Monday, April 30, 2007

Eskiminzin (1828-1895)

April 28, 1871: Either convinced that Eskiminzin's Apache are responsible for raids near Tucson, or just looking for an excuse to attack the Aravaipas, William Oury sets out with 140 armed whites and Indians for the Apache camp near Camp Grant.

April 30 1871: William Oury, a veteran Indian fighter from Tucson, and 140 men, including 92 Papago Indians, find the unarmed camp of Eskiminzin's Aravaipa Apaches living near Camp Grant. Believing them to be raiders of San Xavier Mission on April 10th, over 50 miles away near Tucson, the group attacks the unsuspecting village. 144 Indians will be killed during the massacre. Twenty-seven children will survive, they will all be sold into slavery in Mexico by the Papagos. Lt. Royal Whitman, of Camp Grant hears of the expedition against the Indians, but his message of warning, will arrive a few hours after the fighting begins. Lt. Whitman, believing the Aravaipas to be innocent, eventually gets the Tucson men brought to trial in Tucson. Many Army members testify that the Aravaipas could not possibly have been involved in the raids, but after the five-day trail, and a deliberation of lest than half an hour, the Tucson men are acquitted.


Arizona's Camp Grant Massacre
by Howard Sheldon

In the pre-dawn hours of April 30, 1871, eight men and 110 women and children were brutally murdered in the brief span of 30 minutes. In addition, 28 Arivaipa Apache papoose were kidnapped from the grisly scene for sale in the child slave trade. The corpses left to rot in the morning sun of Arivaipa Canyon were a macabre sight to Dr. Conant B. Briesly the first white man to chronicle the sight when he arrived at half past seven the same morning. By eight o'clock that morning, the mongrel band responsible for the gruesome massacre was breakfasting and celebrating their victory over an Indian tribe of defenseless, sleeping victims. What prompted 148 Arizonans -- comprised of 6 Anglos, 94 San Xavier Papagos and 48 Mexicans -- to commit such an atrocity?

April 30, 1998, marks the 127th anniversary of this dark page in Arizona's Territorial diary, written in Arivaipa Apache blood. There will be no recognition of this day by the white man. There is no physical marker to locate the site. However, this day has not been forgotten by the relatives of those slain, the Arivaipa Apaches. This attempt at genocide is known as the Camp Grant Massacre.

The events that led up to and culminated in the Camp Grant Massacre were the severe depredations of humans and livestock in the first four months of 1871. Atrocities were committed by both the white man and the native Indians. The immigrants, white-eyed enemies or pindah-lickoyee as the Indians called them, were moving in by the thousands and exhausting the native food and water resources. The Arivaipa Apaches relied on game and native plants -- primarily mescal -- as their primary food sources. With these problems and a host of others, which included new diseases introduced by the white man, it is easier to understand why the native peoples were unwilling to share their home with these new uninvited guests. Much to the chagrin of the settlers, government representatives were unavailable to protect the white citizenry. Unable to see any relief in sight, six white pioneers, a mixed company of San Xavier Papagos and Mexican's, took matters into their own hands, vigilante style.

Introducing The Key Players

William S. Oury, organizer of the raid on Camp Grant's Apache Indians, was a hot-tempered Virginian who fought in the Texas War for independence. He was a soldier in the US/Mexican War and served at the Alamo. Known for his violent temper, he killed two men in separate duels in Tucson.

Eskiminzin was then Chief of the Arivaipa Indians. His name means "Men Stand in Line for Him". In February of 1871, Eskiminzin was tired of the warpath. He sent five old Apache women to inquire at Camp Grant about peace and protection. Lt. Whitman received the women courteously and worked out an appointed time for a peace talk with their leader. On subsequent meetings, it was arranged for the Indians to stay in wickiups east of Camp Grant. In exchange for the protection and food, the Indians were employed in farming, gathering hay and working for nearby ranches. This worked out well for both the Apaches and the U.S. military. Eskiminzin had a reputation that caused much fear among the whites. An account states that about a month after the Camp Grant incident, Eskiminizin wanted to show his fellow Arivaipas that there could be no friendship with the white man. Eskiminzin had a close white friend of many years, a rancher named Charles McKinney. Eskiminzin shared an evening meal with McKinney, and at the conclusion of the meal, the two smoked a cigarette together. Upon finishing, Eskiminzin stood up, pulled a revolver from his pants and shot the man at point-blank range, killing him. When Eskiminzin was later asked about the incident, he was quoted as saying, "Any coward can kill his enemy, but it takes a brave man to kill his friend."

Events leading up to the massacre

March 10, 1871. A baggage train was attacked by Indians. Two men were brutally murdered and 16 mules were stolen.

March 20, 1871. Tubac rancher L.B. Wooster was attacked and killed. A Mexican woman was kidnapped from a town south of Tucson.

March 22, 1871. A meeting of angry Tucson residents assembled and a Committee on Public Safety was formed. One item on the agenda was to send a delegation to General Stoneman to request military protection. General Stoneman reiterated the government's policy on pacification and objected to the request, calling it criticism. Oury then concluded that the residents were on their own. Lt. Royal Whitman assured Tucson's residents that the Apaches under his control never left the Camp Grant compound.

March 25, 1871. An editorial in Tucson's Arizona Citizen fanned the flames of Indian hatred by asking, "Will the Department Commander any longer permit the murderers to be fed by the supplies purchased with the people's money?" April 10, 1871. Indians plundered a farm and carried off 19 head of cattle. News of this reached Tucson via the Papagos, and a posse was dispatched which gave chase for 50 miles. It caught up with a straggling Indian, killed him and identified him as an Arivaipa Apache from Camp Grant. During the chase, three more white settlers were killed. The incident was reported in Arizona Citizen. Three days later, in a community 30 miles from Camp Grant, a farmer was murdered.

Arizona Citizen Editor John Wasson had obtained General Stoneman's 1870 annual report. The report recommended that seven of 15 military posts be closed. The report also bragged about Stoneman's "much to be praised" new roads and construction projects.

April 28, 1871. Anglos and Mexicans left Tucson a few at a time -- to avoid suspicion -- and headed towards Camp Grant, where they were positive the problem existed.

April 30, 1871. After two days of traveling only at night, the vigilantes arrived at Camp Grant under the cover of darkness while the Arivaipa Indians slept. The mongrel band of Papagos, with clubs and lances in hand, and Mexicans and Anglos armed to the teeth with rifles and six-shooters, stealthily approached the sleeping, defenseless people. In a brief 30 minutes they laid to waste every man, woman and child. Upon leaving, they took 28 children as captives.

April 30, 1871, 7:30 a.m. That morning, a harried messenger arrived at Camp Grant from Fort Lowell interrupting Lt. Whitman's breakfast with an urgent message. It stated that armed citizenry from Tucson were planning a massacre of the Lieutenant's prisoners of war, the Apaches. The Lieutenant immediately dispatched two interpreters to warn the Indians and have them come to the post directly for protection.

But by the time the interpreters arrived, the camp was completely decimated. Post surgeon, Conant B. Briesly, along with 12 men, were immediately dispatched to render aid to the injured. However, the massacre was so thorough, only one woman survived. She was so emotionally paralyzed that she would not come back to the post.




.... one of the most misunderstood and maligned (Apache leaders) was the great leader of the Aravaipa Apaches, Eskiminzin.

Eskiminzin was born about 1828, probably near the Pinal Mountains. He was actually a Pinal Apache, but married into the Aravaipas (south of the Pinals). His father-in-law was Santos, chief of the Aravaipas. Eskiminzin was nearly always in very difficult positions trying to save his people. When he felt they had to fight to survive, he was unafraid to do so. When it was better for his people to accept peace terms, he did so. He always had the welfare of his people in mind. It was Eskiminzin who finally negotiated the terms by which the great San Carlos Apache Reservation was established. (See my page on the Apache Wars). However, after the reservation was established he experienced real tragedy.

In the summer of 1873 conditions on the reservation reached crisis proportions. Eskiminzin felt it was best that he should flee. Consequently, he was later captured and put in chains. When John Clum arrived, he ordered him released, because Clum felt he had been treated shamefully. Eskiminzin even visited Washington, D.C., with Clum in 1876. Slowly, Eskiminzin began to feel that peace was beginning to pay off.

However, in 1887 his son-in-law, the Apache Kid, was arrested for the murder of a rival on the San Carlos Reservation. When the Kid finally escaped, it was believed that Eskiminzin would aid him from time to time. Therefore, Eskiminzin was arrested in April or May 1891 and sent to Ft. Wingate, New Mexico, with 40 other supposed sympathizers with the Kid. They were forced to join the Chiricahuas who were then at Mt. Vernon, Alabama (before their removal to Oklahoma). Eskiminzin and his San Carlos braves were not exactly on friendly terms with the Chiricahuas, and they found their situation to be very difficult.

Finally, a white friend, Hugh Lennox Scott, convinced authorities that Eskiminzin should be released. He arrived back in San Carlos on 23 November 1894. A year later Eskiminzin died. His life had been truly tragic in the extreme.

There are still many descendants of Eskiminzin on the San Carlos Reservation. His legacy is revered, but the hurt of what happened to this man is still deeply felt.


For more information on Eskiminzin, read: Browning, Sinclair. Enju. Introduction by Morris K. Udall. Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1982. Schellie, Don. Vast Domain of Blood. Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1968. An important article is: Marion, Jeannie. "As Long as the Stone Lasts: General O. O. Howard's 1872 Conference." Journal of Arizona History 35 (Summer 1994): 109-140. (Marion is supposed to have a book forthcoming on Eskiminzin.)

See also NAW posting for Eskiminzin at:
NAW: Eskiminzin

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