Attempts At Good Will



Chapter 28: The history of the Tonto Apaches

In spite of the threat of lurking Pima Indian scouts, Chief Del-che-ae entered Camp Miller with 50 men, women and children on Nov. 22, 1867 and met with Captain DuBois.


During times when the Tontos tried to negotiate for peace, the chiefs would bring their families to the military camps where soldiers were building the road over the Mazatzals. There the Tontos set up their camps and received rations and a promise of protection from their enemies, the Pimas.

The Tonto headman professed trust in The Little Captain, as Del-che-ae called him, based on the commander's heroic action in saving the three Tontos from the Pimas. However, Del-che-ae further stated he would not honor a previous treaty in which the Army offered to locate the Tontos near Camp McDowell. That location was too close to their enemies. DuBois then suggested the Tontos could settle near the site of the soon-to-be-established Camp Reno. Since this was in their own territory the chief agreed, on the condition his people be given rations, clothing, blankets, tobacco, ammunition for hunting and the freedom to hunt and gather according to their custom. DuBois agreed to all except the ammunition, and encouraged Del-che-ae to get his people to change their life style and become farmers. That way, he assured them, they would be rich like their enemies the Pimas and Maricopas, who had cooperated with the Whites from the beginning.

Most of Del-che-ae's people left Camp Miller after the talk, although the chief remained until Nov. 24 with 14 of his warriors.

He invited DuBois to come with him to his rancheria. It would be a sign of good faith on both of their parts. DuBois would show courage and a willingness to trust the Tonto, and the Tonto would take him to their hidden stronghold. DuBois exhibited tremendous bravery when he took Del-che-ae up on the offer, and accompanied the chief alone and unarmed. During DuBois' absence, Lt. Chilson assumed command of the road crew.

It was a rough 30-mile ride over the Mazatzals, across the Tonto Basin, and deep into the Sierra Ancha. The winds of approaching winter swept off the Mogollon Rim to the north, but DuBois was warmed by a cordial reception and blazing fires in the Apache camp. They had built a wickiup for him, with a fire in front of it, and served him a supper of mescal and tortillas.

The Tontos tended to his horse, while three circles of warriors gathered around his fire. The Apache council silently passed a pipe, allowing their thoughts to settle. They talked among themselves until midnight about his proposal for them to settle near Camp Reno when it was established in exchange for protection and food. DuBois strained to follow their talk, using what little of their language he had picked up. He learned that three other chiefs were present, among them the Pinal Apache Ash-cav-o-til who refused to smoke the pipe with DuBois. However, after Del-che-ae told the story of DuBois risking his life to save the three Tontos, Ash-cav-o-til took up the pipe again and made his peace with the soldier.

The conference concluded with handshakes, and a promise by the Apaches to guarantee the safety of Americans traveling alone through their territory.

That night DuBois was guarded, for his own safety, by three warriors, two of whom he had saved from the Pimas. One or the other of them kept his leg on DuBois throughout the night, undoubtedly wanting to make sure the white man did not leave or do any of them harm. Mutual trust was obviously not complete. The next morning, after sunrise, DuBois was escorted back to Camp Miller, arriving there late in the afternoon on Nov. 25.

That same day Del-che-ae returned the visit, bringing 70 of his men, women and children to Camp Miller. The warriors were armed, and the majority of the Apache group camped apart from the soldiers. Eight of them were invited to remain in the military camp and sleep in the tents of the officers. Some enlisted men resented having to cook and make coffee for the Apaches. Their complaints compared this to "taking a rattlesnake into your bed," and secretly they served spoiled flour to their Indian guests.

When Del-che-ae and his company returned to their stronghold, he and Ash-cav-o-til made plans to settle their bands near the Army encampment. The military road had progressed slowly, but was now far enough beyond Camp Miller to warrant a new base, named Camp Carroll. The name honored Lt. C. C. Carroll, recently killed by Apaches in southeast Arizona.

The construction problems of the Army and the hunger problems of the Apaches were compounded by the winter rains, which had descended upon central Arizona. About 300 Indians began gathering near Camp Carroll, and were joined by a band of Mescalero Apaches called Zish-in-til. It is hard to imagine why they had come into Tonto Territory, unless they had been fleeing white settlement in New Mexico. Each of the headmen affirmed their willingness to accept DuBois' offer of a reservation in the Tonto Basin, and to seal their good faith, they brought samples of free-floating gold. They claimed it had come from just over the mountain near Tonto Creek. For his part, DuBois arranged an exchange of two Apache prisoners held by the Pimas for two Mexican boys held by the Apaches.

Next: Good will ending

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