Many stories have been told of the cruel savagery of the Apaches,
but in the case of Chief Eskiminzin it is easy to see the other side
of the coin, for this Arivaipa (Pinal) leader was the victim of many
injustices by the white men.
In February, 1971, Eskiminzin and his tribe arrived at Camp Grant in
Arizona's Ariviapa Canyon and told Lt. Royal Whitman, Third U.S.
Cavalry, that they wanted to live in peace. Whitman told the Indians
to camp in the canyon while he tried to obtain permission to have
reservation land set aside for them there. As weeks passed with no
word from the authorities, more and more Apaches came to live at the
camp, until there were more than 500 of them.
Meantime, another band of Apaches made several raids south of
Tucson. Outraged citizens blamed the Arivaipas, but General George
Stoneman, commander of the Department of Arizona, told them he had
investigated the matter and that the raids were not of Arivaipa
origin. William Oury and other Tucson men decided to organize their
own raiding party and wipe out the tribe and before dawn of April
30, 1871, descended upon the camp with a force that included 48
Mexicans and 92 Papago Indians. Whitman learned of the attack and
immediately sent word to the tribe, but the message was too late.
The raiders struck first with clubs and knives while the Indians
slept, crushing skulls and slitting throats of women, children and
men alike. Then they set fire to the buildings. Some of the Apaches
survived, among them Eskiminzin, who had grabbed up his two-year-old
daughter and escaped. Both of his wives and six of his children were
among the 100 odd victims, most of whom were women and children
because most of the braves were away on a hunt. The tribe continued
to live in peace for another month, despite the fact that the Tucson
men went unpunished. Then, when soldiers from another fort fired on
his tribe, Eskiminzin bade his friend Whitman farewell and fled to
the mountain with his people.
Two months later a joint military civilian wagon train left Tucson
and Camp Lowell on its way to Camp Bowie, more than 100 miles across
the desert to the east. Eskiminzin decided to revenge his tribe
against the Tucson whites, and laid plans to attack the wagons with
a force of about 40 warriors. There were seven wagons, an ambulance
and a buggy in the train, all of which added up to a promising
treasure for the raiders. The Apaches lay in wait in some foothills
and, on the afternoon on July 12, 1871, after the column of mounted
infantrymen which rode ahead of the train had passed, Eskiminzin
ordered the attack.
The raid was a costly failure for Eskiminzin. The men in the wagon
train put up a stout defense and the infantrymen heard the sounds of
battle and returned. The Apaches soon withdrew, leaving behind 13
dead warriors. Many of the Indians, including Eskiminzin himself,
were wounded. One soldier was killed and two others were wounded.
The Arivaipa chief decided to return to peaceful ways and settled
for a time on a reservation. He became close friends with the Indian
Agents Colyer and Clum. Later he left the reservation and began
farming near Tucson, where he prospered until some white men who
coveted his land contrived to drive him away. Unfortunately for
Eskiminzin, his daughter had married the notorious outlaw, Apache
Kid, and when the men who raided his home were questioned that
claimed that Eskiminzin had been sheltering the murderer.
Eskiminzin was seized and, without any sort of trial, was shipped to
the prison for incorrigible Indians in Florida. He was considered a
prisoner of war, rather than a criminal, and therefore ineligible
Eskiminzin did not remain in prison long, but his health and spirit
were broken. He returned to his people and died soon afterward.
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