We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Only One Living to Tell

The Autobiography of a Yavapai Indian

By Mike Burns; Edited by Gregory McNamee

Publication Year: 2012

Mike Burns--born Hoomothya--was around eight years old in 1872 when the US military murdered his family and as many as seventy-six other Yavapai men, women, and children in the Skeleton Cave Massacre in Arizona. One of only a few young survivors, he was adopted by an army captain and ended up serving as a scout in the US army and adventuring in the West. Before his death in 1934, Burns wrote about the massacre, his time fighting in the Indian Wars during the 1880s, and life among the Kwevkepaya and Tolkepaya Yavapai. His precarious position between the white and Native worlds gives his account a distinctive narrative voice.<br><br>Because Burns was unable to find a publisher during his lifetime, these firsthand accounts of history from a Native perspective remained unseen through much of the twentieth century, archived at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott. Now Gregory McNamee has brought Burns's text to life, making this extraordinary tale an accessible and compelling read. Generations after his death, Mike Burns finally gets a chance to tell his story. <br><br> This autobiography offers a missing piece of Arizona history--as one of the only Native American accounts of the Skeleton Cave Massacre--and contributes to a growing body of history from a Native perspective. It will be an indispensable tool for scholars and general readers interested in the West--specifically Arizona history, the Apache wars, and Yavapai and Apache history and lifeways.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (56.3 KB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (169.5 KB)
pp. 2-5

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (88.5 KB)
pp. v-x

A few days before Christmas of 1872, a hundred-odd miles to the north and east of what is now Phoenix, Arizona, advance scouts of a force of American soldiers, the vanguard of the military campaign that launched the ...

read more

Chapter 1

pdf iconDownload PDF (87.1 KB)
pp. 1-6

I cannot say exactly when or where I was born, because I belonged to an Apache Indian family whose parents were not educated, so that I could not find any records of my birthplace. Only educated people keep records of their children so that they can know where they were born, and besides, there are no older Indians left alive now. All of my ...

read more

Chapter 2

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.9 KB)
pp. 7-13

The slaughter of my people ended at about four in the afternoon. The soldiers took the captives up to the top of the cave and marched the Indians in front of them, and the Apache scouts were warned to keep close watch so that ...

read more

Chapter 3

pdf iconDownload PDF (49.8 KB)
pp. 14-17

The scouts scattered to see if they could find enemies or game. Some were to travel through the hills, then come in and make a report to the commanders. At this point, Lieutenant Schuyler and Al Sieber were in charge.
One evening two young men came in after they had looked the country over, and they brought with them ...

read more

Chapter 4

pdf iconDownload PDF (65.8 KB)
pp. 18-22

I must now go back to the time of the founding of the San Carlos Agency. There were no houses, only tents, and a large corral made of canvas, where rations were issued to the Indians. There were many different bands of Apaches there, and some were still slowly coming down to settle on the bottomland and had ...

read more

Chapter 5

pdf iconDownload PDF (83.9 KB)
pp. 23-29

The next day, at noon, we arrived at Date Creek. There I stayed, doing all kinds of chores as if I were a member of the family, such as herding chickens for Mrs. Thomas. Every day the chickens would scatter away from the house and hide in the brush, and every day I would ...

read more

Chapter 6

pdf iconDownload PDF (58.5 KB)
pp. 30-35

One time a party of Indians went to a camp out on the Agua Fria River, near the foothills of Copper Mountain a little east of Mayer. There were some soldiers there. The Indians were hunting rabbits, which were plentiful down on the flats between the river ...

read more

Chapter 7

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.3 KB)
pp. 36-44

There were two chiefs of the Mojave Indians living along the Colorado River. Their names were Nahtahdavbah and Ahsojithaw, and they were the first to lead white men up the Hassayampa River and on to the Agua Fria River, up the Black Canyon to its

read more

Chapter 8

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.0 KB)
pp. 45-51

Nahtahdavbah and other chiefs of the Mojave Indians hatched a conspiracy to have the soldiers arrest the Yavapais who were camping at Camp Date Creek. They arranged it this way: Nahtahdavbah and Ahsojithaw would give a plug of tobacco to each of the Indians whom they wanted to see arrested, and with that signal the soldiers could ...

read more

Chapter 9

pdf iconDownload PDF (59.2 KB)
pp. 52-57

In time, everyone came to be hunting for those four chiefs. Within a year three of them had been killed. Only one, a man named Ichtahatchja, was still alive, and he hid away. He was a hard man to catch. Once he went in to San Carlos and killed a white sergeant and then got away before he was ...

read more

Chapter 10

pdf iconDownload PDF (83.3 KB)
pp. 58-65

General Crook sent runners out to all the people to tell them to stay close to Camp Verde, saying that they would be given all the food they wanted, along with blankets, calicos, corn, and wheat and barley seeds to plant on the bottomlands.
All the headmen of the different bands got together and talked about what was best to do, and they decided to come within a week’s ...

read more

Chapter 11

pdf iconDownload PDF (113.1 KB)
pp. 66-76

This is the way the soldiers rounded up the Apaches. There has been much said about the soldiers conquering them by fighting them, but the only place where they had a fight was at the Battle of the Caves on Salt River—we call it the Bloody Salt River Cave Massacre—in December 1872. The Indians came in willingly. General Crook had come to Camp Verde to have a conference with all of ...

read more

Chapter 12

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.2 KB)
pp. 77-83

I will now return to my own life. I was brought to Fort Whipple by Captain Burns in 1873. His lieutenants were Thomas and Bishop. Dr. Washington Matthews always accompanied the command. After being there a few months the captain went away for some time, and when he returned he brought his wife, Annie Burns, and their little ...

read more

Chapter 13

pdf iconDownload PDF (82.3 KB)
pp. 84-93

In July 1875, the Fifth Cavalry was ordered east, to be replaced by the Sixth Cavalry. My old friend Lieutenant Bishop went to see General Crook about taking me with him. The good-hearted general consented, telling Bishop to be sure that he and the company took good care of ...

read more

Chapter 14

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.5 KB)
pp. 94-105

On the next march we reached Sage Creek, about halfway between the Black Hills and Fort Laramie. Here General Merritt received a message from headquarters at Fort Omaha, Nebraska, saying that it had been reported that the Sioux had left their reservation and were ...

read more

Chapter 15

pdf iconDownload PDF (89.5 KB)
pp. 106-117

It had been raining all night, and the ground was very muddy. We went over limestone country, with cedar trees on the hills, and went down into a valley with a little creek in it that looked like milk. We used the water anyway.
The next morning, before daylight, I was told to join the foot gang, since we were going to have to make a long-distance march that day....

read more

Chapter 16

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.2 KB)
pp. 118-130

I arrived at the Carlisle School in late September 1880. Captain Richard H. Pratt was the superintendent, and Dr. Given the assistant superintendent. Dr. Given was well known by the Kiowas and Comanches and Lipan Apaches near Fort Sill. Miss Robinson was the field matron, and Mr. Campbell the school disciplinary. There were ...

read more

Chapter 17

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.7 KB)
pp. 131-140

So I went with the horses, riding off on a freight train to Caldwell. I arrived there in the evening. The next day the horses were ready for the march to the front, and we reached Fort Reno in three days. There were Cheyenne and Arapahos from the Darlington Agency, which was about three and a half miles from the fort. They looked me over. ...

read more

Chapter 18

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.6 KB)
pp. 141-158

There were some white soldiers at the agency, and the sergeant made arrangements for me to draw rations with them. I unloaded my little bundle into a tent near a large wall tent where the soldiers had their dining room. That afternoon a captain I used to know came along— Captain John G. Bourke of the ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (90.0 KB)
pp. 159-163

Mike Burns ended his military employment on January 26 or January 27, 1886, ending a complicated and troubling episode in his life, an Indian at work hunting down other Indians in the service of the white conquerors of Arizona. He immediately fell on hard times, like so many residents of the San Carlos Agency. In September of that year, he appealed to General Miles to be ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (107.2 KB)
pp. 165-175


pdf iconDownload PDF (42.9 KB)
pp. 177-178

About the Editor

pdf iconDownload PDF (38.3 KB)
p. 179-179

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599769
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816501205

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2012