A'AGA - Something to Be Told: The Apache

May 5, 2017


By Billy Allen


Some people say I have rocks in my head. I don’t know about that, but I do like to collect unique rocks while out on the desert. Lately though, payback maybe, rocks have decided to trip me when I’m out on mountain runs. Still, there is one particular rock I would like to find. I don’t know how it looks, what color–shape-size, just that it’s upriver in O:b or Apache country.


That rock served to anchor an 1872 promise of perpetual peace between the O’otham, the O:b and others in southern Arizona at Camp Grant, a military post about 50 miles northeast of Tucson.  


O’otham and the O:b or Apache/enemy had been engaged in warfare since the 1600s. “The Pima Indians” book notes a calendar stick entry of 1838 that marks the time when an O’otham irrigating his field on a cold spring night built a small fire to keep warm. The fire guided the enemy to his location. The O’otham heard a twig break and ran to alert the village. The enemy were chased down and killed.  


Elder Joseph Hoffman of Cibicue gave another reason why O:b and O’otham kept raiding each other. The O:b came to raid us and came upon an O’otham village.


They waited for sial ke:k/when the dawn stands up to raid, many O’otham were killed and some O’otham children were taken captive. When the Apache arrived back home, the O’otham children were given to the women who had relatives killed by O’otham. This was called gegodza or to be paid back. When this was done, the Apache felt all was back in balance. O’otham elder Sevier Juan told of an O:b raid in 1852, when the O:b “killed the old men, burned the houses and all the property except what they wanted. They took the women and children and hurried homeward.”


When the Spaniards-Mexicans/Jujkam and Americans came to our land, they also warred against the O:b. In May of 1782, six hundred O:b besieged Chuk son/Tucson. Two years later a Spanish force surprised a band of O:b in the Dos Cabezas and killed sixteen Apaches. An O’odham woman captured in the 1782 raid was rescued.


The major incident that led to that remarkable rock becoming a bit of history happened on April 30, 1871. A group of Aravaipa Apaches had turned themselves over to the Camp Grant military administration and were kind of like in “protective custody.”


This didn’t sit well with Tucson residents who believed that the Camp Grant Apaches were responsible for continued raids on their city. The Tucson mayor helped make up a force of over 98 Tohono O’odham, 48 Jujkam and six Americans who attacked the Camp Grant Apaches at sial ke:k. Over 100 Apaches were killed, and 27 children were taken as prisoners. It became known as the Camp Grant Massacre.


One year later, in May 1872, Brigadier General Oliver O. Howard called for a Peace Conference at Camp Grant to settle differences. Charles Cook, Antonio Azul, 12 village headmen, and Indian Agent J. H. Stout arrived with interpreter Louis/Luis Morago. Fifteen Tohono O’odham of Va:k/San Xavier arrived with two of their headmen. The Tucson Arizona Citizen had a reporter present and is the source of the quotations. An O:b who spotted Louis/Luis cried out, “You’re the Pima who killed me years ago!” (In a previous encounter, the man had been knocked out by an O’otham war club. He was left for dead, but had been just knocked unconscious.)


Various government officials and state leaders were also present. In opening the peace talks one of the O:b leaders placed a rock before him and said, “I do not know how to read or write; this is my paper, and I want a peace that will last as long as that stone lasts.”  


Antonio Azul would eventually add, “Once we were all one people living in peace. Now our differences are healed, and we are friends again: and I am satisfied we will remain friends.”


Tohono O’odham headman Francisco added, “The stone has been placed before us as a symbol of peace…” The Akimel O’otham position on the captive Apache children was given by headman Azul. He said, “I also have captives among the Apaches, and a horse on this Reservation; but I do not claim them—now that we are at peace.” The O:b leader was then asked, “Will you be at peace as long as this stone shall last?” The leader said, “Yes.”


The idea of the O’otham—O:b peace lasting as long as that rock must have been hard for the people back them to envision. It brings to mind the 1817 pledge of freedom and safety to Cherokees by President Monroe: “. . . As long as water flows, or grass grows. . .” We all know how that went. But, that must’ve been one powerful rock because that peace held.


On second thought, I don’t think I’ll try to find that rock. It might turn out to be another rock that wants to trip me.   Besides, it’s held the peace, and we should all give peace a chance. I just wish there were many such rocks to anchor peace around the world. Memorial Day is this month. Seems like most Americans now regard it as the start for summer recreation instead of a time to honor and respect the lives sacrificed for our nation.


Information was taken from Massacre at Camp Grant by Chip C. Chanthaphonh, University Press and The Journal of Arizona History, Summer 1994, “As Long as the Stone Lasts”, J. Marion.