroyed. Traditionally, the name of the deceased is not mentioned for one year following death. After this year, the name of the deceased is rarely mentioned.

When a Navajo who has lived a full and long life dies, there is no period of mourning as it is felt that the spirit is ready to travel to another world. There is no dread of touching or handling the corpse of an old person.

With regard to life after death, this is an issue of little concern for most Navajo. They feel that they will find out when they die and in the meantime this is something they have no way of knowing anything about and therefore they should not waste time thinking about it. The Navajo cultural orientation is towards life, toward making this life happier, more harmonious, and more beautiful.

For the Navajo, birth and death are seen as opposites: one cannot exist without the other. Life is a cycle. It reaches its natural conclusion in death at old age. It is renewed in each birth. Death before old age is considered to be both unnatural and tragic. Death before old age prevents the natural completion of the life cycle.

Pueblo Culture:

In northern Arizona and New Mexico there are several Indian nations who traditionally lived in compact villages. The Spanish used the word pueblo which means “town” in referring to these people. The Pueblo people are not a single cultural tradition, but are in fact several distinct cultures. They share some features – farming, housing – and are very different in others.

Among many of the Pueblos, food is placed with the body of the deceased. If the deceased had lived a good life, then little food was left with them as they would need little sustenance in traveling straight to the afterworld. On the other hand, if the deceased had not been particularly virtuous then they would need more food for their difficult journey.

Among the Keresian-speaking Pueblos of the Rio Grande area, death is viewed as a natural and necessary event: if there were no death, then soon there would be no room left in the world. After death, both the soul and the guardian spirit leave the body, but remain in the home of the deceased for four days. Then they journey to Shipap, the entrance to the underworld. The virtue of the deceased then determines the assignment to one of the four underworlds. Those who enter the innermost world become Shiwana (rainmakers) and return to the villages in the form of clouds.

Among the Zuni, the spirit of the dead lingers in the village for four days. During this time the door to the deceased’s home is left open to permit the entry of the spirit. On the morning of the fifth day the spirit goes to Kothluwalawa beneath the water of the Listening Spring. Here the spirit becomes a member of the Uwannami (rainmakers). Members of the Bow Priesthood become lightning makers who bring water from the six great waters of the world. The water is poured through the clouds in the form of rain. The clouds are the masks worn by the Uwannami.

Among the Hopi, a mask of cotton is placed over the face of the dead to represent the cloud mask which the spirit will wear when it returns with the cloud people to bring rain to the village. Four days after burial the spirit leaves the body and begins a journey to the Land of the Dead. They enter the underworld through the sipapu (sacred hole) in the Grand Canyon where they meet the One Horned God who can read a person’s thoughts by looking into the heart. Those who are virtuous follow the Sun Trail to the village of the Cloud People.

In the Hopi burials, clothing, water, and piki (a special bread) is often placed with the corpse. In many cases the Hopi will use a quilt as a burial shroud. The grave is then sealed with rocks.

When a kikmongwi (chief) dies, the staff which has symbolized his authority during his life is buried with him. In addition, his body is painted with symbols for important ritual occasions.

Among the Hopi, the spirits of children who die before they are initiated into a kiva return to their mother’s house to be reborn.

For the Hopi, the ancestors are important to their culture and they strongly feel that the physical remains of the ancestors should be treated with respect. Ancestors maintain a spiritual guardianship over the places where they are buried and they are not to be disturbed by archaeologists.

The Hopi see the clouds which bring water to their villages as ancestors and thus they petition their departed ancestors to return and to bring with them the life-giving rain. In this way, the Hopi view death as a return to the spiritual realm and from this comes more life in the form of rain.

Among most of the Pueblos, life after death is the same as before death: the deceased journey to a town where they join a group with which they were associated in life. Only the Hopi express the idea of punishment after death.

At Cochití, when a person dies, an ear of blue corn with barbs at the point is placed in the corner of the room where the death occurred. This ear of corn represents the soul of the deceased which will linger in the area for a while.

Invading Mexico in the 1880s

In the 1880s, the American wars against the Apache Indians ignored the border between the United States and Mexico, and the American military often ignored Mexico’s sovereignty in their eagerness to kill Apaches. This was a time when the American press often urged genocide against Indians, particularly against the Apache. Many of the military intrusions into Mexico were made in response to alleged raids by Mexican-based Apache groups.  

In 1881, a small war party of Lipan Apache attacked and looted the house of an American settler in Texas, killing two people. The army followed the party into Mexico where the Apache were surprised at their mountain camp. Six Apache warriors were killed and a small boy and a woman were captured.

In 1882, Apache warriors under the leadership of Juh and Geronimo raided the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona to capture the Chiricahua Apache band led by Loco. This band had stayed on the reservation when the Chiricahua had broken free the year before. Loco and his people were forced to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. The army struck the Apaches near the Arizona-New Mexico border and then battled them again 20 miles into the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Nineteen Apache, primarily women and children, were killed in the two battles.

A war party of 25 Chiricahua Apache warriors, under the leadership of Chatto, crossed into Arizona from their stronghold in the Mexican Sierra Madre Mountains in 1883 and raided a charcoal camp near Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The raiding party then moved northeast across the southeastern corner of Arizona, covering 75-100 miles a day. They crossed into New Mexico where they killed a federal judge and his wife and kidnapped their young son to be raised as an Apache warrior. During their raids, the Apaches killed 26 Americans. They managed to escape back into Mexico without being seen by any American soldier.

In response to the raids, an American army unit of 320 men under the command of General George Crook crossed the boundary with Mexico in search of “hostile” Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache. The expedition’s principal guide was Tzoe (called “Peaches” by the Americans), a Cibecue Apache who had been a part of the hostile bands. In addition, a number of Apache and Yavapai scouts accompanied the Americans.

The Americans managed to surprise the Apache in their mountain stronghold. Consequently, a number of the Apache leaders-Geronimo, Naiche, Chihuahua, Chato, Bonito, Nana, Loco, Mangas, and Kahtennay-agreed to return to the reservation in Arizona.

In 1885, two bands of Chiricahua Apache left the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona.  Tiswin was a traditional Native alcoholic beverage which had been forbidden by the American government. In open defiance of the government’s prohibition, the Apache had brewed up the tiswin (a kind of beer or wine), got drunk and had fled into Mexico. One of the bands was led by Naiche and the other one by Chihuahua. There were about 140 people in the two bands, including 35 men and 8 boys old enough to fight.

One raiding party of ten warriors slipped back into the United States, carried out raids for a month in an area patrolled by 83 companies of soldiers. They killed 38 Americans, captured a number of horses, and escaped back into Mexico with the loss of only one warrior.  

In the Bavispe Mountains of Sonora, Mexico, Chihuahua’s band encountered U.S. troops. While the warriors diverted the troops, the women and children hid in a cave. However, the army found the women and children. They killed some, and then forced the survivors, including the wounded, to walk several hundred miles to Fort Bowie, Arizona. At the Fort, food was simply thrown on the ground for the women and children, implying that the prisoners were no more than animals. The women, including the wounded, were forced to dig latrines.

What many histories record as the final intrusion into Mexico during the 1880s Apache Wars came in 1886 when the Chiricahua Apache surrendered to the United States Army in Mexico on the condition that they would be held as prisoners for two years and would then be allowed to return to their own land. Instead, they spent the next 27 years as prisoners of war in prisons in Alabama, Florida, and Oklahoma.

The Athabascan-Speaking Groups in the Southwest

Sometime in the late 1300’s and early 1400’s groups of hunting and gathering Athabascan-speaking peoples began arriving in the Southwest from the far north in Canada. These were the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache peoples. While most scholars agree that the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache originally lived in western Canada, probably on the northern Plains of Alberta, there is some disagreement over: (1) when they actually migrated to the Southwest, and (2) the route, or, more likely, the routes they used.  

The findings from archaeology suggest four different migration routes: (1) An intermountain route through western Colorado and eastern Utah; (2) A Rocky Mountain route through central Colorado; (3) A High Plains route through eastern Colorado; and (4) A Plains border route through Kansas.

While there are some scholars who feel that the Navajo and Apache could have started arriving in the Southwest as early as 800 CE and some who feel that it was as late at 1500 CE, most tend to place their arrival between 1200 and 1400.

With regard to language, Navajo and Apache are Athabascan languages which are related to the languages on the Northern Plains, particularly Sarsi, as well as languages spoken on the Northwest Coast (such as Haida), and California (such as Hoopa). Linguists have suggested that Navajo and Apache may have diverged from the northern languages as early as 2,400 years ago.

When the Spanish entered New Mexico, they recorded that the Tewa referred to one of the neighboring tribes as Navahú in reference to large areas of cultivated lands. This is in reference to the Navajo practice of dry-farming in arroyos, and cañadas. The Tewa also referred to these newcomers as Apachü which means strangers and enemies. The Spanish would later refer to these people as Apache de Navajó meaning the Apaches with the great planted fields.

There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache.

The Western Apache include five groups: Cibecue, San Carlos, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. While there was intermarriage between these groups, they considered themselves to be distinct from one another and had clearly defined territorial boundaries. The traditional territory of the Western Apache is in Arizona and ranges from as far north as Sedona to as far south as the San Pedro River Valley.

The Chiricahua Apache are south of the Western Apache in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. The term “Chiricahua” was coined by an anthropologist to refer to the autonomous tribes living in or near the Chiricahua Mountains. The Chiricahua Apache were composed of four independent political units in this area: Chíhéne, Chokonene, Bidánku, and Ndé’ndaí.

The Jicarilla Apache are divided into two bands: the Llaneros (the plains people) and the Olleros (the mountain-valley people). Culturally the Jicarilla borrowed from the Plains tribes (especially the war and raiding complexes) and from the Pueblos (agricultural and ceremonial rituals).

The Eastern Apache include five groups: Gila, Mimbres, Coppermine, Warm Springs, and Mescalero.

The Navajo were traditionally divided into numerous, small independent groups. These groups are often described according to territorial groupings: (1) The area around Canyon de Chelly; (2) The mountainous region south of Zuñi, which includes Bear Springs (Fort Wingate); (3) Cebolleta near Laguna Pueblo; (4) San Mateo Mountains around Mount Taylor; and (5) The eastern slopes of the Tohatchi, the Tunicha, and the Carrizo Mountains extending to the Largo Canyon.  

The Camp Grant Massacre

( – 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.  

Indian Nations of the Southern Plains

( – promoted by navajo)

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American-Indian-Heritage-Month

photo credit: Aaron Huey

The Southern Plains is the area of the Great Plains that lies south of the Arkansas River valley. It is an area of rolling prairie grasslands with some timbered areas in the stream valley. It includes Oklahoma, Arkansas, portions of Texas, the eastern foothills of New Mexico, and portions of Louisiana. By the time the European, and later American, explorers and settlers began moving into the area, it had a long history of occupation by Indian nations such as the Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache and Lipan Apache.  

Caddo:

The term “Caddo” originates from one particular tribe, the Kadohadacho who occupied the area around the Great Bend of the Red River in Texas. The term is also applied to a number of other tribes in the region who have a similar language and culture. Today, the Caddo Nation consists of the descendants of approximately 25 once-independent tribes that inhabited the area.

At the time of the first contact with the French and Spanish explorers, the Caddo were associated in three or four loose confederations. The largest of these was the Hasinai, which the Spanish called Texas, who occupied a territory which includes the present-day Texas counties of Nacogdoches, Rusk, Cherokee, and Houston. The Kadohadacho, also called the Caddo proper, were located at the bend of the Red River in southwestern Arkansas and northeastern Texas. The Natchitoches occupied an area near the present-day Louisiana city which bears their name. The least known of these early confederacies is the Yatasi which soon after initial European contact divided into two groups which affiliated with other Caddoan confederacies.

The Caddo were farmers who raised corn, about six kinds of beans, pumpkins, sunflowers, gourds, and melons (including watermelons). Their fields were tilled with wooden or bone-tipped hoes. The Caddo planted two kinds of corn. One would mature in about six weeks and the other in about three months. The fast maturing corn would be planted at the end of April, about the time when the rains cease. This corn would grow to less than 3 feet in height, but would be covered with many small ears. Following the harvest of this corn, they would clear the fields and plant what they called the “big seed” (the longer-maturing corn).

After the Caddo acquired the horse in the seventeenth century, buffalo hunting increased in its importance.

Comanche:

Linguistically, the Comanche are closely related to the Shoshone who are from the Great Basin culture area. According to Crow oral tradition, the Comanche once lived in the Snake River area of Idaho. Comanche oral tradition says that they once lived in the Rocky Mountain area north of the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The Comanche split off from the Shoshone because of a dispute over the distribution of a bear killed by a Comanche hunter. At the time, the two groups were in the Fountain Creek area north of the present-day city of Pueblo, Colorado. As a result of this split, the Comanche migrated south while the Shoshone gradually migrated to the north and west. By 1700 the Comanche had moved into the Southern Plains.

Linguistic data suggests that the Comanche began to move onto the plains about 1500 AD. At this time, there was a period of increased precipitation, which led to a parallel increase in the buffalo population. Consequently, there was also an increase in the size, number, and duration of the Indian nations who could exploit the herds.

The Comanche had a form of pictorial writing. Using a thin piece of birch bark which can be folded, the Comanche would write notes to tell others where they were going and what they were doing.

Kiowa:

The Kiowa speak a language which linguists classify as a part of the Tanoan language family and is thus related to the Pueblos of Taos, Jemez, Isleta, and San Ildefonso in New Mexico. Yet the oral traditions of several tribes place the homeland of the Kiowa not in New Mexico, but much farther north in what is now Montana. It was here that they made the transition from elk and deer hunting to buffalo hunting. It was on the plains of Montana that they acquired the horse and many elements of Northern Plains culture, including the Sun Dance. It was in the north that the Kiowa made close and lasting friendships with the Sarsi, the Crow, and the Arikara. It was here that they first encountered the Plains Apache (also known as the Kiowa-Apache).

Kiowa oral tradition tells of a time when they lived far to the north, beyond the territory of the Crow and the Lakota in the Northern Plains. It was a country that was very cold most of the year. This was a time when they used dogs to carry their burdens as they did not know of the horse. One of their warriors went far to the south where he was captured by the Comanche. The Comanche treated him well and gave him a horse so that he might return home with honor. Upon returning home, he told of the tribe of a land stocked with game where the summer lasted nearly all of the year. The council decided to follow the man back to the country he had seen and the following spring they began their migration south. They traveled south until they were attacked by the Comanche.

The Kiowa maintained a tribal history or chronology which was painted on hides and later on paper. The chronology was arranged in a continuous spiral starting in the lower right and ending near the center. Winter was symbolized by a black bar and summer by a drawing of the Sun Dance lodge.

Kiowa-Apache:

The homeland for the Kiowa-Apache and the Plains Apache was on the Northern Plains of Alberta, Canada, where they were most likely associated with the Sarsi on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. On the Northern Plains, probably in the Yellowstone River area of Montana, they became associated with the Kiowa and became culturally similar to the Kiowa except for language.  The Kiowa-Apache then accompanied the Kiowa on their migration to the Black Hills and then south on the Southern Plains.

Lipan Apache:

The Apache are an Athapaskan-speaking group who once lived on the Northern Plains in Alberta and migrated into the Southern Plains of Texas. Linguistically, the Lipan Apache separated from the Kiowa-Apache more than 400 years ago, and they separated from the Jicarilla Apache about 227 years ago. The Lipan Apache were firmly entrenched in South Texas by the second half of the seventeenth century.

Tonkawa:

While the Tonkawa are often considered to be a Texas group, in the early 1600s they were actually living in northern Oklahoma near the confluence of the Medicine Lodge and Salt Fork Rivers. They then migrated south to the area around Dallas and Texas, then farther south to the Austin and San Antonio areas. Finally, in the reservation era, they accepted a reservation in northern Oklahoma near their 1600s homeland.  

Mount Graham: Science and Apache Religion

( – promoted by navajo)

For many Native American nations there are certain geographic places which have special spiritual meanings. These sacred places are often portals to the spirit worlds. For the Apache in Arizona, one of these sacred places is Mount Graham: this place is called Dzil Nchaa Si An (Big Seated Mountain) and is mentioned in 32 of the sacred songs which have been handed down through the oral tradition for many generations. It is here that the Ga’an, the guardian spirits of the Apache, live.

In 1873, Mount Graham was removed from the boundaries of the San Carlos Reservation and placed in public domain. The spiritual value of Mount Graham to the Apache was not considered. This action set the stage for conflict a century later.  

In 1984, the University of Arizona and the Vatican selected Mount Graham as a site for a complex of 18 telescopes. The fact that this is a sacred place for the Apache was not taken into consideration. To get around the legal barriers of the American Indian Religious Freedoms Act, the University hired a lobbying firm to put pressure on Congress to remove this, and other, roadblocks.  The area in question is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Vatican has an observatory staff which is officially support by the Vatican City State. The Vatican Observatory Foundation is supported by private donations. One of the important duties of the church is to maintain an accurate calendar and this requires astronomical observations. Hence the involvement of the Vatican with astronomy. The first Vatican observatory was established in 1774.

Congress passed the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act in 1988. In response to lobbying by the University of Arizona and the Vatican, the Act included a provision to allow the construction of three telescopes on Mount Graham without having to comply with the American Indian Religious Freedoms Act or with environmental laws.

The following year the Apache Survival Coalition was started by Ola Cassadore-Davis, the daughter of Apache spiritual leader Phillip Cassadore. The purpose of the Coalition was to save Dzil Nchaa Si An from desecration by a telescope complex to be built by the University of Arizona and the Vatican.

In 1991, the San Carlos Apache Tribe passed a resolution stating that Mount Graham is sacred to them. Furthermore, the resolution stated that the tribe supported the efforts of the Apache Survival Coalition to protect the religious and cultural beliefs of the tribe.

Following the declarations of the sacredness of Mount Graham by the Apache Survival Coalition and the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Vatican in 1991declared that Mt. Graham was not sacred because it lacked religious shrines. Jesuit Father George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory, indicated that he could not find an authentic Apache who thought the mountain was sacred. Father Coyne stated that to convince him that the mountain was sacred he would need to see evidence of shrines and that he would not accept Apache oral history or statements by Apache-speaking Euro-American anthropologists.

Father Coyne further declared that Apache beliefs were “a kind of religiosity to which I cannot subscribe and which must be suppressed with all the force we can muster.”

The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) reports that the Jesuit Father Charles W. Polzer calls opposition to the construction of the telescope complex on top of Mount Graham  “part of a Jewish conspiracy” and comes from the Jewish lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union who are out to undermine and destroy the Catholic Church.

In spite of opposition by the San Carlos Apache tribal council, Apache spiritual leaders, and environmental groups, actual construction of the project began in 1991.

With flagrant insensitivity to American Indians, the University of Arizona announced that it intended to name its new telescope on Mount Graham the Colum¬bus telescope in honor of the European explorer. The University was apparently unaware that Columbus is not considered to be a hero by American Indian people. Ultimately, the University withdrew the name following public response against it.

The San Carlos Apache tribal council in 1993 reaffirmed reso¬lutions opposing the construction of the telescope on Mount Graham. The council resolution stated that the telescope “constitutes a display of profound disrespect for a cherished feature of our original homeland as well as a serious violation of our tradi¬tional religious beliefs.”

After meeting with Apache elders and spiritual leaders at the San Carlos Apache Reservation, the National Council of Churches in 1995 passed a resolution calling for the removal of a telescope from Mount Graham.

The President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in 1996 declared the entire Mount Graham observatory project to be in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act because of the project’s harm to Apache culture and spiritual life, but the telescope was not removed.

In 1997, the spokesman for the Apaches for Cultural Preservation was arrested for praying on Mount Graham. The Apaches for Cultural Preservation feel that the Forest Service, the University of Arizona, and the Vatican developed the project on Mount Graham knowing that it would violate Apache religious beliefs.

President Bill Clinton, using the line item veto, deleted $10 million in federal funds for the operation of the University of Arizona’s Mount Graham telescope project. San Carlos Apache Chairman Raymond Stanley and the White Mountain Apache Cultural Resources Director Ramon Riley sent letters to the President thanking him for the veto.

Beginning in 1998, the University of Arizona began requiring Indians to obtain prayer permits before they crossed the top of Mount Graham near the University’s telescopes. The University’s prayer policy required that the permit be requested at least two business days before the visit and that it include a description of where on the mountain the prayers will take place. Only people who were enrolled members of federally recognized tribes were allowed to pray.

In 1999, the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university, announced that it would also build a telescope on Mount Graham. The University president claimed that he was unaware that Mount Graham was sacred to the Apache and that the Apache opposed the desecration of this sacred place. This was in spite of the fact that the building of telescopes on this sacred mountain by the University of Arizona and the Vatican was a controversial issue and had been the subject of many news stories.

In 1999, the White Mountain Apache tribal council passed a resolution urging the U.S. Forest Service to “honor its duties to protect the physical integrity of Mount Graham and its long-standing and ongoing historical, cultural and religious importance to many Apaches.”

Realizing that they were making little headway with the bureaucracies of the American government (Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture) and Congress, the Apaches took their cause to the United Nations in 1999. Ola Cassadore Davis testified before the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. She stated:

We Apache wish to bring to the people of this world a better understanding of Indian people, in order that we are able to preserve and freely live by our traditional culture and religious beliefs.

Source: http://www.envirolink.org/exte…

She asked that the special use permit by the Department of Agriculture Forest Service be terminated. She concluded:

In conclusion, we Apache would respectfully urge this body of the United Nations to recognize and acknowledge that the disrespect and suffering caused by the nations and governments mentioned above be terminated forthwith. We Apache petition you for a resolution consistent with the National Congress of American Indians of 1993, 1995 and July 1999. They stated that the public interest in protecting Apache culture is compelling, and that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture should accordingly require the prompt removal of the telescopes from Mount Graham.

In 2004, the San Carlos Apache rejected an offer of $120,000 from the University of Arizona, calling it a bribe. Saying that the University had done nothing but tell lies to the Apache people, the San Carlos Apache indicated that they would continue to honor their sacred mountain. One tribal council member indicated that if the University did not have a telescope on Mount Graham they would have no interest in the Apache people.

The conflict over this sacred site is still not resolved. On the one hand it can be viewed as a conflict between two different cultures. On the other hand, it can also be seen as a conflict between science and religion.

The Mount Graham International Observatory is home to three telescopes: the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope, and the Large Binocular Telescope. On their website, their version of the  history of Mount Graham focuses on James Duncan Graham and mentions the Spanish Conquistadores. There is no mention of the Apache. Their section on the legal actions necessary for the building of the complex mentions environmental concerns, but there is no mention of the Apache spiritual concerns.

The telescopes sit on land which has been leased from the Forest Service and the lease must be regularly renewed. Efforts by American Indian people and various environmental groups have so far been unsuccessful in convincing the Forest Service to deny the renewal of the leases.  

Suppressing American Indian Religion with Military Force

When cultures are under stress from rapid change, particular change which is forced upon the people from outside agents, there frequently arise cultural and religious movements which attempt to revitalize the culture and resist change. Many of these revitalization movements are short lived, while others go on to become established religions. In some cases, particularly with regard to cultural revitalization movements among American Indian nations, these movements have been suppressed through military actions. One of these happened on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona in 1880.  

During the 1870s the U.S. military waged a war against the Apache bands in Arizona and New Mexico. The army also crossed into Mexico to attack the bands. The purpose of the military action was to pacify the Apache and to force the bands to live on small reservations which would be out of the way of American settlers who wanted Apache land. In some cases, military actions against the Apache seemed genocidal in their attempts to exterminate men, women, and children. The war against the Apache was urged on by the media, by the Arizona legislature, and by many civic groups. The Arizona Citizen, for example, called for the slaying of every Apache man, women, and child.

In Arizona, the White Mountain Apache Reservation was formally established by Presidential executive order in 1871. This reservation was to become the home to the Western Apache bands. As with other Indian reservations, lands were removed from the reservation when they were found to contain precious metals which non-Indians wanted to mine.

In 1880 a White Mountain Apache elder, Nakaidoklini, talked to the Apaches about a new religion in which dead warriors would return to help the people drive the Americans from their territory. He taught his followers a new dance in which the dancers are arranged like the spokes on a wheel facing inward.

Nakaidoklini announced that he would bring back two chiefs from the dead if the people gave him enough horses and blankets. When the dead chiefs failed to materialize, Nakaidoklini announced that they had refused to return because of the Americans and they would return when the Americans were gone.

In response to Nakaidoklini’s small religious movement, The United States sent soldiers with orders to arrest him or to kill him or both for his teachings. The soldiers entered his quarters and told the old man that he must come with them. Nakaidoklini quietly submited to arrest. On the return journey, the troops were followed by many Apache. As the Apache moved closer, their faces painted, the officer in charge ordered them back and the shooting broke out. The Apache scouts who had come with the troops, then began firing on the soldiers. The officer ordered Nakaidoklini killed and a soldier shot Nakaidoklini at point blank range.

Following this incident, three of the four Chiricahua bands left the San Carlos Reservation and began a series of raids which resulted in a prolonged campaign by General George Crook to “pacify” the Apaches.

The rebel bands, with 74 men and 300 women, included the Nednhi led by Chief Juh and Geronimo, the Chokonen led by Naiche (the son of Cochise), Chato, and Chihuahua, and the Bedonkohe led by Bonito. The Apache who remained on the reservation, including 250 Chiricahua, generally oppose the breakout.

Three of the scouts who turned on the troops – Sergeant Dandy Jim, Sergeant Dead Shot, and Corporal Skippy – were court-martialed, found guilty of mutiny, and hanged. Several others were sent to Alcatraz.