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Snow Owl, July 2003


     For generations the Apaches resisted white colonization of their homeland in the Southwest (presently New Mexico and Arizona ) by both Spaniards and North Americans. In 1848, when gold was discovered in California , the Apaches were further threatened by incursions of white fortune-seekers on their way to the gold fields.

     In an incident at a mining camp, Mangas Coloradas, 

chief of the Mimbreno Chiricahua, was whipped, an act that resulted in his life-long enmity against white men. Though his nephew Cochise had long resisted fighting Americans, in 1861 he too, was betrayed by white men and turned against them.

     Together, Mangas Coloradas and Cochise ravaged much southern New Mexico and Arizona , until Mangas was wounded in 1862, captured and killed in January 1863, allegedly while trying to escape from Fort McLane , New Mexico . Upon the death of his uncle, Cochise became principal chief of the Apaches.

January 18, 1863

     "the single greatest leader the Apaches had was a physical giant as well as a domineering personality: Mangas Coloradas" said James L. Haley, in Apaches: A History and Culture Portrait. "He was a truly striking figure with a hulking body and disproportionately large head. Born sometime in the early 1790s, Mangas was fast becoming an old man, but still he possessed cunning as impenetrable as the thick mat of hair that hung down to his waist. His lips were thin and tightly drawn, his nose aquiline Mangas Coloradas following was large and exceptionally cohesive, and he commanded great respect [among the Chiricahuas]." Jay W. Sharp The Night They Shot Mangas Coloradas.

     "The soldiers who murdered him treacherously buried his body in a shallow grave," Daklugie told Eve Ball. "The next day they dug it up, cut his head off, and boiled it to remove the flesh. Then they sent the skull to the Smithsonian Institution."

     In another interview, Daklugie had told Ball that Mangas "death was bad, but to the Apaches the troops cutting his head off and boiling it to get his skull were much worse. That meant that their great chief must go through the Happy Place forever headless."

      "The killing of an unarmed man who has gone to an enemy under truce was an incomprehensible act," James Kaywaykla told Eve Ball during an interview for In the Days of Victorio, "but infinitely worse was the mutilation of his body Little did the White Eyes know how they would pay when they defiled the body of our great chief!"
      General Carleton felt proud of the brave guards who shot Mangas Coloradas to death that night. He thought he had broken the back of Chiricahua resistance in southwestern New Mexico . He was wrong. Cochise and other Apache chiefs followed in the footsteps of Mangas Coloradas. The clash of cultures would continue for almost another quarter of a century.

J W. Sharp The Night They Shot Mangas Coloradas.


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