ALL the Indians of New Mexico not denominated Pueblos — not professing the Christian religion — are ranked as wild tribes, although these include some who have made great advances in arts, manufactures and agriculture. Those who are at all acquainted with the ancient history of Mexico, will recollect that, according to the traditions of the aborigines, all the principal tribes of Anahuac descended from the North: and that those of Mexico, especially the Azteques, emigrated
from the north of California, or north-west of New Mexico. Clavigero, the famous historian heretofore alluded to, speaking of this emigration, observes, that the Azteques, or Mexican Indians, who were the last settlers in the country of Anahuac, lived until about the year 1160 of the Christian era in Aztlan, a country situated to the north of the Gulf of California; as is inferred from the route of their peregrinations, and from the information afterwards acquired by the Spaniards in their expeditions through those countries. He then proceeds to show by what incentives they were probably induced to abandon their native land; adding that whatever may have been the motive, no doubt can possibly exist as to the journey's having actually been performed. He says that they travelled in a south-eastwardly direction towards the Rio Gila, where they remained for some time — the ruins of their edifices being still to be seen, upon its banks. They then struck out for a point over two hundred and fifty miles to the northwest of Chihuahua in about
29° of N. latitude, where they made another halt. This place is known by the name of Casas Grandes (big houses), on account of a large edifice which still stands on the spot, and which according to the general tradition of those regions, was erected by the Mexican Indians, during their wanderings. The building is constructed after the plan of those in New Mexico, with three stories, covered with an azotea or terrace and without door or entrance into the lower story. A hand ladder is also used as a means of communication with the second story.
Even allowing that the traditions upon which Clavigero founded his theoretical deductions are vague and uncertain, there is sufficient evidence in the ruins that still exist to show that those regions were once inhabited by a far more enlightened people than are now to be found among the aborigines. Of such character are the ruins of Pueblo Bonito, in the direction of Navajo, on the borders of the Cordilleras; the houses being generally built of slabs of fine-grit sand-stone, a material utterly unknown in the present architecture of the North. Although some of these structures are very massive and spacious, they are generally cut up into small, irregular rooms, many of which yet remain entire, being still covered with the vigas or joists, remaining nearly sound under the azoteas of earth; and yet their age is such that there is no tradition which gives any account of their origin. But there have been no images or sculptured work of any kind found about them. Besides these, many other ruins (though none so perfect) are scattered over the plains and among the mountains. What is very remarkable is, that a portion of them are situated at a great distance from any water; so that the inhabitants must have depended entirely up on rain, as is the case with the Pueblo of Acoma at the present day.
The general appearance of Pueblo Bonito,
as well as that of the existing buildings of Moqui in the same mountainous regions, and other Pueblos of New Mexico, resembles so closely the ruins of Casas Grandes, that we naturally come to the conclusion that the founders of each must have descended from the same common stock. The present difference between their language and that of the Indians of Mexico, when we take into consideration the ages that have passed away since their separation, hardly presents any reasonable objection to this hypothesis.
The principal wild tribes which inhabit or extend their incursions or peregrinations upon the territory of New Mexico, are the Navajoes, the Apaches, the Yutas, the Caiguas or Kiawas, and the Comanches. Of the latter I will speak in another place. The two first are from one and the same original stock, there being, even at the present day, no very important difference in their language. The Apaches are divided into numerous petty tribes, of one of which an insignificant band, called Jicarillas, inhabiting the mountains north of Taos, is an isolated and miserable remnant.
The Navajoes are supposed to number about 10,000 souls, and though not the most numerous, they are certainly the most important, at least in a historical point of view, of all the northern tribes of Mexico. They reside in the main range of Cordilleras, 150 to 200 miles west of Santa Fe, on the waters of Rio Colorado of California, not far from the region, according to historians, from whence the
Azteques emigrated to Mexico; and there are many reasons to suppose them direct descendants from the remnant, which remained in the North of this celebrated nation of antiquity. Although they mostly live in rude jacales, somewhat resembling the wigwams of the Pawnees, yet, from time immemorial, they have excelled all others in their original manufactures: and, as well as the Moquis, they are still distinguished for some exquisite styles of cotton textures, and display considerable ingenuity in embroidering with feathers the skins of animals, according to their primitive practice. They now also manufacture a singular species of blanket, known as the Sarape Navajo, which is of so close and dense a texture that it will frequently hold water almost equal to gum-elastic cloth. It is therefore highly prized for protection against the rains. Some of the finer qualities are often sold among the Mexicans as high as fifty or sixty dollars each.
Notwithstanding the present predatory and somewhat unsettled habits of the Navajoes, they cultivate all the different grains and vegetables to be found in New Mexico. They also possess extensive herds of horses, mules, cattle, sheep and goats of heir own raising, which are generally celebrated as being much superior to those of the Mexicans; owing, no doubt, to greater attention to the improvement of their stocks.
Though Baron Humboldt tells us that some missionaries were established among this tribe
prior to the general massacre of 1680, but few attempts to christianize them have since been made. They now remain in a state of primitive paganism — and not only independent of the Mexicans, but their most formidable enemies.
After the establishment of the national independence, the government of New Mexico greatly embittered the disposition of the neighboring savages, especially the Navajoes, by repeated acts of cruelty and ill-faith well calculated to provoke hostilities. On one occasion, a party consisting of several chiefs and warriors of the Navajoes assembled at the Pueblo of Cochiti, by invitation of the government, to celebrate a treaty of peace; when the New Mexicans, exasperated no doubt by the remembrance of former outrages, fell up on them unawares and put them all to death. It is also related, that about the same period, three Indians from the northern mountains having been brought as prisoners into Taos, they were peremptorily demanded by the Jicarillas, who were their bitterest enemies; when the Mexican authorities, dreading the resentment of this tribe, quietly complied with the barbarous request, suffering the prisoners to be butchered in cold blood before their very eyes! No wonder, then, that the New Mexicans are so generally warred upon by their savage neighbors.
About fifteen years ago, the Navajoes were subjected by the energy of Col. Vizcarra, who succeeded in keeping them in submission for
some time; but since that officer's departure from New Mexico, no man has been found of sufficient capacity to inspire this daring tribe either with respect or fear; so that for the last ten years they have ravaged the country with impunity, murdering and destroying just as the humor happened to prompt them. When the spring of the year approaches, terms of peace are generally proposed to the government at Santa Fe, which the latter never fails to accept. This amicable arrangement enables the wily Indians to sow their crops at leisure, and to dispose of the property stolen from the Mexicans during their marauding incursions, to advantage; but the close of their agricultural labors is generally followed by a renewal of hostilities, and the game of rapine and destruction is played over again.
Towards the close of 1835, a volunteer corps, which most of the leading men in New Mexico joined, was raised for the purpose of carrying war into the territory of the Navajoes. The latter hearing of their approach, and anxious no doubt to save them the trouble of so long a journey, mustered a select band of their warriors, who went forth top intercept the invaders in a mountain pass, where they lay concealed in an ambuscade. The valiant corps, utterly unconscious of the reception that awaited them, soon came jogging along in scattered groups, indulging in every kind of boisterous mirth; when the war-whoop, loud and shrill, followed by several shots, threw them all into a state of speechless consternation. Some tumbled off their horses with fright, others fired their muskets at random; a terrific panic had seized everybody, and some minutes elapsed before they could recover their senses sufficiently to betake themselves to their heels. Two or three persons were killed in this ridiculous engagement, the most conspicuous of whom was Capt. Hinofos, who commanded the regular troops.
A very curious but fully authentic anecdote may not be inappropriately inserted here, in which this individual was concerned. On one occasion, being about to start on a belligerent expedition, he directed his orderly-sergeant to fill a powder-flask from an unbroached keg of twenty-five pounds. The sergeant, having bored a hole with a gimlet, and finding that the powder issued too slowly, began to look about for something to enlarge the aperture, when his eyes haply fell upon an iron poker which lay in a corner of the fire-place. To heat the poker and apply it to the hole in the key was the work of but a few moments; when an explosion took place which blew the upper part of the building into the street, tearing and shattering everything else to atoms. Miraculous as their escape may appear, the sergeant, as well as the captain who witnessed the whole operation, remained more frightened than hurt, although they were both very severely scorched and bruised. This ingenious sergeant was afterwards Secretary of State of Gov. Gonzalez, of revolutionary
memory, and has nearly ever since held a clerkship in some of the offices of state, but is now captain in the regular army.
I come now to speak of the Apaches, the most extensive and powerful, yet the most vagrant of all the savage nations that inhabit the interior of Northern Mexico. They are supposed to number some fifteen thousand souls, although they are subdivided into various petty bands, and scattered over an immense tract of country. Those that are found east of the Rio del Norte are generally known as Mezcaleros, on account of an article of food much in use among them, called mezcal;* but by far the greatest portion of the nation is located in the west, and is mostly known by the sobriquet of Coyoteros, in consequence, it is said, of their eating the coyote or prairie wolf. The Apaches are perhaps more given to itinerant habits than any other tribe in Mexico. They never construct houses, but live in the ordinary wigwam, or tent of skins and blankets. They manufacture nothing — cultivate nothing: they seldom resort to the chase, as their country is destitute of game — but seem to depend entirely upon pillage for the support of their immense population, at least two thousand of which are warriors.
For their food, the Apaches rely chiefly upon the flesh of the cattle and sheep they can steal from the Mexican ranchos and haciendas. They are said, however, to be more fond of
the meat of the mule than that of any other animal. I have seen about encampments which they had recently left, the remains of mules that had been slaughtered for their consumption. Yet on one occasion I saw their whole trail, for many miles, literally strewed with the carcasses of these animals, which, it was evident, had not been killed for this purpose. It is the practice of the Apache chiefs, as I have understood, whenever a dispute arises betwixt their warriors relative to the ownership of any particular animal, to kill the brute at once, though it be the most valuable of the drove; and so check all further cavil. It was to be inferred from the number of dead mules they left behind them, that the most harmonious relations could not have existed between the members of the tribe, at least during this period of their journeyings. Like most of the savage tribes of North Americas the Apaches are passionately fond of spirituous liquors, and may frequently be seen, in times of peace, lounging about the Mexican villages, in a state of helpless inebriety.
The range of this marauding tribe extends over some portions of California, most of Sonora, the frontiers of Durango, and at certain seasons it even reaches Coahuila: Chihuahua, however, has been the mournful theatre of their most constant depredations. Every nook and corner of this once flourishing state has been subjected to their inroads. Such is the imbecility of the local governments, that the savages, in order to dispose of
their stolen property without even a shadow of molestation, frequently enter into partial treaties of peace with one department, while they continue to wage a war of extermination against the neighboring states. This arrangement supplies them with an ever-ready market, for the disposal of their booty and the purchase of munitions wherewith to prosecute their work of destruction. In 1840, I witnessed the departure from Santa Fe of a large trading party freighted with engines of war and a great quantity of whisky, intended for the Apaches in exchange for mules and other articles of plunder which they had stolen from the people of the south. This traffic was not only tolerated but openly encouraged by the civil authorities, as the highest public functionaries were interested in its success — the governor himself not excepted.
The Apaches, now and then, propose a truce to the government of Chihuahua, which is generally accepted very nearly upon their own terms. It has on some occasions been included that the marauders should have a bona fide right to all their stolen property. A venta or quit-claim brand, has actually been marked by the government upon large numbers of mules and horses which the Indians had robbed from the citizens. It is hardly necessary to add that these truces have rarely been observed by the wily savages longer than the time necessary for the disposal of their plunder. As soon as more mules were needed for service or for traffic — more cattle for beef — more
scalps for the war-dance — they would invariably return to their deeds of ravage and murder.
The depredations of the Apaches have been of such long duration, that, beyond the immediate purlieus of the towns, the whole country from New Mexico to the borders of Durango is almost entirely depopulated. The haciendas and ranchos have been mostly abandoned, and the people chiefly confined to towns and cities. To such a pitch has the temerity of those savages reached, that small bands of three or four warriors have been known to make their appearance within a mile of the city of Chihuahua in open day, killing the laborers and driving off whole herds of mules and horses without the slightest opposition. Occasionally a detachment of troops is sent in pursuit of the marauders, but for no other purpose, it would seem, than to illustrate the imbecility of the former, as they are always sure to make a precipitate retreat, generally without even obtaining a glimpse of the enemy.* And yet the columns of a little weekly sheet published in Chihuahua always teem with flaming accounts of prodigious feats of valor performed by the 'army of operations' against los barbaros: showing how "the enemy was pursued with all possible vigor" — how the soldiers "displayed the great
est bravery, and the most unrestrainable desire to overhaul the dastards," and by what extraordinary combinations of adverse circumstances they were "compelled to relinquish the pursuit." Indeed it would be difficult to find a braver race of people than the Chihuahuenos* contrive to make themselves appear upon paper. When intelligence was received in Chihuahua of the famous skirmish with the French, at Vera Cruz, in which Santa Anna acquired the glory of losing a leg, the event was celebrated with uproarious demonstrations of joy; and the next number of the Noticioso* contained a valiant fanfaronade, proclaiming to the world the astounding fact, that one Mexican was worth four French soldiers in battle: winding up with a "Cancion Patriotica," of which the following exquisite verse was the refrain:
By the inverted letters of "invicta, la Galia indomable," in the third line, the poet gives
the world to understand that the kingdom of the Gauls had at length been whirled topsy turvy, by the glorious achievements of el valor Mexicano!
From what has been said of the ravages of the Apaches, one would be apt to believe them an exceedingly brave people; but the Mexicans themselves call them cowards when compared with the Comanches; and we are wont to look upon the latter as perfect specimens of poltroonery when brought in conflict with the Shawnees, Delawares, and the rest Of our border tribes.
There was once a celebrated chief called Juan Jose at the head of this tribe, whose extreme cunning and audacity caused his name to be dreaded throughout the country. What contributed more than anything else to render him a dangerous enemy, was the fact of his having received a liberal education at Chihuahua, which enabled him, when he afterwards rejoined his tribe, to outwit his pursuers, and, by robbing the mails, to acquire timely information of every expedition that was set on foot against him. The following account of the massacre in which he fell may not be altogether uninteresting to the reader.
The government of Sonora, desirous to make some efforts to check the depredations of the Apaches, issued a proclamation, giving a sort of carte blanche patent of 'marque and reprisal,' and declaring all the booty that might be taken from the savages to be the rightful property of the captors. Accordingly, in the
Spring of 1837, a party of some 20 men composed chiefly of foreigners, spurred on by the love of gain, and never doubting but the Indians, after so many years of successful robberies, must be possessed of a vast amount of property, set out with an American as their commander, who had long resided in the country. In a few days they reached a rancheria of about fifty warriors with their families, among whom was the famous Juan Jose himself; and three other principal chiefs. On seeing the Americans advance, the former at once gave them to understand, that, if they had come to fight, they were ready to accommodate them; but on being assured by the leader, that they were merely bent on a trading expedition, a friendly interview was immediately established between the parties. The American captain having determined to put these obnoxious chiefs to death under any circumstances, soon caused a little field-piece which had been concealed from the Indians to be loaded with chain and canister shot, and to be held in readiness for use. The warriors were then invited to the camp to receive a present of flour, which was placed within range of the cannon. While they were occupied in dividing the contents of the bag, they were fired upon and a considerable number of their party killed on the spot! The remainder were then attacked with small arms, and about twenty slain, including Juan Jose and the other chiefs. Those who escaped became afterwards their own avengers in a
manner which proved terribly disastrous to another party of Americans, who happened at the time to be trapping on Rio Gila not far distant. The enraged savages resolved to take summary vengeance upon these unfortunate trappers; and falling upon them, massacred them every one. They were in all, including several Mexicans, about fifteen in number.*
The projector of this scheme had probably been under the impression that treachery was justifiable against a treacherous enemy. He also believed, no doubt, that the act would be highly commenced by the Mexicans who had suffered so much from the depredations of these notorious chiefs. But in this he was sadly mistaken; for the affair was received with general reprehension, although the Mexicans had been guilty of similar deeds themselves, as the following brief episode will sufficiently show.
In the summer of 1839, a few Apache prisoners, among whom was the wife of a distin-
guished chief, were confined in the calabozo of Paso del Norte. The bereaved chief, hearing of their captivity, collected a band of about sixty warriors, and, boldly entering the town, demanded the release of his consort and friends. The commandant of the place wishing to gain time, desired them to return the next morning, when their request would be granted. During the night the forces of the country were concentrated; notwithstanding, when the Apaches reappeared, the troops did not show their faces, but remained concealed, while the Mexican commandant strove to beguile the Indians into the prison, under pretence of delivering to them their friends. The unsuspecting chief and twenty others were entrapped in this manner, and treacherously dispatched in cold blood: not, however, without some loss to the Mexicans, who had four or five of their men killed in the fracas. Among these was the commandant himself; who had no sooner given the word, "Maten a los carajos!" (kill the scoundrels!) than the chief retorted, "Entonces moriras tu primero, carajo!" (then you shall die first, carajo!) and immediately stabbed him to the heart!
But as New Mexico is more remote from the usual haunts of the Apaches, and, in fact, as her scanty ranchos present a much less fruitful field for their operations than the abundant haciendas of the South, the depredations of this tribe have extended but little upon that province. The only serious incursion that has come within my knowledge, was some ten
years ago. A band of Apache warriors boldly approached the town of Socorro on the southern border, when a battle ensued between them and the Mexican force, composed of a company of regular troops and all the militia of the place. The Mexicans were soon completely routed and chased into the very streets, suffering, a loss of thirty-three killed and several wounded. The savages bore away their slain, yet their loss was supposed to be but six or even. I happened to be in the vicinity of the catastrophe the following day, when the utmost consternation prevailed among the inhabitants, who were in hourly expectation of another descent from the savages.
Many schemes have been devised from time to time, particularly by the people of Chihuahua, to check the ravages of the Indians, but generally without success. Among these the notorious Proyecto de Guerra, adopted in 1837, stands most conspicuous. By this famous 'war-project' a scale of rewards was established, to be paid out of a fund raised for that purpose. A hundred dollars reward were offered for the scalp of a full grown man, fifty for that of a squaw, and twenty-five for that of every papoose! To the credit of the republic, however, this barbarous proyecto was in operation but a few weeks, and never received the sanction of the general government; although it was strongly advocated by some of the most intelligent citizens of Chihuahua. Yet, pending its existence, it was rigidly complied with I saw myself, on one
occasion, a detachment of horsemen approach the Palacio in Chihuahua, preceded by their commanding officer, who bore a fresh scalp upon the tip of his lance, which he waved high in the air in exultation of his exploit! The next number of our little newspaper contained the official report of the affair. The soldiers were pursuing a band of Apaches, when they discovered a squaw who had lagged far behind in her endeavors to bear away her infant babe. They dispatched the mother without commiseration and took her scalp, which was the one so 'gallantly' displayed as already mentioned! The officer concluded his report by adding, that the child had died not long after it was made prisoner.
The Yutas (or Eutaws, as they are generally styled by Americans) are one of the most extensive nations of the West, being scattered from the north of New Mexico to the borders of Snake river and Rio Colorado, and numbering at least ten thousand souls. The habits of the tribe are altogether itinerant. A band of about a thousand spend their winters mostly in the mountain valleys northward of Taos, and the summer season generally in the prairie plains to the east, hunting buffalo. The vernacular language of the Yutas is said to be distantly allied to that of the Navajoes, but it has appeared to me much more guttural, having a deep sepulchral sound resembling ventriloquism. Although these Indians are nominally at peace with the New Mexican government, they do not hesitate to lay
the hunters and traders who happen to fall in with their scouring parties under severe contributions; and on some occasions they have been known to proceed even to personal violence. A prominent Mexican officer* was scourged not long ago by a party of Yutas, and yet the government has never dared to resent the outrage. Their hostilities, however, have not been confined to Mexican traders, as will be perceived by the sequel.
In the summer of 1837, a small party of but five or six Shawnees fell in with a large band of Yutas near the eastern borders of the Rocky Mountains, south of Arkansas river. At first they were received with every demonstration of friendship; but the Yutas, emboldened no doubt by the small number of their visitors, very soon concluded to relieve them of whatever surplus property they might be possessed of. The Shawnees, however. much to the astonishment of the marauders, instead of quietly surrendering their goods and chattels, offered to defend them; upon which a skirmish ensued that actually cost the Yutas several of their men, including a favorite chief; while the Shawnees made their escape unhurt to their eastern homes.
A few days after this event, and while the Yutas were still bewailing the loss of their people, I happened to pass near their rancherias (temporary village) with a small caravan which mustered about thirty-five men. We
had hardly pitched our camp, when they began to flock about us — men, squaws, and papooses in great numbers; but the warriors were sullen and reserved, only now and then muttering a curse upon the Americans on account of the treatment they had just received from the Shawnees, whom they considered as half-castes, and our allies. All of a sudden, a young warrior seized a splendid steed which belonged to our party, and, leaping upon his back, galloped off at full speed. Being fully convinced that by acquiescing in this outrage we should only encourage them to commit others, we resolved at once to make a peremptory demand for the stolen horse of their principal chief. Our request being treated with contumely, we sent in a warlike declaration, and forthwith commenced making preparations for descending upon the rancherias. The war-whoop resounded immediately in every direction; and as the Yutas bear a very high character for bravery and skill, the readiness with which they seemed to accept our challenge began to alarm our party considerably. We had defied them to mortal combat merely by way of bravado, without the least expectation that they would put themselves to so much inconvenience on our account. It was too late, however, to back out of the scrape.
No sooner had the alarm been given than the rancherias of the Indians were converted into a martial encampment; and while the mounted warriors were exhibiting their pre-
liminary feats of horsemanship, the squaws and papooses flew like scattered partridges to the rocks and clefts of a contiguous precipice. One-third of our party being Mexicans, the first step of the Indians was to proclaim a general indulto to them, in hopes of reducing our force, scanty as it was already. "My Mexican friends," exclaimed in good Spanish, a young warrior who daringly rode up within a few rods of us, "we don't wish to hurt you; so leave those Americans, for we intend to kill every one of them." The Mexicans of our party to whom this language was addressed, being rancheros of some mettle, only answered, "Al diablo! we have not forgotten how you treat us when you catch us alone: now that we are with Americans who will defend their rights, expect ample retaliation for past insults." In truth, these rancheros seemed the most anxious to begin the fight, — a remarkable instance of the effects of confidence in companions.
A crisis seemed now fast approaching: two swivels we had with us were levelled and primed, and the matches lighted. Every man was at his post, with his rifle ready for execution, each anxious to do his best, whatever might be the result; when the Indians, seeing us determined to embrace the chances of war, began to open negotiations. An aged squaw, said to be the mother of the principal chief, rode up and exclaimed, "My sons! the Americans and Yutas have been friends, and our old men wish to continue so: it is only a
few impetuous and strong-headed youths who want to fight." The stolen horse having been restored soon after this harangue, peace was joyfully proclaimed throughout both encampments, and the capitanes exchanged ratifications by a social smoke.
The little tribe of Jicarillas also harbored an enmity for the Americans, which, in 1834, broke out into a hostile rencontre. They had stolen some animals of a gallant young backwoodsman from Missouri, who, with a few comrades, pursued the marauders into the mountains and regained his property; and a fracas ensuing, an Indian or two were killed. A few days afterward all their warriors visited Santa Fe in a body, and demanded of the authorities there, the delivery of the American offenders to their vengeance. Though the former showed quite a disposition to gratify the savages as far as practicable, they had not helpless creatures to deal with, as in the case of the Indian prisoners already related. The foreigners, seeing their protection devolved upon themselves, prepared for defence, when the savages were fain to depart in peace.