First, a bit of history. To quote from the Introduction: “For no other group of American Indians was as relentlessly pursued by the armies of two countries – Mexico and the United States – as were the Chiricahua Apaches. No other American Indians were as denounced, as legislated against, and as hated and feared as were the Chiricahua Apaches, and no other group of American Indians had an entire generation of innocent children born into captivity.”
When the Chiricahua Apache medicine man and war leader Geronimo surrendered the remnants of his tribe to General Miles in September of 1886, he knew that it meant imprisonment in a faraway place unimaginable to him or his people. But he was promised that such imprisonment would last only two years and then he and his people could return to their homeland in Southern Arizona. It was not to be. For 27 years, until 1913, the Chiricahua were prisoners of war, first in Florida, then Alabama, and finally in Oklahoma at Fort Sill. When they were released, some of the tribe left Oklahoma and moved to the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.
Author Henrietta Stockel introduces us to these four ladies. Elbys Naiche Hugar, the great-granddaughter of Cochise and today the “curator of the Mescalero Apache Cultural Center, and serves, informally through her work, as the unofficial Apache ambassador to the world.”
Mildred Imach Cleghorn, “a prisoner of war for the first four years of her life, until she and her family were released.” “Her mother, Amy Wratten, was also a prisoner, even though she was the child of a white interpreter and his Apache wife. Mrs. Cleghorn is now the chairperson of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe,” and the 1989 Indian of the Year.
Kathleen Smith Kanseah, the descendant of a Mexican woman captured as a child more than one hundred years ago by the Apaches, “recalls being able to attend school with white children only because her mother worked for the government. She continued her education, became a medical professional and is today teaching her grandchildren the ancient Apache customs and traditions. While Mrs. Kanseah acknowledges the girls’ need to become part of the larger society, she will not stand idly by and permit the beauty and strength of her culture to be assimilated into the melting pot’s anonymity.”
And finally, there is Ruey Haozous Darrow, “a career woman who travels extensively throughout the central and southwestern regions of the nation for the Indian Health Service. She is intelligent, independent, and sophisticated. In her heart and in her spirit she is first and foremost an Apache woman. One of five living children of Apache prisoners of war, Mrs. Darrow, despite an affliction caused by a childhood battle with infantile paralysis, still wraps herself in an Apache shawl and, in great pain, dances around the fire with the Gah’e, the Mountain Spirit dancers, to honor the Apache way.”
These four remarkable women tell the author, Ms. Stockel, about their unique experiences growing up Apache, about raising their children in a White Man’s world and teaching the younger generation to honor the old ways so they will not be lost.
Today’s Apache women have much to say. “In clear, crisp voices on these pages, they state the truth, tell their own stories, and repeat the old ways as they heard them described by their mothers, their grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. These Apache women look from the past to the future and, as intermediaries, convey the tribe’s history to the next generation, just as Apache women have always done.”
The forward to this book was written by the author Dan L. Thrapp who wrote “Conquest of Apacheria” from which I learned a great deal about the Apache Wars. "Women of the Apache Nation: Voice of Truth", by Henrietta Stockel is exceedingly well-written and the stories move quickly through time. I highly recommend it to you.