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164 Western American Literature Unfortunately, this simile identifies too well the fault one might find in Bly’s poems. Granted we are each our own wise men, still we are not satisfied with merely the camels. JAMES R. SAUCERMAN Northwest Missouri State University The Apaches: Eagles of the Southwest. By Donald Worcester. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979. 389 pages, $15.95.) Of all the native people of America few have a greater international reputation than the Apaches. Their name has not only become a proper noun, but is a mythic symbol; from a police station in the South Bronx, to a dance in France, the word Apache evokes images of terror and violence, of savagery and cruelty. The very name Geronimo conjures up the worst mythic memories; his name was once a curse to whites. And so, historian Donald Worcester’s attempt to de-mystify the Apaches and write an accurate history of their life is no easy task. The stereotypes of centuries have not only over-shadowed and distorted the factual histories he has recorded, they have become myths that are larger than life and more powerful than facts. Not that the book “does battle” with the myth-makers, it largely ignores them. In the concise and exacting manner that he has developed in a lifetime of historical research, Worcester quotes and evokes the official records of the Spanish, Mexicans and Americans who fought the Apaches, and offers not his opinions but their own eyewitness accounts of what hap­ pened. The picture that emerges is one of an historical inversion; it seems like a psychological transference in which those who fought the Apaches attrib­ uted to them their own attitudes, and behavior, and did so consciously. For as the official records reveal, they knew they were myth-making; and to put it less politely were deliberately creating false images. As the diary of General Crook, who led the U.S. Army against Geronimo, says so succinctly: “I think that the Apache is painted in darker colors than he deserves and that his villainies arise more from a misconcep­ tion of the facts. . . . It must be remembered that . . . a large portion of the white population were as barbarous in their modes of warfare as the Apaches . . . [for] Arizona was still a refuge for criminal and lawless men. . . Disturbed by reports that the army was conducting a “war of extermina­ tion” against the Apaches, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered General Pope to investigate. Pope reported that in his opinion, “What the white man does Reviews 165 to the Indian is never known (by the public). It is only what the Indian does to the white man — nine times out of ten by way of retaliation — which reaches the public.” It was a “destructive process,” Pope wrote, that was threatening “the total extermination of the Indians.” And yet, in support of continuing the warfare General Ord commented: “Almost the only paying the white inhabitants have in the territory is sup­ plying the troops. . . . Hostilities are therefore kept up with a view of support­ ing the inhabitants.” Somewhat cynically, the general ordered his troops to “root out the Apaches by every means and to hunt them as they would ‘wild’ animals.” Of all the cruel practices the Apaches were subjected to, and then accused of, none were more brutal than the taking of their women and children as slaves. The Spanish and Mexicans had begun this slave trade, but it continued under the Americans. When President Andrew Johnson ordered the slave trade halted he was answered by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico, Felipe Delgado, who protested that the President did not understand; the Apaches were enslaved out of “Christian piety.” And the Chief Justice of New Mexico’s Supreme Court went to Washington to complain: “The prices [of Apache slaves] have lately ranged very high. A likely girl of eight years old, healthy and intelligent [is] four hundred dollars or more. . . .” Not that there were not sober voices, voices of morality and reason. But they did not prevail, and perhaps could not. To subdue the mythic beast required more than reason; it was like attempting to slay a dragon...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 164-165
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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