The Genocide of the Chiricahua Indian Tribe United States history is taught in public schools when we are old enough to understand its importance. Teachings of honorable plights by our forefathers to establish this great nation are common. However, specific details of this establishment seem to slip through the cracks of our educational curriculum. Genocide by definition is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group. The Chiricahua Indian Tribe of the American southwest and northern Mexico suffered almost complete annihilation at the hands of the American policy makers of the late nineteenth century, policy makers that chose to justify their means by ignoring their own tyrannical ways.
It has been discovered that Apaches in the late 1800s were reported to exist in four separate bands, or clusters of rancherias, although how far back in time the division occurs is unknown (Griffen 5). The native name for the easternmost band was the Chihene, or “red painted people”; they were also known as Victorio, Mangas Coloradas, and Loco Apaches after the Spanish names of important leaders. To the south and west were the Chokonen or “Rising Sun People”. These people were often called Central Chiricahua, True Chiricahua, and Cochise Apaches. North and west of the Chokonen were the Bedonkohe, “In Front at the End People” sometimes called the Geronimo Apaches. The southernmost Chiricahua band was the Ndeinda, “enemy people”.
They were also called the Nedni and Nednai, Southern Chiricahua, Pinery, and Bronco Apaches (Cole 10). These names differ among some scholars, but the majority of them can agree consistently on at least four bands, even if the names are different. Apache history is rich in custom, tradition, and worship of an all-powerful supernatural force known as “The Power”. Although accounts are different, after the creation of the world, Ussen created “White Painted Woman”. This supernatural female was the most important figure in Chiricahua religious belief. She was at once the progenitor of the Chiricahua people, the symbol of female activity and life, and the sponsor of all that was peaceful and gentle in human relationships.
According to Chiricahuas, it was White Painted Woman who befriended the G’an, thus winning the sponsorship of the Apaches in a world filled with dangerous forces. White painted woman also bought forth two sons who survived infancy. One was Killer of Enemies, conceived from the sun. The other, Child of the Water, was the conception of lightning (Cole 14-15). It were these mythical characters that provided the basis for basic understandings of nature as well as the beings who were venerated in various ceremonies among the Apaches. It is important to understand the importance of the aforementioned “Power” and its idea that nothing could be accomplished without it.
Raiding and war were common aspects of Chiricahua behavior. Far more productive than agriculture was the practice of raiding (Cole 48). Usually raiding communities of Northern Mexico called Fronteras; equipment and supplies were obtained through these activities. It was not unusual for the Chiricahua to raid neighboring bands or rancherias as well. War on the other hand was normally an act of revenge, an ethical commitment to retaliate for the deaths of murdered relatives, a religious act that bound a man to the larger complex of Apache values and ideals (Griffen 11). The leaders of the bands were usually chosen at the time and planning capabilities of each raid or war.
Successful raids could mean a higher position or more respect among the band, while failure could bring the tag or a loss of “Power” to the warrior. The older, more respected warriors normally did planning. After raids Apaches celebrated their victories with ritual and religious symbolism, large quantities of food, tiswin (a mild fermented alcoholic beverage), singing, dancing and distribution of the booty taken on the raid (Griffen 13). Training was an essential endeavor for the young Apache because raiding and war were normal ways of life and a means of survival. Ideally, boys trained rigorously and practiced running long distances, mounting horses, shooting with the bow, parrying with the lance, jumping into cold water and similar activities to toughen themselves and perfect fighting skills. The young man was taken under the wing of .