(in the Chiracahua Apache language)

(b. 1812, d. June 8, 1874)

"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts.
Speak Americans.. I will not lie to you; do not lie to me."

Cochise was a tall man, six feet, with broad shoulders and a commanding appearance. He never met a man his equal with a lance, and, like Crazy Horse, was never photographed. They both were buried in secret locations on their homeland.

Quotes from Cochise

"When I was young I walked all over this country, east and west, and saw no other people than the Apaches. After many summers I walked again and found another race of people had come to take it. How is it?

We were once a large people covering these mountains. We lived well: we were at peace. One day my best friend was seized by an officer of the white men and treacherously killed. At last your soldiers did me a very great wrong, and I and my people went to war with them.

The worst place of all is Apache Pass. There my brother and nephews were murdered. Their bodies were hung up and kept there till they were skeletons. Now Americans and Mexicans kill an Apache on sight. I have retaliated with all my might.

My people have killed Americans and Mexicans and taken their property. Their losses have been greater than mine. I have killed ten white men for every Indian slain, but I know that the whites are many and the Indians are few. Apaches are growing less every day.

Why is it that the Apaches wait to die -- That they carry their lives on their fingernails? They roam over the hills and plains and want the heavens to fall on them. The Apaches were once a great nation; they are now but few, and because of this they want to die and so carry their lives on their fingernails.

I am alone in the world. I want to live in these mountains; I do not want to go to Tularosa. That is a long way off. I have drunk of the waters of the Dragoon Mountains and they have cooled me: I do not want to leave here.

Nobody wants peace more than I do. Why shut me up on a reservation? We will make peace; we will keep it faithfully. But let us go around free as Americans do. Let us go wherever we please."

Naiche, son of Cochise


There was, in 1872, an assignment, which would place  Oliver Howard back in the field and away from the headache of Washington politics.  The government needed Howard to help negotiate a peace treaty with the warring Apache Indians under Cochise in the Arizona desert.  Howard accepted the task and on March 7, 1872, he left Washington for Arizona.

All hell had broken loose in the desert.  The story was a common one.  Settlers had been pushing westwards in search of a better life- for some that meant gold and for others that meant a ranch or land- when they encountered Native Americans, who had been living on the land for centuries.  Both sides became violent and soon a war was on.  This time it was on courtesy of Cochise, chief of the Chiricahua Apaches and General George Crook, a hard fighting Civil War veteran who subscribed to General Phil Sheridan’s maxim: the only good Indian is a dead one.

In a last ditch effort to prevent a war, the government sent Howard west to try to calm things down.  Arriving at Fort McDowell, Howard met with General Crook and persuaded him to halt his campaign until Howard had tried his hand at peace negotiations.  Howard’s efforts soon brought peace with a number of tribes including members of the Apache, Papago and Pima.  Howard’s visit to different tribes and efforts to create a new reservation, in which the Indians could be happily settled, helped smooth things out considerably.  With his new friends, Howard returned to Washington in June 1872.  Still, a major portion of his assignment had been left unaccomplished.  Cochise was still on the rampage and in May Howard gave up hope of finding him.  He ordered Crook to begin his war again Cochise.  This was music to General Crook’s ears.  However, President Grant didn’t like the idea very much and as soon as Howard reached Washington, the President sent him back to Arizona at once.

Howard returned and began his search for Cochise yet again.  This time, however, he had the aid of a “scout” named Thomas Jeffords.  Howard assured Jeffords that he meant no harm to Cochise and was willing to travel anywhere to find him, with or without military escort.  This being said, a strange cast was assembled in the desert.  Howard, the scout, and two Native American guides rode into the heart of Cochise’s territory.  The general was going out on a limb, knowing full well what became of intruders who displeased the Apache Chief.  Still, he went along in search of peace.

It must have been an interesting sight to see.  Two Indians, a rugged cowboy type scout, and a major general in the United States Army crossing the desert in search of a legend and in a quest to prevent bloodshed.  This was the stuff of great Western adventure movies, minus, of course, the gunfights.

In late summer, 1872, Howard was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by thousands of hostile Indians, without an escort, and with no escape plan whatsoever.  His willingness to come thus far must have proved his worth to Chief Cochise who soon came to a satisfactory agreement with Howard.  A new reservation was carved out on the Mexican border and the Apache promised peace.  A slight flaw in his agreement is that there was no paper treaty and in time misunderstandings of the terms of the treaty would cause some trouble for General Crook, but in the meantime, Howard had accomplished his mission and was heading home.

The people of Arizona did not especially enjoy his return from the desert, however.  They wanted blood and kept demanding that Crook go in with guns blazing and sabers drawn.  Controversy would arise in the years following the agreement as Indian raids into the Mexican border, and Cochise’s claims of immunity from U.S. military control made the settlers fear for their livelihood.

Meanwhile, Oliver Howard was in the Department of Columbia, commanding the Washington Territory, Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho.  It was 1874 and there was peace throughout his department.

In 1872 (after increased pressure from both the Mexican and U.S. military to suppress the Apaches) Apache chief, Cochise, signed a treaty with the U.S. Government. This treaty would place the Apaches on an Arizona reservation leaving only small bands of Apache raiders to defend their territory. The Apache raiders were led by Chief Geronimo, who was considered the last great chief of the Apache nation. He and his raiders, terrorized the Southwest until they were finally captured in 1886. Geronimo’s capture signified the end of the Apache people as a viable warrior culture. The Apache people were moved three more times to Florida, Alabama, and the Oklahoma territory. They are fittingly recognized as the last Indian nation to be placed on a reservation.