Some weeks ago I wrote about Natiatish and his band of Apaches with regards to the attack on the Meadows family at their Diamond Valley Ranch in 1882. I am now going to backtrack to a time some six years before the fight at Diamond Valley.
To understand what happened to cause the "Apache uprising" we must talk about Department of the Interior policies and one particular Apache's eventual reaction to those policies.
Months before Natiatish and his followers fled the Fort Apache Reservation and left their bloody trail that ended atop Battleground Ridge, another powerful Apache leader was writing his name in the annals of history. This is the story of Nock-ay-det-klinne.
In 1875, the Department of the Interior instigated a concentration policy which ordered the close of several Apache reservations and the corresponding agencies. The Apaches on these reservations were relocated to the San Carlos agency on the Gila River. The consolidation was intended to save the department money by eliminating the considerable expense of maintaining separate agencies.
The department did not take into consideration that there were at least 23 totally separate bands of Apaches. During February and March of 1875, 1,400 Tonto Apaches and Yavapai (not Apaches) were relocated from Camp Verde to San Carlos. In June of the same year, the White Mountain Apaches were moved to San Carlos. This policy and the forced relocation were terrible for the Apaches. Many argued against leaving their homelands, to no avail.
The concentration policy continued until in 1876 about 325 Chiricahuas were relocated from the Dragoon Reservation. Then, in 1877, some 343 Warm Springs Apaches were removed from their reservation in New Mexico and marched to San Carlos. This brought the total number of Indians at San Carlos to more than 5,000. Many of these groups had never been associated with one and other. They resented being forced to live in close proximity, they resented that they had been forced from their ancestral homes, and they resented the whites trying to turn them from hunters into farmers.
Many Apaches left the reservation in small groups mostly to hunt and find food, but sometimes to loot and kill. The reservation agent hoped to solve the problem in part by issuing passes to the Cibecue and White Mountain bands to move to the northern part of the San Carlos Reservation. Passes were issued for a specified period and for a specified number of men, women and children. The bands set up their camps along the creeks and rivers where they planted corn, barley, and vegetables. They also hunted, herded cattle, and held dances. Some chiefs moved their bands only for the summer months, but others stayed year-round, returning to the agency to renew their passes just before they ran out.
It was May of 1881 that a Cibecue Apache chief and medicine man named Nock-ay-det-klinne got a pass to move his band to Cibecue Creek some 45 miles northwest of Fort Apache. Some weeks later Tiffany, the agent at Fort Apache received disturbing news from Indians who had passed through the village of Nock-ay-det-klinne. It seems that the medicine man was attempting to raise from the dead two chiefs who had recently been killed. The corpses were partly out of their graves and the followers of Nock-ay-det-klinne were holding dances where they would consume the fermented Apache drink, tizwin, and do a strange dance until they dropped exhausted to the ground.
During the following days other reports came in. Albert Sterling, chief of the San Carlos Indian Police heard that Nock-ay-det-klinne said he would give up his life if he could not raise the dead chiefs within seven days. Sterling alerted Tiffany and was told to go to Cibecue and protect the foolish medicine man from the other Indians when his promised revival failed to take place.
Nock-ay-det-klinne was demanding and receiving gifts of cattle, horses, blankets, saddles and food from his followers. These things, he said, were needed to complete the miracle.
Sterling took scouts and went to Cibecue where he found the camp of Nock-ay-det-klinne, but the chief had taken refuge in the near-by mountains. Again Tiffany sent scouts to find Nock-ay-det-klinne and again the chief fled to the mountains. When the scouts returned to Fort Apache, Nock-ay-det-klinne returned from the mountains, demanded more loot from his followers and held more dances which attracted more Indians. After awhile some of the Apaches figured they were being hood-winked and demanded that Nock-ay-det-klinne keep his word or return their property.
Nock-ay-det-klinne knew he had to come up with a new scheme. He told his followers that the spirits had informed him that they could not return to the bodies of the chiefs until the whites had left the country. He said that this would have to happen during the time of the corn harvest. The dances continued and the unrest among the Apaches escalated.
Brevet Major General Orlando Willcox sent Colonel Eugene A. Carr to Fort Apache from his post in Tucson. Carr reported on the situation to Willcox saying that he believed Nock-ay-det-klinne to be telling his people that he intended to hasten the departure of the whites.
The followers of Nock-ay-det-klinne became more belligerent toward all whites. One Apache told a soldier that the Apaches could take Fort Apache in 15 minutes. Evidence mounted that the Cibeque Apaches were waiting only to harvest their corn before mounting a major uprising.
After much banter between the officers and continued worsening of white and Apache relations, it was decided that Carr should arrest Nock-ay-det-klinne and bring him in to the agency.
Carr left Fort Apache for Cibecue Creek with companies D and E of the Sixth Cavalry and Company A Indian Scouts under the command of Lt. Thomas Cruse. Carr found the medicine man in his village standing in front of his lodge. The two men shook hands and Carr told the chief his reason for being there. Nock-ay-det-klinne said that he could not leave at that time, but would return to Fort Apache in a few days. Carr replied that he must come at once and called Sergeant McDonald whom he made personally responsible for Nock-ay-det-klinne.
McDonald was told to see that no harm befell the medicine man unless he tried to escape or his followers fired on the troops. In that event, the sergeant was to shoot his prisoner.
Carr then gave his orders for the departure telling his officers he would lead out with troop D at his back. Next would come the pack train followed by Nock-ay-det-klinne and some members of his family. They would be guarded by Cruse and the Company A scouts, and trailing behind the scouts would be E company. Accordingly Colonel Carr led out followed by Troop D, but Nock-ay-det-klinne cleverly delayed the rest of the column while catching his personal horse and getting his belongings after which he went into his lodge and began to eat. Nock-ay-det-klinne's delaying action caused a break in the column as Carr continued down Cibeque Creek with Troop D and his staff.
About a quarter mile from Nock-ay-det-klinne's lodge, the creek and adjacent trail made a sharp bend so Carr was not aware of the break in his column. He had noticed what he considered to be a prime location for the night's camp above what was known as the Verde Crossing.
Meanwhile as the latter portion of Carr's command waited for the medicine man, about 15 armed Apaches approached and moved along with Cruse's scouts as they escorted Nock-ay-det-klinne in pursuit of Carr and rest of the command.
As Company A and the prisoner continued down the creek, they were joined by more armed Apaches, most on horseback. At some point Carr was made aware of the break in the column, but was able to look back and see the remainder of his command following on the opposite side of the creek. He saw the Apaches riding with Company A, but was not alarmed as it was natural for the Indians to wish to be near Nock-ay-det-klinne who had obtained celebrity status among his followers.
Carr reached the location where he wished to camp and issued orders concerning the layout of the camp when Lt. Cruse arrived. The remainder of Company A was crossing the creek when Cruse informed Carr that there were a large number of
armed Apaches flanking the scouts. Carr showed Cruse where he wanted the Company A Scouts to camp near the pack train and ordered his officers to keep the Apache followers out of camp.
Cruse turned and walked a short distance intent on carrying out Carr's orders when he heard a soldier yell "Watch out! They are going to fire!"
Then, in the words of Cruse, "Hell broke loose."
A mounted Indian yelled and several of the Nock-ay-det-klinne followers began firing on the soldiers. Cruse looked at the Indian Scouts and saw them begin firing on Troop D. At the first sound of rifle fire, Sergeant McDonald shot Nock-ay-det-klinne.
This narrative will be continued.
Jayne Peace-Pyle, Arizona Historian, recently released her first novel, "Muanami -- Sister of the Moon." The story relates the trials and struggles of a Comanche medicine woman and shows that motherhood transcends all cultures and times. Cost of the book is $15.
Other books by Jayne Peace-Pyle and Jinx Pyle: "Looking Through the Smoke," "Mountain Cowboys," "History of Gisela," "Rodeo 101- the History of the Payson Rodeo," "Blue Fox," and "Calf Fries and Cow Pies." The books can be purchased at Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral in Payson and from Lorraine Cline in Tonto Basin.