The Chiricahua Apache Prisoners of War
Fort Sill, 1894-1914
A significant but often forgotten chapter in U.S. government and Native American relations is the twenty-seven year period of captivity endured by the Chiricahua Apaches following Geronimo's final surrender. Nearly four hundred Chiricahuas were uprooted and exiled from their San Carlos, Arizona, home, moved first to Florida, then to Alabama and finally to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they were held hostage by the conflicting interests of the war department, interior department, as well as southwestern economic and political expediency.
The installation at Fort Sill eventually grew to 50,000 acres and was originally promised to the Chiricahuas as their permanent reservation. In an effort to make them economically independent, the tribe was given a herd of 1000 cattle, which grew over the years to 10,000 head. In 1903, the military reneged on the initial agreement and decided to retain Fort Sill and turn the post into a field artillery training installation. The military proceeded to sell their cattle herd, and the Chiricahuas ended up with a mere 160-acre allotment beyond the post's confines, an insufficient amount of land to provide a viable base of economic sustenance for the tribe.
The Chiricahua Apache Prisoners of War is the first book of its kind to explore in depth this segment of the Chiricahua's history following Geronimo's surrender, including the campaign for their release from military custody, their efforts to retain Fort Sill as their permanent home, and the conflicting interests which competed to resolve the Indians' status. It will be of great interest to scholars in the fields of Native American studies, military studies, and western history.
232 pp ~ illustrated — ©1997