9. Peace With the Western Apaches, 1793–1821

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THE ROYAL SPANISH GARRISON AT TUCSON in itself created a bi-ethnic population there. It also led to adding yet another distinctive Native-American component, Apaches, to the local populace. This ethnic increment can be considered to be the best possible index of the resounding success of the military reforms that King Charles III had ordered in 1772, the establishment of the Frontier Provinces by José de Gálvez, and the policy shift that Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez had instituted on the northern frontier of New Spain in 1786. The Spanish colonial system succeeded so well with these policies that southern Apache bands settled peacefully beside royal posts, including San Agustín del Tucson, ending centuries of inter-ethnic conflict.

The Apachería Achievement

The magnitude of this Spanish colonial achievement was so great, yet remains so little known to residents of old Apachería today, as to bear summation here. One historian has pointed out how rapidly Apache resistance crumpled after Gálvez's pacification policy allowed objective measurement of the effectiveness of the presidial forces of the Frontier Provinces following King Charles III's 1772 model based upon recommendations by the Marqués de Rubí and José de Gálvez.1

Some Chiricahua Apache bands sued for peace as early as September of 1786, and moved to Bacoachi in the eastern Sonoran mountains. Other Chiricahua bands followed suit, so by March of 1787 over 250 Chiricahuas under Chief Tisonsé lived at Bacoachi. They even began presenting their infants for baptism.2 After a brief test of Bacoachi Spanish hospitality, another chief the Spaniards called El Chiquito led his band back into the Apachería, and fended off Spanish overtures and military pressures alike.3 By mid-year of 1786, several Chiricahua bands still ranging freely sent emissaries to either Bacoachi or Tucson to excuse their failure to accept an amnesty offered by Don Jacobo Ugarte y Loyola, commandant general of the Frontier Provinces.4

Mimbreño Apache leaders appeared at Janos presidio in Chihuahua seeking peace in March of 1787. Commandant General Ugarte required the Mimbreño bands to settle near San Buenaventura. By late May, 800 to 900 Mimbreños had congregated there.5 Then they fled back into the Apachería where they eluded a number of Spanish search-and-destroy missions later that year.6 Mescalero Apache bands settled meanwhile at El Norte presidio, only to flee after Colonel Juan de Ugalde attacked them.

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Over half of the Chiricahua Apaches at Bacoachi fled on 20 June 1787.7 The independent Chiricahuas attacked those remaining at the post on 7 February 1788, lancing to death Chief Tisonsé.8 Viceroy Flores seriously modified the Gálvez Apache policy in 1788,9 and more Chiricahuas deserted Bacoachi in September. Captain Echegaray replaced them by others who surrendered during his campaigns in the Apachería.10

Continued Spanish military thrusts into Apache territory brought Mimbreño Apache leaders to Janos seeking peace again in March of 1790. Consequently, one Mimbreño band led by Chief Ojos Colorados (Red Eyes) settled there at the end of May.11

The earliest known settlement of Western Apaches at San Agustín del Tucson presidio occurred in January of 1793.12 Certainly the presidio seethed with excitement on 5 January, when these enemies of centuries appeared to ask for peace. Nautilnilce, recognized by the Spaniards as principal chief of the Vinictinines, or Arivaipa Band, brought in 51 men, women and children. Forty-three more individuals followed the next day.13 This chief later persuaded 13 more Apaches to settle in peace at Tucson on 19 January,14 bringing the total Western Apache population to 107 persons. That was a significant increment to the local population, especially in view of the continued decline in numbers of native Northern Piman-speaking Indians.

By the first month of 1793, settlement of Apache bands seeking peace at various frontier posts had become more or less routine to superior officers, as the tone of the following dispatch from Manuel de Echegaray, by then promoted to commandant of arms of Sonora, indicates:

Sir Brigadier Don Pedro de Nava15

Sir Commanding General,

The commander of the Presidio of Tucson, Don José Ygnacio Moraga, on the 6th of this month informed me that the day before the Arivaipa chieftan Nautilnilce had presented himself in peace with thirteen warriors and some women and children to the number of fifty-one persons. He informed said captain that the following day the rest of his relatives would come in, as was effectively verified on the day set by forty-one persons, according to the dispatch of the same commander on that date.

In consequence of all this, I am sending that commander the advice which has appeared to me best in order to keep these newly reduced Indians happy, inasmuch as the tranquility of the towns of Upper Pimería depends on it. I have ordered them rationed in conformance with that which Your Honor provided in your Instruction of the 12th of October of 91, that the ordinary people be taken care of with some sweetmeats and that the captain who is the leader of this tribe known as the Vinictinines should be taken care of with distinction and should be given a gift of clothes.

Said captain sent me one of the Apaches of this band in order to gain my permission for their admission to peace, and with it Your Honor's superior approval. I have outfitted him completely with clothes. I find that all the reduced Apaches are of good faith, having shown the commander of Tucson the ears of eight warriors whom Chief Nautilnilce killed, evidencing their faithfulness.

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The ensign Don Agustín Márquez, who belongs to the command of that presidio, is now here as quartermaster for that company. I have given him such advice as has seemed to me in order so as to consolidate the peace which those Indians have contracted, and to assure myself of a successful outcome, inasmuch as it is so important to the good of the state and the province. Within a few days I shall go to that presidio so I can inform Your Honor of the results with more certainty.

In order that the necessities for the subsistence of those Indians shall not be lacking at the place in the interim before the superior measures of Your Honor take effect, I have taken my own steps, one of them being that of purchasing fifty head of cattle to ration them, because without this prerequisite these avaricious ones would live discontented, seeing that they had not bettered their luck. I am hoping that the prudence and long experience of Your Honor shall have the grace to approve these measures, with the assurance that I am moved to them only by the zeal which I feel for the good of His Majesty's service.

God preserve Your Honor for many years. Arispe. 21 January 1793.


Beef and Sugar Peace

By 1793, the colonial policy toward “Peaceful Apaches” had been well worked out. The Chiricahua Apaches who settled at Bacoachi late in 1786 had stimulated Spanish colonial officials to take a series of actions that set precedents for treatment accorded later bands settling at other presidios.

Quite clearly the “Peaceful Apaches” utilized the threat of their abandoning settled life beside the frontier posts to obtain increasing economic support from colonial officers. The first enumeration of 68 Chiricahua Apaches at Bacoachi showed them receiving a relatively inflexible almud of rations per person, or two almudes per family, regardless of household numbers. The nature of the rations was not even specified. Probably it consisted of cereal grains. The governor of Sonora and Sinaloa, Pedro Corbalán, established at the beginning of the program the practice of issuing Indian rations weekly. His initial order to the man who became in effect Indian agent to the peaceful Chiricahua Apaches at Bacoachi set sufficient bureaucratic precedents to merit translation here:

Beginning next Sunday, that is three days from now, Your Honor shall provide those rations indicated on the attached enumeration to the Apaches who are reduced to Peace and settled in that Pueblo up to that date. For that purpose, you shall lay hands on such grains as you may have at your disposal, upon a reimbursable basis, or, with the idea that their value shall be paid at the current price at the expense of the Royal Exchequer.

In case Your Honor does not have enough grain, he shall solicit it on loan from the stores of that garrison, under the same arrangement for reimbursing it as may be convenient, or he shall purchase it at the lowest price that may be possible from whomever has it. You are advised that a list must be drawn up weekly showing the family heads who

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receive rations, expressing their names, in order to know what increases or decreases may occur in their number in the future. These are to be remitted to me monthly for my use.

God protect Your Honor for many years. Arizpe, first of December of 1786.


Whatever rations the Spaniards initially provided the Chiricahua Apaches at Bacoachi, by January of 1787 they had already settled on the pattern that continued. Wheat constituted the mainstay of the ration, supplemented by maize — about five measures of wheat to three of maize. Unrefined brown sugar or panocha such as still is sold in Latin American markets in cone-shaped blocks tempted the Apache sweet tooth. Apparently each person received half a cone of panocha each ration-day. Finally, the royal tobacco monopoly sold the Indian agent packs of cigarettes to be issued to the Apaches. Chief Tisonsé, who received the given name “Leonardo” after the Indian agent, garnered two measures of wheat, two of maize, four reales worth of panocha and three of cigarettes for eight persons in his family.18

The Chiricahua Apaches at Bacoachi parleyed Spanish uncertainty over their motivation to remain settled into augmented rations of freshly killed beef during 1787. The penny-pinching new governor of Sonora attempted to save money on the grain, sugar and cigarette ration when fresh beef was added to the issues. He ordered the agent to allow the Apaches to choose an all-grain-sugar-cigarette or an all-meat ration, or a combination, reducing the amount of the former in proportion to the meat issued.19 The Chiricahua Apaches quickly blackmailed the commanding general into ordering their full grain, sugar and cigarette ration restored along with the beef. The order is important enough to merit translation here:20

No. 7

The Commanding General on the fourth of this month wrote me the following:

The Chief of the Ranchería of Chiricahua Apaches established at Bacoachi and other leading Indians of the Ranchería of the Chiricahua Apaches established at Bacoachi have complained to me that the reduced wheat and maize ration they have been given since they began receiving meat does not suffice even with the latter to feed their families. They attribute the desertions recently experienced to this motive.

In this regard, wishing for my part to remove any reason or pretext that might induce them to abandon their establishment at Bacoachi, I have resolved that they be given the same grain ration as before without prejudice to the current meat ration. I advise Your Honor so that he may issue the corresponding order to this effect.

I transmit this to Your Honor for his information and compliance.

May Our Lord protect Your Honor many years. Arispe. 8 February 1788.


To Don Leonardo Escalante.

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The action that Manuel de Echegaray took in purchasing 50 head of cattle to begin rationing the Apaches newly settled at Tucson followed this precedent established by colonial officials trying to keep the first surrendered Chiricahuas at Bacoachi. The commanding general purchased a herd of 250 head of cattle to feed the Chiricahuas. Theoretically, the cows in this herd were to produce enough calves to sustain it, while feeding the Indians steers and culls. In practice, the Indian agent reported having slaughtered two bulls per week for the Bacoachi Apache contingent. The latter augmented their meat ration by consuming additional animals that died or were killed by hostile Apaches from time to time.22

Thus, the Apaches settling at Tucson in 1793 received the by-then standard Indian ration of wheat, maize, panocha, beef and cigarettes. Royal subsidies to the peaceful Apaches constituted a powerful economic stimulus to production of these commodities in the Frontier Provinces precisely when pacification allowed Spaniards and sedentary Indians to concentrate upon increasing production.

Life in a Peaceful Apache Camp

It is doubtful whether many of the Peaceful Apaches at Tucson ever became serious agriculturalists. It is also doubtful whether they ever lived in the immediate neighborhood of Piman Tucson. They were oriented toward the Spanish post rather than the Northern Piman Indian ranchería, and toward subsidized warfare and idleness rather than earning a living by toil.

They built their wickiups downstream from the presidio.23 Thus, they drew their domestic water and such irrigation water as they may have used from the presidial and pueblo tailings as well as main Santa Cruz River streamflow. Possibly the Apaches lived on the terrace above the damp river floodplain. All traces of their dwellings have almost certainly been destroyed by later construction of the city of Tucson. The lack of physical traces notwithstanding, they left their mark in the biological make-up of Tucson's population.

As the locally peaceful but imperially turbulent end of the 18th century changed to the 19th, the Spaniards at Tucson continued to make the Apache pacification policy work. That Spanish authorities at the post put forth a genuine effort to maintain good relations with their Indian allies is indicated in the sentencing to prison in 1817 of three soldiers of the San Agustín presidial company for killing one of the Peaceful Apaches.24 In other words, the Spanish officers faced the same dilemma U.S. officers faced in later wars with Native Americans and in Vietnam. Spanish colonial law and military officers treated murder of uneasy allies belonging to a different ethnic group as murder, thus achieving a significant level of legal egalitarianism within an authoritarian colonial structure.

At the same time, Tucson garrison officers continued to ration the Peaceful Apaches with sugar, beef and cigarettes. Handing out food to friendly Apaches with one hand, they brandished the lance at hostile groups. Tucson's

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commanders continued the policy of harassing still-hostile bands and inducing them to settle in peace at Tucson and other frontier posts. Even during the period of relative peace and prosperity in frontier Sonora that began during the 1790s, the Tucson garrison continued to fight Indians. In 1812, for example, a large detachment from the Pima Indian Company at Tubac marched to Tucson to join the garrison there for a sortie into Apache territory.25

Peaceful Apache Reinforcements

The enduring success of the Gálvez policy toward the Apaches and continued campaigning into hostile territory was evidenced by at least one other large-scale settlement of hitherto hostile bands at Tucson near the end of the colonial period. The Pinal Apache Band under Chief Chilitipagé asked for peace and settled at Tucson in 1819.26 The course of events that added 236 newly pacified Apaches to Tucson's population may be followed in the official reports.

Sir Commandant of Arms Don Antonio Narbona:

The 17th day of this month the General of the Pinals Chilitipagé presented himself to me with seventy-eight warriors of his band. Afterwards I conferred with him and told him that all seemed to me just in order to insure that the peace which they promised should be of good faith and enduring. According to the expressions with which this Indian spoke, it appears that the peace should be good. I have given cattle, tobacco and wheat to fourteen women who came in and to the chieftains who have expressed themselves as very content. At the same time the Chieftain Pascual Navalcagé and two warriors have asked me for permission to go to that city in order to affirm the faith of their peace and to ask you for the Indian woman whom I dispatched with Coyera, who is a sister of one of them. When I said that I did not know whether she would be returned, he again asked permission and the escort of Sergeant Ramirez with seven men inasmuch as he feared the Apaches de Paz, and [he asked] that they should guard them well. It seemed to me politic not to deny them this permission because it might cause them some annoyance, so I have permitted it, and they leave this very day. All this I communicate to you for your guidance and so that the arrival at that city of the said Indians and escort shall not surprise you.

God preserve you many years. Tucson. February 25, 1819.


More of the scene and ensuing events are recorded in the report of the former commander of the Tucson post, Antonio Narbona, who had become head of the Spanish army in Sonora:

No. 140

Brigadier and Commandant General Don Antonio Cordero,


The Commander of the Company of the Tucson informs me with a dispatch dated the 25th of last month, original of which I transmit to Your Honor, that the 17th day of the same there came in the General

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of the Pinal Apache Tribe Chilitipagé with seventy-eight warriors of his band seeking peace. In a communication of the fifth of this month I told him to grant them peace, issuing the usual rations only when they subsist on foot in that establishment so that their movements may be observed and their attacking us avoided insofar as possible, as has taken place in the previous peaces on retiring from Tucson for their territory. I included in the same all those notices which seemed to me appropriate with the goal of conserving other peaces because of our present great interest.

The aforesaid general with other chieftains was in this capital to ask me for the six female prisoners whom Ensign Don Juan Alexo Carrillo took as I informed Your Honor in Report No. 123 of January 2d last. I fulfilled [their request] with only the Indian woman and boy who have been held in the warehouse of Fronteras, inasmuch as the other four have already been given employment, but they remained very agreeable, showing particular gratitude. They are going to establish themselves with their people happily at Tucson, the separation of the original Apaches de Paz (with whom they did not get along well) having been successfully [achieved by] transferring them from that post to Santa Cruz. They offer to conserve our alliance without fault [in complying with] all the instructions I made. I have rewarded said General as well as the rest of the Indians who accompanied him to this city with fifty-two pesos, six reales worth of various gifts.

I notify Your Excellency of all this for your superior guidance and approval if it should be worthy of meriting it.

God preserve Your Honor for many years. Arispe. March 8, 1819.


The commandant general of the Western Frontier Provinces in turn notified the viceroy of New Spain in Mexico City of the negotiations with Chilitipagé and his Pinal Apaches,29 and the viceroy approved the actions of the frontier officers.30 Meanwhile, events moved forward on the frontier while the news traveled south to the distant viceregal capital. The next step was actual settlement of Pinal Apaches at Tucson, an event reported by the local commander toward the end of May:

No. 2

Commandant of Arms Don Antonio Narbona


The 13th day of the current month the General of the Pinals Chilitipagé presented himself to me with four chieftains and their bands with their families and everything. There are 236 souls to be established on a fixed footing here the same as the old Apaches de Paz. They are already located here building their wickiups to live in, after having been advised of the mode and government with which they should conduct themselves according to the instruction of the Commandant General, to which they remain very agreeable. They show much fidelity in appearance, from which I infer that the peace which they have offered will be durable and stable from the signs which they give, from having come with their families and everything, and the very great pleasure with which they are living among us.

I am rationing them with cattle and the customary ration of wheat. On the day when they finished coming in, which was the 18th, I found

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it necessary to issue to every one half an almud of wheat. In order to give them every Saturday all that to which they are entitled, according to the computation which I have made for rationing them and the old Apaches de Paz who come here every fifteen days, there will be necessary for twelve months 1,170 Spanish bushels as Your Honor may see from another dispatch.

I communicate all this to Your Honor for your satisfaction via extraordinary post.

God preserve Your Honor many years. Tucson. 21 May 1819.


The final step in the introduction of hitherto hostile Pinal Apaches into the frontier defense system of the Spanish empire was to arrange a reconciliation between these newly allied Native Americans and the older Apaches allies. This occurred within about a month of the ultimate arrival of Chilitipagé and his 235 followers at Tucson, judging from the report by the commandant general of the Western Frontier Provinces:

No. 298

Excellency the Viceroy of this New Spain, the Count of Venadito,

Excellent Sir,

According to the correspondence of the line which arrived at this city Tuesday of last week proceeding from the provinces of Sonora and New Mexico, and the military posts of the frontier of this one, there has occurred no news more worthy of the attention of Your Excellency in all the preceeding month than that of there having assembled at the Presidio of Tucson twelve Apache chieftains of those originally established at Santa Cruz with the object of making a complete reconciliation with the Pinal Indians who have recently been admitted to peace at the former of the presidios cited.

I communicate this to Your Excellency for your proper guidance, as well as [the idea] that said reconciliation should help indispensably the security of the peace with the Pinal Indians, which should have been concluded much earlier except for the rancor with which until now some Indians have seen others without certainty of their identity.

God preserve Your Excellency many years. Durango. July 19, 1819.


The Story of a Boy

An elderly Mexican woman interviewed in Tucson in the early 1870s told of an Apache peace treaty which may have been a separate event in her girlhood between about 1800 and 1820, or an old woman's fused memories of more than one occasion:

It seems the Apaches got the worst of a fight on the Aribaca ranch. Several were killed, and the son of a chief was taken prisoner and brought to Tucson, and the Indians opened negotiations to obtain this boy.

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Colonel Carbon [i.e., Narbona] in command of the Spanish forces, agreed with them that on a certain day the Indians should all collect here, and to present treachery and being overpowered, be brought in at night and concealed within the walls of the fort all the men he could get from all the towns within 150 miles. On the day appointed the Indians came in vast numbers; all the plains around were black with them. The colonel then told them if they bad come on a mission of peace, they must lay down their arms and meet him as friends. They complied with his request and then all the people inside the walls went among them unarmed. The Colonel gave them one hundred head of cattle, and the boy prisoner was brought out and given to his father and they embraced each other and cried and an era of reconciliation and peace seemed to have arrived.

The boy told his father that he liked his captors so well that he desired to live with them, and in spite of all the persuasions of the old man he still insisted on remaining, and the Indians were compelled to return to their mountain home without him. The boy was a great favorite with the people. Sometimes afterward he went to visit his people, but before leaving he saw every one in the village and bade them good-by, and promised and did return in fifteen days. [This is acceptable Spanish, but not Apache behavior.] A few days subsequent to his return he took smallpox and died, and very soon afterward the Apaches commenced to murder and rob the same as before.33

As one historian has stated, folklore is not history.34 Nonetheless, the old woman's reminiscence indicated that the dreadful scourge of smallpox loosed upon the Native Americans by a soldier under Panfilo de Narvaez in 1520 continued capriciously to influence human events in Tucson. Fitting this oral tradition to documented events suggests that it could well refer to an earlier attempt to force Western Apaches to settle at Tucson. The reference to Colonel Narbona as the officer in charge could date the occurrence in the period between 1805 and 1815. The death of the Apache youth from smallpox could very well have occurred during the severe epidemic that swept northern Sonora in 1816.

At any rate, all or part of the Arivaipa and Pinal Apache bands settled at Tucson between 1790 and 1820, as recorded in contemporary documents in colonial archives. They reinforced the local population in numbers and in military power relative to still-hostile southern Apache bands. That accretion of military power ensured the continued existence and economic prosperity of the northernmost post on the Sonoran colonial frontier. Moreover, the Apache population increment further diversified the multi-ethnic character of Tucson area population on a large scale, and the Apaches de Paz retained a degree of self-governance lost to Apache war captives reared in Tucson households.

Despite all the difficulties of financing the colonial government after the Napoleonic wars diverted Peninsular attention from the Americas, resulting in real poverty and crisis in the missions, the thrust King Charles III and his Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez had given frontier Apache policy carried the colonial administrators right to the date of Mexican independence.

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