Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 9: Cochise and the Apache Guerrillas

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 508

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Cochise: Apache chief and leader of tribes’ fierce resistance against the Army.

Mangas Colorado: Apache war chief imprisoned and killed by soldiers.

Eskiminzin: Chief of Aravaipa Apaches who is sent to Camp Grant reservation and imprisoned by the Army.

Chief Cochise and his Chiricahua Apaches had allowed Americans to pass through his territory as they traveled to California. They had also helped build a mail stage station in Apache Pass. However, the previously good relations between Apaches and whites are damaged when the Chiricahuas are accused of stealing cattle and a half-breed boy from a white settler’s ranch in February, 1861. Cochise is imprisoned by the Army as a hostage to ensure the return of the cattle and boy, but he escapes and, together with his warriors, subsequently kills three white men. Lieutenant Bascom retaliates by hanging Cochise’s three male relatives. Conflicts between the Apaches and the Army begin with this series of events.

In January, 1863, Mangas, an Apache chief, is killed by Army soldiers assigned to guard him. Cochise then heads up a band of 300 warriors determined to avenge his death, and effectively keeps the Southwest in turmoil for two years. In spring 1865, overtures from the U.S. government designed to move the Chiricahuas to the Bosque Redondo reservation are rejected by Cochise. The Chiricahuas instead decide to generally retreat from contact with whites, aside from occasional raids to capture cattle or horses from ranchers and miners. Then, on April 30, 1871, an expedition of mixed white, Mexican, and Papago Indians massacres 144 Aravaipa Apaches, but the killers are acquitted by a white jury. Vincent Colyer of the Indian Bureau begins talks with the Apaches to soothe their anger over the massacre, but Cochise rejects a proposal to move the Chiricahua reservation from Canada Alamosa to Fort Tularosa. He retreats to the mountains of southeastern Arizona, then after Army General Howard discussed matters with Cochise, they agree to a Chiricahua reservation in the Chiricahua Mountains and the valley west of those mountains. Cochise dies in spring 1874, and Tonto Apache chief Delshay is killed by mercenary Apaches in July. By spring 1875, most Apaches are either on reservations or have fled to Mexico.

The chapter begins on a bad note, with Cochise first telling the government he can not trust Americans. In a conflict following his arrest, three white men are killed and, in turn, three of his male relatives are killed. When the Tucson killers then slaughtered 144 Aravaipa Apaches, the issue of white barbarism and the failure of the government to do anything about that barbarism is raised. The peace talks with Delshay and Cochise failed, and Cochise’s somber but defiant speech shows that the Apaches, although eventually forced onto a reservation, were able to retain at least some of their dignity and stature. This is not true of the Aravaipas though: Reading of their constant uprooting and the harassment of Eskiminzin, readers may wonder if the government had developed a strategy of gradually forcing the Aravaipas, and other tribes, into subjugation and, ultimately, extinction.

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