Fort Apache Indian Reservation
Seal of the White Mountain Apache tribe
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States ( Arizona)|
|Western Apache, English|
|Christianity, Native American Church, traditional tribal religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Western Apache, San Carlos Apache, Navajo|
The Fort Apache Indian Reservation is an Indian reservation in Arizona, United States, encompassing parts of Navajo, Gila, and Apache counties. It is home to the federally recognized White Mountain Apache Tribe of the Fort Apache Reservation, a Western Apache tribe. It has a land area of 2,627 square miles (6,800 km2) and a population of 12,429 people as of the 2000 census. The largest community is Whiteriver.
White Mountain Apache, photographed prior to 1903 by Edward S. Curtis
While the White Mountain Apache are related to several different Apache tribes and people, their culture has its differences. The creation story of the White Mountain Apache found in Grenville Goodwin’s book, Myths and Tales of the White Mountain Apache is one example of their difference in beliefs “Four people started to work on the earth. When they set it up, the wind blew it off again. It was weak like an old woman. They talked together about the earth among themselves. “What shall we do about this earth, my friends? We don’t know what to do about it.” Then one person said, ”Pull it from four different sides.” They did this, and the piece they pulled out on each side they made like a foot. After they did this, the earth stood all right. Then on the east side of the earth they put big black cane, covered with black metal thorns. On the south side of the earth, they put big blue cane covered with blue metal thorns. Then on the west side of the earth they put big yellow cane covered with white metal thorns. After they did this, the earth was almost steady, but it was still soft and mixed with water. It moved back and forth. After they had worked on the earth this way Black Wind Old Man came to this place. He threw himself against the earth. Then Black Water Old Man threw himself against the earth. When he threw himself against the earth, thunder started in the four directions. Now the earth was steady, and it was as if born already. But the earth was shivering. They talked about it: “My friends, what’s the matter with this earth? It is cold and freezing. We better give it some hair.” They made all these grasses and bushes and trees to grow on the earth, but the earth was still too weak. They started to talk about it: “My friends, let’s make bones for the earth.” This way they made rocky-mountains and rocks sticking out of the earth. Then they talked about the earth again: “How will it breath, this earth?” Then came Black Thunder to that place, and he gave the earth veins. He whipped the earth with lightning and made water start to come out. For this reason all the water runs to the west while the earth’s head lies to the east. They made the sun so it traveled close over the earth from east to west. They made the sun too close to the Earth and it got too hot. So they moved the sun a little higher, but it was still too close to the earth and too hot. So they talked and moved the sun a little higher up. Now it was all right and this last place they set the sun is just where it is now. Then they set the moon so it traveled close over the earth from east to west. The moon was too close to the earth and it was like daytime at night. So they moved it back a way, but it was still like daylight. They talked about it again, and moved it higher up, but it was still a little light. So they talked about it again and moved it a little further away to where the moon is today. This is the way they made the earth for us. This is the way all these wild fruits and foods were raised for us, and this is why we have to use them because they grow here” (Goodwin 1-2).
The first important meeting between the White Mountain Apache tribe and European-Americans was in 1848 following the Mexican-American war. Mexico had given up land to the United States that included White Mountain Apache homelands. Despite being the most geographically isolated Western Apache tribe, The White Mountain were not unaware of the violence and bloodshed that came from contact with European Americans. In July 1869, Brevet Colonel John Green of the United States’ 1st Cavalry led over 100 troops on a scouting mission into the White Mountains area. Their primary goal was to kill or capture any Apache people that they encountered. The expedition headed across the Black River and up north of the San Carlos River, and to the White River in the area of what would become Fort Apache. Once there, an Apache chief invited the Cavalry to come visit his village. The Cavalry was so overtaken by the peacefulness and kindness of the villagers that they decided not to exterminate the village and its people. On May 16, 1870 the 1st Cavalry and 21st Infantry began to construct Camp Ord on the White Mountain River. The White Mountain Apache agreed to live on a reservation on Camp Ord, which would later be named Fort Apache in 1879.
In 1871 General George Crook enrolled 50 White Mountain Apache men to serve as scouts for his army during the Fifteen-Year Apache Wars. These wars were ended with the surrender of the Chiricahua leader Geronimo in 1886. Because of the Scouts’ service to General Cook during the Apache Wars, their tribe was able to maintain a large portion of their homeland as the White Mountain Apache reservation. In 1922, the U.S. Army left Fort Apache and in 1923, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Theodore Roosevelt Indian Boarding School was established on the site.
The White Mountain Apaches began to progress as a community and ultimately created their own constitution and established a tribal council that oversaw all tribe owned property, local businesses and governance in 1936.
The Fort Apache Indian Reservation is covered mostly by pine forests and is habitat to a variety of forest wildlife. It is located directly south of the Mogollon Rim. The highest point in the reservation is Baldy Peak, with an elevation of 11,403 feet (3,476 m).
Other attractions within the reservation include the Fort Apache Historic Park, which has 27 buildings from the historic fort and a 288-acre (117 ha) National Historic District; and other historic sites. Kinishba Ruins, an ancient archeological site (AD 1150–1350) of the western Pueblo culture, is a National Historic Landmark and is located on nearby associated tribal trust lands. Appointments may be made to visit the site.
According to the Arizona Census Bureau, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, which is located in Navajo County, is populated by small communities. North Fork, Whiteriver, Fort Apache, East Fork, Rainbow City, Cibecue, Hon-Dah, Mcnary, Turkey Creek, Seven Mile are the communities that comprise the Fort Apache Reservation which has a total population of 22,036.<http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/cph-2-4.pdf>
- Art of the American Southwest
- Battle of Cibecue Creek
- Battle of Fort Apache
- Sunrise Park Resort
- Fort Apache Reservation, Arizona United States Census Bureau
- Goddard, Pliny Earle (1920). White Mountain Apache texts. The Trustees. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- Goodwin, Grenville. Myths and Tales of the White Mountain Apache. University of Arizona Press (March 1, 1994).
- White Mountain Apache Tribe – Official website
- "Fort Apache Historic Park and Kinishba Ruins", Nohwike’ Bágowa (House of Our Footprints), White Mountain Apache Culture Center & Museum
- Fort Apache Heritage Foundation
- White Mountain Apache Tribe, Arizona Intertribal Council