Cochise: The Life and Legacy of the Famous Apache Chief

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Sinopsis

Among all the Native American tribes, the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans learned the hard way that the warriors of the Apache were perhaps the fiercest in North America. Based in the Southwest, the Apache fought all three in Mexico and the American Southwest, engaging in seasonal raids for so many centuries that the Apache struck fear into the hearts of all their neighbors.

What is reliably documented about Cochise is that the violence he participated in during the 1860 and 1870s was preceded by years of attempted peaceful negotiations with the intruding settlers. His approach to compromise resulted in a portion of the Butterfield Overland Mail route to cross a portion of territory in which his group was dominant. He sought peace with compromise and diplomacy, and as a result of his diplomacy and his fearlessness in battle, he became the leader of the Chokonenband of the Chiricahua Apache. While most often referred to as “Chief,” the word is not in the Apache language - he was the leader, and the Apache culture demanded he would remain so until another warrior proved superior.

As diplomacy became more difficult, Cochise became more pressured in the defense of his territory in southeast Arizona. Reared in the nomadic Apache lifestyle and the cultural trait of raiding, Cochise turned his primary targets away from the hated Mexicans south of the border to intruding Anglos north of the borderlands. The name Cochise became so widely known throughout Arizona Territory that it became indiscriminately linked with all depredations both large and small. It was, in fact, an unfair linkage of Cochise to the abduction of a young boy and the subsequent confrontation between him and an Army lieutenant named “Bascom'' that secured both their names in Arizona history and launched the Apache Wars, a series of conflicts that lasted long after Cochise’s death.

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