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Chief Cochise


COCHISE c.1815-1874, Chief of the Chiricahua APACHE in Arizona, noted for courage, integrity, and military skill. From 1861, when soldiers unjustly hanged some of his relatives, he warred relentlessly against the U.S. army. Peace talks in 1872 promised him a reservation on his native territory, but after he died his people were removed. Shi-ka-she was a tall man, six feet, with broad shoulders and a commanding appearance. He never met a man his equal with a lance, and, like Crazy Horse, was never photographed. However a California gallery owner named Charles Parker recently uncovered a painting, identified as "Cochise, 1872", that Apache authority Edwin R. Sweeney says "appears to be the real thing". Both Cochise and Crazy Horse were buried in secret locations on their homeland. In 1861, Cochise, Chief of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, was wrongfully suspected of abducting the children of a rancher, and stealing his cattle. Lieutenant George Bascom, who led the investigation, lured Cochise to a meeting. Bascom wasted no time in accusing the Indian of the raid, although the Chief claimed innocence. When Bascom tried to arrest him, Cochise slashed through the tent with his knife and escaped, suffering three bullets wounds in the process. After several weeks of fighting, two dragoon companies out of Fort Breckinridge finally drove the rampaging Apaches into Mexico. But before leaving, they killed their hostages. In retaliation, Bascom hanged all his male hostages including Cochise's brother. The Apaches, with bitter vengeance, swept down from their mountain hiding places in more attacks, killing, it is estimated, 150 whites and Mexicans during the next two months. By the end of 1861, the troops had abandoned the forts in Chiricahua country because of the Civil War in the East. Lt. Bascom was later killed during battle by a cannonball from the Southern side.

On the morning of April 30, 1871, 150 Anglos, Mexicans, and Papago Indian mercenaries attacked a sleeping Indian camp, massacred from 86 to 150 of the innocents, mostly women and children. Of the survivors, women were raped and children carried into slavery. The American President Ulysses S. Grant, who had devised his post-Civil War Peace Policy to avoid such massacres, was outraged and sent a peace commission to Arizona, led by General Oliver Howard and Vincent Coyler. Howard also finally arranged a meeting with Cochise of the Chiricahuas that autumn, through the intercession of the frontiersman Thomas Jeffords. Cochise was bitter, but he also realized that he fought a battle he could not win. He expressed his resignation in the following way: "My people have killed Americans and Mexicans and taken their property. Their losses have been greater than mine. I have killed ten white men for every Indian slain, but I know that the whites are many and the Indians are few. Apaches are growing less every day". Still the great Chief did not want to get locked up in a Reservation: "Nobody wants peace more than I do. Why shut me up on a reservation? We will make peace; we will keep it faithfully. But let us go around free as Americans do. Let us go wherever we please". After 11 days of negotiations, the general granted Cochise's request for a reservation in the Chiricahua homeland, the Apache Pass, with Jeffords as the agent. Cochise, who promised Howard to keep order along the pass, proved good as his word, his people lived peaceful until his death in 1874. In the end, Cochise's skill as a diplomat helped his people retain the lands they so cherished. Many have said that he was the most powerful Apache leader in history. At his death, it was reported that his people wailed loudly for more than a day. After his death, the Government broke the historic treaty made with Cochise and in 1876 moved the Chiricahua from the ancient mountain homeland to the hot, flat, dry, Arizona desert. Cochise's youngest son Naiche and Geronimo led a group of Chiricahua Apaches that fled into the mountains, and over the border to Mexico eluding the troops for over a decade, refusing to surrender until 1886.