Sunday, November 18, 2012

Descendant of Cochise and Victorio


Descendant of Cochise and Victorio

On November 10, 2012, I met Jesse DeLuna II at a book signing in South Haven, Mississippi; Jesse is a Chiricahua Apache who is descended from Cochise and Victorio, both of which were great Chiricahua Apache war leaders.  In the area of southeastern Arizona, Jesse descends from these great Chiricahua leaders through his mother and his grandmother; his people were from the Chiricahua Mountains in southern New Mexico and Arizona and fought to the 1880’s to maintain their freedom from the United States reservation system.

Jesse’s last name DeLuna came from Spanish missionaries; his salt and pepper colored hair distinguishes him as an older Chiricahua Apache who has faced the frost of cold winters for 56 years of life.  Jesse was born on January 6, 1956, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonia, Texas.  His father Jesse DeLuna I was a career military man with the United States Air Force; Jesse II also joined and served in the Air Force until he was wounded in the invasion of Grenada.  Today, Jesse still has the look of a Chiricahua Apache warrior and practices the medicine of the old ways of his tribal elders; his great grandparents were born in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona, but his ancestral people ranged through the Chiricahua Mountains all the way into Mexico. 

Cochise-One of Jesse’s great, great, great grandfathers was Cochise, which means “Strength of the Oak;” Cochise was one of the more famous Chiricahua Apache leaders to resist encroachment into the homelands of the Chiricahua by American settlers during the middle of the 1800’s.  Cochise was considered a large Apache warrior about five feet ten inches tall and 175 pounds with a muscular frame; Jesse is not that tall but has the muscular frame of his Apache ancestors.

Cochise was thought to be born about 1812 in either Arizona or New Mexico; in addition, his tribe lived in the Chiricahua Mountain Range which extends into northern Mexico.  The Chiricahua had moved about in this mountainous area along the United States border long before the arrivals of white settlers who were taking their lands as they had done in the eastern portion of this country some 100 to 200 years earlier.  As did many eastern Indian leaders, Cochise and his people fought the encroachment of their homelands by these new American settlers whose ancestors had taken all the eastern Indian Territory. 
Cochise and his Chiricahua people moved throughout their southwestern territory as did many plains Indians; they migrated to follow the seasons for their hunting and farming. The constant relocating of the tribe within their home range made it almost impossible to know exactly where the Chiricahua people were located at any specific time; therefore, finding the Chiricahua was difficult and fighting these Indian people who wanted their freedom was similar to hide and seek for the United States military who were trying to put them on a reservation.

In order to defeat the Chiricahua Apaches, American and Native American mercenaries, along with Mexican forces south of the border, began to killing these native people indiscriminately; it is ironic that other American Indian people were paid to take the scalps of their fellow race.  The paying of bounties for Apache scalps was not uncommon; after his father was killed and scalped for a bounty, Cochise sought vengeance.  In addition his brother and two of his nephews were taken prisoner and executed during peace negotiations by Lieutenant George Bascom which served to further enrage Cochise, who managed to escape by cutting through the tent.  Even though Mexican authorities captured Cochise in 1848, he was exchanged for a dozen Mexican prisoners; Jesse told me there are bands of Chiricahua still living in the mountainous regions of Mexico and his ancestral people still have run-ins with the Mexican Federales.

In 1863, Cochise became the new Apache war chief after the death of the Chiricahua Chief Mangas Coloradas; he was murdered after being deceived by the Army military which convinced him into a conference under a flag of truce.  Cochise became revered by his people and led them in guerrilla warfare against the American settlers and United States Army.  In order to evade capture, Cochise led his people into very remote, difficult, and treacherous regions of the Dragoon Range of the Chiricahua Mountains of the southeastern Arizona.  It was not an easy move for his Apache people to survive but Cochise knew it would be more difficult for the military that was trying to force the Chiricahua on to reservations; the United States Army hunted them down like animals before finally capturing Cochise in 1871.

As the Army was preparing to transfer the Chiricahua Apache to a reservation located several hundred miles away, Cochise and several of his warriors escaped again and restarted their guerrilla war on the Army and settlers.  Finally, a new treaty was negotiated which allowed the Chiricahua Apache to remain in their homeland.  After the new treaty went into effect, Cochise surrendered, ceased hostilities, and died peacefully on the new reservation; he was buried in the rocks above one of his favorite camps in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona; the site is known today as “Cochise Stronghold.”  Cochise's descendants are said to currently reside at the Mescalero Apache Reservation, near Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Victorio-Another one of Jesse DeLuna’s great, great, great grandfathers was Victorio, also known as “Apache Wolf;” he was a member of the Chihenne Band of the Chiricahua Apache.  At the age of 28 in 1853 when he signed a government document, Victorio was considered a chief by the United States Army; he rode with Geronimo and other Apache leaders fighting settlers invading his homelands and against the United States Army.  By the 1870’s, Victorio and his band were placed on reservations despite their request to live on traditional ancestral lands.  Victorio and his fellow warriors left the reservation twice before leaving permanently in late August 1879 which started Victorio's War.

By September 10, 1879, nine American settlers had been killed by Victorio’s warriors and 46 to 68 army horses and mules were also taken by Victorio; his victories caused other Apache bands to leave the reservations and begin fighting.  The United States Army had dispatched thousands of soldiers and scouts to search for Victorio; in addition, American militias were also formed in Arizona and New Mexico to find and kill their Chiricahua enemy.

Even though Victorio and his followers numbered only about 200 men, women, and children, he was successful at raiding and evading capture by the United States Army.  While traveling down theAnimas River, Victorio’s band encountered a militia made up of miners in between Kingston andSilver City, New Mexico; ten of the militia was killed and some fifty horses were taken.  After the skirmish with the militia, Victorio continued south into Las Animas Canyon, in the Black Range, where he showed his brilliance as a military leader of his people; he positioned his warriors in decisive positions around the high ground.

On September 18, 1879, Victorio's forces, which numbered some 60 warriors, were positioned along the top of a ridge overlooking Las Animas Canyon and the adjacent Massacre Canyon.  Two companies of Army cavalry were lured into the canyon by a few Apache warriors who fired on the troops and fled to the canyon.  Once the cavalry was inside the canyon, Victorio’s warriors opened fire with their rifles and bows; the soldiers dismounted and took cover behind boulders.  Two other companies from the 9th cavalry were in the area and proceeded to the battlefield.  When the reinforcements entered the canyon, the Apache warriors ceased firing until the American soldiers began a flanking maneuver towards the ridge then opened fire again.  This was a decisive victory for Victorio; he had defeated the American forces in numerous battles.  Victorio was proven to be one of the best guerilla fighters ever known and one of the finest the United States Army had ever met in the field of battle.  With only some 50 to 60 fighting warriors, he reigned terror in the hearts of those who entered his domain and those he fought in battle.

In April, 1880, Victorio led the Alma Massacre which was a series of raids on the ranches and homes of the white settlers around Alma, New Mexico.  In October 1880, while moving along the Rio Grande River in northern Mexico, Victorio and his band were surrounded and killed by soldiers of the Mexican Army.  Some of the women and children of Victorio’s band escaped but were later sent with Geronimo to Florida and Alabama, then later transferred to Oklahoma; some of Victorio’s people were incarcerated for a while in Alabama.

Geronimo-Even though Geronimo was not directly related to Jesse DeLuna, Jesse’s ancestors rode and fought with this greatest Apache leader.  Normally, the Apache fighting tactics involved guerrilla warfare but the Battle of Apache Pass was the heaviest contested that the Apaches fought against the United States Army.  Later in his autobiography, the most celebrated Chiricahua-Mescalero Apache warrior Geronimo said, “My people were winning the fight until you fired your wagons at us;" Geronimo was referring to the howitzer cannons used by the Army.  I feel fortunate to have stood a few years ago with my daughter Celeste at the monument erected at the site where the great Apache Geronimo surrendered in southern Arizona.

In 1886 Geronimo surrendered to U.S. authorities after a lengthy fight and pursuit; he was imprisoned in Alabama before being transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  As a prisoner of war in his old age, Geronimo became a celebrity and appeared at various events, fairs, and activities but was never allowed to return to the Chiricahua homeland of his birth.  He later regretted that he had surrendered and claimed the conditions of his surrender were lies and were totally ignored.  Geronimo said just before his death, "I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive."  He was buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery; he died in 1909 from complications of pneumonia at Fort Sill.  He had been thrown from his horse and lay on the cold ground all night before being found by a friend.

Jesse roots are deep in the Chiricahua Apache traditions; he related to me that his Chiricahua Apache folks managed to escape during a dust storm in Waco, Texas; his people had been herded like cattle from the Chiricahua Mountains toward Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  At Waco, his ancestors were going to be loaded on a train that would transport them to the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, but the huge dust storm created enough diversion for his people to escape.  After his people avoided the force removal, Jesse said they assimilated with the Mexicans living in the Waco, Texas area in order to avoid being placed on an Indian reservation.  His folks hid out from the military in Texas and managed to avoid the reservation hundreds of miles from their native homelands; they lived their lives for years in denial of their true Apache lineage by living among people of Mexican heritage people who lived in Texas.  His folks eventually settled out in the San Antonia and Houston, Texas.

Jesse DeLuna and Helen Trevino were the parents of Jesse DeLuna II; he grew up in a one bedroom house in Texas with three brothers and three sisters.  Jesse’s father served in the United States Air Force for 25 years; Jesse senior was a technical sergeant when he retired from the military.  Jesse senior was a veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam War; Jesse II also served 15 years in the United States Air Force.  When Jesse went into the military he had his hair cut for the first time; his sister still has his long black hair of his youth. Today, Jesse’s parents are still alive; his father lives in Houston, Texas, and his mother moved back to the land of her ancestors and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Jesse’s life has been full circle; he now practices the old medicine of his ancestors.  Jesse has three children that he hopes will carry on the old traditional ways of his Chiricahua Apache people:  His children are Jesse DeLuna III, who also has a son named Jesse DeLuna IV, is 32; Anthony Robert DeLuna is 28; and, Natasha DeLuna is 17.


2 comments:

  1. I didn't know all of this about Geronimo. Very informative. Thanks for posting.

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  2. From all of my research Cochise never had a picture taken. The picture here is Cochise oldest son, Taza. Cochise came from a long line of inherited Chiefs. After the death of his father Cochise became Principal Chief. Mangas Coloradas (was also a chief), he was Cochise father-in-law. Taza became Chief after the death of Cochise. He was the last of the reigning inherited Chief's.

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