The Missing and Ulzana’s Raid.

From “Broken Arrow” (1954) through “Little Big Man” (1970) to “Dances with Wolves” (1990), Hollywood Westerns fell into step with the spirit of the times.  They took an ever-more sympathetic view of the Indians and an ever-more negative view of the white Americans who conquered the West.  Occasionally, some people have taken a more “classical” view.  In particular, “Ulzana’s Raid” (dir. Robert Aldrich, 1972) and “The Missing” (dir. Ron Howard, 2003) focused their attention on Apaches out for blood.  In part, they are effective because they take Indian beliefs seriously as a motivation to action.

In “Ulzana’s Raid,” an Apache warrior named “Ulzana” (Joaquin Martinez) jumps the San Carlos Reservation.  Basically, he’s fed up with the smell of women, children, dogs, and old people.  He wants to smell ponies running, burning, and blood.  In short, he chooses Life over Death.  He takes along his teen-age son and a few other young warriors.  He gets right to business, while the Army tries to track him down.  The Army patrol is “led” by a young lieutenant fresh from West Point (Bruce Davison).  The lieutenant’s father is a Protestant minister in favor of “humane” treatment of the Indians.  The real leader of the patrol is an old scout named “Mr. McIntosh” (Burt Lancaster).  The scout is assisted by an Apache from the San Carlos Indian Police, who happens to be Ulzana’s brother-in-law (Jorge Luke).  (This seems more credible once you’ve been married for a while.)  The patrol revolves around the education of the lieutenant.  Ki-Ne-Tay, the Apache policeman, explains that Apaches torture prisoners to obtain their power: “in this land, you must have power.”  He also learns to command, although his commands are not always for the best and are not always well-received by his troopers.  The movie ends badly for a number of those concerned, as was common in that time and place.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCFiO3Kb1ms

 

The Missing.

In “The Missing,” Samuel Jones, a white man who “went Apache” years before (Tommy Lee Jones) appears at the ranch of his daughter, Maggie Gilkerson (Cate Blanchett).  She is a “grass widow” who also works as the local “healer.”  She hates her father and rejects his effort to make amends.  At that same moment, an Apache called “El Brujo” jumps the reservation and goes on a rampage.  He kills white settlers and other Apaches, and kidnaps young women of both races for sale as sex-slaves in Mexico.  One of the kidnapped girls is Maggie’s rebellious daughter, who wanted bright lights instead of the homestead.  Maggie’s ranch-hand/lover is among the slain.  The local sheriff can’t help because it’s outside his jurisdiction.  (Sound familiar?)  The Army can’t help because it is busy with other stuff.  (Plundering the homes of murdered settlers for example.)  Maggie tells her father that he can make amends by helping her get the kidnapped daughter back.  So Maggie, and her youngest daughter, and her father set off in pursuit of the Apaches.

One problem is that “Brujo” is the Spanish word for “witch.”  This “El Brujo” has mystical powers and can change into a wolf or an eagle.  Probably he found this a stressful experience as a child because he’s crazy and sadistic.  (There having been too few trained talk therapists in Arizona in the 1880s.  Sad, but true.)  Eventually, the dysfunctional little family teams up with a couple of Chiricahua Apaches who are hunting “El Brujo” for the same reason.  They get the girls back and kill “El Brujo” and his merry men, but at a cost.  On the other hand, there’s a certain amount of reconciliation between the generations, a la Mark Twain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI3IKUa9HyA

Advertisements

The Apache Wars.

The Apache started out as nomadic buffalo hunters on the Southern Plains.  The “Apacheria” ran from north of the Arkansas River  in Colorado and Kansas into what are now the northern states of Mexico and from Central Texas through New Mexico to Central Arizona.   Central Texas is where the Spanish first ran into them in the 1540s.  The two groups got along, until they didn’t.[1]  Spanish did some slave raiding; then the Apache did some “I don’t want to be a slave” raiding.  Then the Comanche showed up.  The “Comanch” were scary, so the Apache moved off the Plains.  They concentrated in the mountains and deserts of what would become New Mexico, Arizona, Sonora, and Chihuahua.  Hard lands made hard people.  Constant small-scale warfare made them harder still.  Raiding and warfare between first Spain and then Mexico continued until the middle of the 19th Century.  By the 1830s, the state governments in Mexico were offering large bounties[2] for Apache scalps.  Scalp hunters took up the offer.

Then the United States showed up.  Mexico lost the resulting war.  They also lost Arizona and New Mexico.  They also lost most of the Apache.  The American won everything the Mexicans lost.  A series of wars followed: the Jicarilla War (1849-1854); the Chiricahua Wars (1860-1862); the Texas-Indian War (1861-1865, involving Apache but mostly Comanche); the Yavapai War (1871-1875); Victorio’s War (1879-1881); and Geronimo’s War (1881-1886).  In theory, that ended the Apache Wars, but small groups of “renegade” Apache continued to “jump the reservation” from time to time.  The last of these incidents in the United States occurred in 1924; the last in Mexico in 1933.[3]

How does this relate to the movies “The Missing” and “Ulzana’s Raid”?

Part of the reason that the United States defeated the Apache is a numerical advantage.  The Army sent 5,000 soldiers to hunt Geronimo’s band of thirty men.  Another part of the reason lay in the Army’s recruitment of Apache scouts to hunt Apache “hostiles.”  Apaches shared a common culture, but they didn’t have a strong sense of identity beyond their own bands.  Often they quarreled among themselves.  So, some Apache warriors enlisted as scouts with the Army.[4]   Sometimes—as was the case with the “Apache Kid–they then fell out with their employers.

Mexico and the United States had a testy relationship after the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).  Mexico viewed the Americans as predators to be kept at arm’s length.  “Pity poor Mexico: so far from God, so near the United States.”  Mexican reluctance to allow American troops chasing Apaches to cross the border turned Mexico into a “safe haven” for the raiders.

“Brujo” is Spanish for “witch.”  This isn’t the same as a “medicine man” or “shaman.”  The latter use their skills—“white magic” in Medieval European terms—to heal or protect.  In contrast “brujo/bruja” use their skills—“brujeria” or “black magic” in Medieval European terms—to harm others.  As part of their art, it was believed that they could take the form of animals like owls or snakes or coyotes.  This transformation allowed them to travel secretly and to strike at their victims.  Furthermore, it was believed that they could make “corpse powder” from powdered corpses.  The powder could induce the symptoms of painful or lethal diseases.

[1] Just like Canadians are really nice, until they’re not.  Ask the Waffen SS troops in France who shot a bunch of wounded Canadians in June 1944.  Wait, you can’t.  Never mind.

[2] The equivalent of a year’s pay for a working man for one scalp.  Scalps were supposed to come from males aged for years or older, but how could you tell from just the scalp?  Lots of women and kids got killed in attacks on Apache “Rancheria.”

[3] The best book on this is Dan Thrapp, The Conquest of Apacheria (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967).

[4] See: “Mickey Free.”

Mickey Free.

Boundaries and identities could be murky in the West.  For example, between the end of the Mexican-American War (1848) and the Gadsden Purchase (1854) a little strip of what is today southern Arizona and New Mexico belonged to Mexico.  Mexicans and Apaches vastly outnumbered any American immigrants.  Jesusa Martinez (b. 1830) lived with a part-Irish Mexican named Santiago Telles.  They had a couple of red-haired kids, so the Irish ancestry may have been real.  Their son was called Felix (1848-1913 or 1915) and their daughter was called Teodora.  So, all of them were Mexicans who suddenly found themselves living in the United States.  In 1859, she either left Telles or he died.  In any event, she moved in with John Ward (1806-1867), another Irish immigrant who had come to the area to ranch.  They more or less got married and Ward more or less adopted the kids.  Felix Telles became Felix Ward.

No sooner did they get these matters sorted out than some White Mountain Apaches rustled a bunch of Ward’s cattle and kidnapped young Felix Ward in January 1861.  The U.S. Army sent a small detachment to try to get the kid back.  This effort misfired and led to Cochise’s decade-long war with the United States (1861-1872).  Felix Ward was adopted into the band, with whom he lived for about ten years.

You might have thought that the Indian tribes would all stick together against the Americans.  Not the case.  The Yavapai Indians continually fought with the Apaches.  In late 1871 war broke out between the Americans and the Yavapai.  In December 1872, Ward and his White Mountain foster-brother, came down out of the mountains to enlist as scouts for the US Army.  Whites had a hard time with Apache names, so Felix Ward became “Mickey Free” and his brother “John Rope.”  They scouted for George Crook in the Yavapai War.

They may have been scouting for Crook later that month when the Army besieged a large band of Yavapai in a cave in Salt River Canyon.  Eventually the Yavapai were defeated and forced onto a reservation at Camp Verde, Arizona Territory.  Mickey Free went there as an interpreter.  So did Al Sieber, Chief of Scouts for Crook.[1]  Sieber appears to have thought well of him.  So he probably moved to the San Carlos Apache Reservation with Sieber.

Life on the reservation wasn’t very tranquil.  For example, in August 1878, September 1881, and May 1885, Geronimo “jumped the reservation” in raiding expeditions.  Free scouted for the Cavalry as they hunted these and other bands of “renegades.”  He and his brother John Rope stayed with the scouts until the final capture of Geronimo in 1886.

One of Free’s fellow scouts was the “Apache Kid” (sometime in the 1860s-1894 or perhaps not if you believe the legends).  Like Free and Rope, the Kid did good service in the hunt for Geronimo.  However, in 1887, the Kid and some of his friends were involved in a shooting affray with some other Apache scouts; the Army arrested the Kid; and he promptly escaped and took to the hills.   In May-June 1887, Free helped Sieber in the successful hunt for the Kid.  Since the Apache Kid again escaped and was hunted by various groups, Free may have been a bounty hunter for a while.

Free left the Scouts in 1893.  He took up farming at the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, where the White Mountain Apaches lived.

I suspect that he inspired the fictional character “John Russell” in Elmore Leonard’s novel Hombre (1961).  A Mexican-Irish-Apache in Arizona and Mexico.  Murky boundaries.

[1] Al Sieber (1843-1907) was a German-born immigrant.  In the Civil War he fought at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.  After the war he went West to prospect and ended up ranching in Arizona.  He served as Chief of Scouts from 1871 to 1890.

Oliver Wiswell.

My Dad was the finest man I’ve ever known, but he didn’t have a lot of formal education or refined taste in literature.   He read the novels of John D. MacDonald, C.S. Forester and Kenneth Roberts.  Cheap paperbacks you could buy in the Rexall drugstore on 45th in Seattle.  So I read them as well.  It was a productive use of my time.  Kenneth Roberts (1885–1957) started as a journalist, tried his hand at soldiering in the First World War (Siberia expedition), went back to journalism (Saturday Evening Post), and ended up as a historical novelist.

Roberts was a cross-grained guy.  Arundel (1931) and A Rabble in Arms (1933) celebrate Benedict Arnold—before the treason.  Northwest Passage (1937) centers on Robert Rogers, the subsequently disgraced American hero of the French and Indian Wars.[1]  Oliver Wiswell (1940) is a view of the American Revolution from the perspective of a Tory.  After Arundel[2] it is his best book.

In Oliver Wiswell the hero instinctively helps a man who is being tarred and feathered and ridden on a fence rail for dissenting from common opinion; helps treat the British wounded after Bunker Hill (one guy is gut-shot by a musket ball with a nail pounded through it); interviews New York Loyalists who have been driven into hiding in a swamp to escape their tormentors; hears of other Loyalists who have been imprisoned in the depths of Connecticut’s Simsbury mines; investigates the mass murder of American prisoners of war by their British guards in New York; wanders in disguise through the back-country in search of the troops that General John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga[3]; travels for a while with the many people migrating West of the Appalachians to escape the war and the “Land of Liberty”; arrives in South Carolina in time to hear of the bloody civil war underway in the South and to participate in the Loyalist defense of Ninety-Six; learns of the American assault upon the civilized Cherokee; returns to New York to share in the whale-boat fights on Long Island Sound as Loyalists sought to escape the United States; and ends by helping found new colonies in Canada for the Loyalists.  So, reading this book could give you the idea that the American Revolution involved a lot of informal violence on both sides, but especially against the opponents of the “Empire of Liberty.”

While not an “academic” historian, Roberts did a lot of research for his books.  He consulted both published primary sources and the “literary” histories of an earlier time.  Like any journalist, he sought out dramatic human stories that illustrated larger patterns.

In recent years, academic historians have systematically exploited many more sources that were used by Roberts.  However, their books largely confirm what Roberts intuited.[4]  There was nothing gentlemanly or moderate about the Patriots’ war with the allies of the British Army.  Roger Parkinson, The Common Cause, examines how Patriots nurtured white fear and hatred of blacks and Indians as a way to bind people to the Revolution.  Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost, shows how on the Southwestern frontier many hopes for the future—especially among the Indians–failed when the United States succeeded.  Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles, tracks the fate of losers red, white and black.  Holger Hoock, Scars of Independence, speaks directly to Robert’s theme of ruthless liberty.

All this emphasizes the achievement of the Founders in calming America after 1783.

[1] The first third of the book, on Rogers’ raid on the St. Francis Indians, is marvelous.  The rest is a dog.

[2] In one of the novels, an English noble-woman says “You live in a rundle?  Oh, you mean Arun-dell.”

[3] They were promised parole, but the Americans declined to fulfill this promise—or adequately care for their captives.

[4] See the discussion of books in Jane Kamensky, “Red, White, Black and Blue,” NYT Book Review, 21 May 2017.

Lord Dunmore’s War.

From 1756 to 1763, Britain fought France for command of eastern North America.  Britain won, but then had troubles with its Indian and Anglo-American allies in that war.  The British government found itself ruling a multi-lingual, multi-racial empire in America.  French-speaking Catholic Canadians and Native Americans were suddenly joined with the English-speaking Atlantic Americans.  Were the Atlantic Americans to be the favored constituency or should the imperial government try to hold the ring between three equally valuable groups?  The latter made the most sense from a Justice perspective, and economic rationality supported Justice.  The fur trade with the interior regions generated wealth, while new wars would load the British government with more debt.  However, the Atlantic Americans bucked against imperial limits on their Westward drive, as they did against resistance from the Native Americans.

Trying to bring the territories of the Ohio Valley (western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky) under effective control, in 1768 the British signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the formidable Iroquois Confederacy.[1]  The Treaty didn’t hand over to the British any lands actually occupied by the Iroquois.  It handed over lands used by the Shawnee and others as a common hunting ground.  The Iroquois had beaten all of these Native American peoples into submission in the many days ago.  The Shawnee didn’t like this deal (who would?) and weren’t anywhere as near afraid of white settlers or British soldiers as they were of the Iroquois.  So, trouble brewed, needing only an incident to set off a real war.[2]

Incidents began to accumulate from late 1773.  More and more Atlantic Americans crossed the Appalachians in search of trade, then of land.  A few of them bore names that ring out in American history: Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark.  Most, though, are known only to specialist historians: Michael Cresap (1742-1775), Ebenezer Zane (1747-1811), John Gibson (1740-1822), and the awful Daniel Greathouse (1752-1775).  The migration led to conflicts in which the Native Americans got rather the better of it.

In 1774, the royal governor of Virginia, John Murray, Lord Dunmore, responded by launching two columns of militia totaling about 2,500 men into the Ohio country.  The basic, usually effective, strategy consisted of marching cautiously toward the home villages of the Indians; hoping that they would retreat to save their families; and then burning down the villages, burning any food stores, and burning the crops in the field.  The Indians then could starve at their leisure.  This kinda-sorta worked in what came to be called “Lord Dunmore’s War.”[3]  The Shawnee took advantage of the separation of the two militia columns to try to destroy the enemy in detail by concentrating against first one, then the other.

On 10 October 1774, at Point Pleasant in what is today West Virginia, the Shawnee attacked.  The Shawnee did a lot of damage to the militia column, but could not defeat it.  The day ended in a victory for the American militia.  On 19 October 1774, faced with the prospect of a militia advance on his villages, the Shawnee chief signed over most of his lands.

“Lord Dunmore’s War,” as it came to be called, opened the country south of the Ohio River to settlement.  At the same time, it did nothing to settle the question of the country north of the Ohio.  It also offered another warning to the Native Americans that their future could not be reconciled with that of the Atlantic Americans.  Future wars loomed.

[1] See: https://waroftheworldblog.com/2017/07/15/iroquois-confederacy/

[2] Glenn F. Williams, Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era (2017)

[3] It certainly worked a lot better than did two later expeditions by the U.S. Army in 1790 and 1791.  Both of those ended in disastrous defeats.  See: https://waroftheworldblog.com/2017/07/14/my-weekly-reader-14-july-2017/

Iroquois Confederacy.

The Iroquois Confederacy united the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca tribes.  Sometime, perhaps around 1570, the five tribes had agreed to organize a confederation.  They had an elaborate government structure.  At its peak each tribe got one vote in the grand council and decisions had to be unanimous.  Why did they form this confederation?  Probably because they were under attack from all sides by more powerful tribes.  They concentrated in remote areas of central New York, building fortified villages on high ground.

Then they began to make a cult out of personal glory in warfare.  (Cultural values matter.)  The women of the tribes took over the farming duties.  This freed up the men for other activities.  Today it would be sitting in the recliner drinking a beer and watching sports.  For the Iroquois it was ranging through the forests to fight people.  Either you get good at this or you get dead.  The Iroquois got good at it.  Really, really good.  A total population of about 12,000 could produce 2,200 warriors at any one time.

At this time Europeans wanted beaver pelts in immense quantities.  (They made really sharp-looking and water-proof hats.)  Traders were taking 10,000 beaver a year out of upstate New York.  They were willing to pay Indian trappers a lot to get the pelts to satisfy the demand in Europe.  The first Iroquois treaty was with the French in 1624.  The two groups then fell out over the high price of French goods and the French favoritism for the Algonkins and Hurons, who seemed willing to accept Jesuit missionaries.  Also, the French did not want to sell the Iroquois guns.  The Iroquois got in touch with the Dutch fur traders on the Hudson River.  The Dutch tried to trade alcohol for furs.  The Iroquois wanted guns.  So the Dutch sold guns.

By the 1630s the over-hunting of beaver on Iroquois land threatened to undermine the economic basis of confederation power.  What to do?  Perhaps we should work to create a “sustainable” economy in harmony with Nature, instead of engaging in thoughtless resource depletion.  Perhaps we should reject consumerism, which puts a premium on “having things” at the expense of emphasizing nurturing relationships with the friends and family who give life real meaning.  Nope.  There’s lots of beaver on the lands of other tribes.  We’re going to conquer those tribes and take their beaver.

Between 1648 and 1675 they were on the offensive.  In a quarter of a century they smashed up all the major tribes to their west as far as Ohio and as far south as Georgia.  This gave them control of all the fur trade of the northern forests.  Tribes moving furs from up-country either paid a share to the Iroquois or they made a long detour to avoid coming into contact with the Iroquois.  Either way the “tax” on the fur trade pushed up the price of furs delivered in Montreal.  This greatly annoyed the French.  Anyway, between this and the butchering of Jesuit missionaries, the French got all bent out of shape with the Iroquois.  They launched several major invasions of Iroquois country.  This, in turn, greatly annoyed the Iroquois, who launched a whole series of raids against the French settlers in Canada.

Once the British got New York away from the Dutch, they started dealing with the Iroquois.  When France and Britain fought for control of North America, the Iroquois provided a valuable ally to the British.  (Certainly a lot more valuable than the useless American colonists who were afraid of the woods.)  The British would give you the guns for free, then they would pay for scalps on top of that.  Iroquois heaven.