Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (18 Coyotes)

This is another Apache thing. Many times, rather than saying something directly, or making an interpretation of things like my answers to the questions he has asked, an elder like Silas will launch into, or ask the person they are talking with, to tell one of the stories of our history. Usually the lesson, or what they would have said is contained in the narrative.

I tell Schatzie that the story I am about to tell is not, for the most part, legend, but oral history. This isn't a Coyote story from the land where animals talk and stuff. This is a part of our history. It has been painted on skins and canyon walls. It has been told in the winter lodges and repeated in the councils.

Tsebitzidah Ma'atose(18 Coyotes) was a healer and a leader. She had proven herself many times in both peace and war. Two of her sons had married into other bands of the Apache and had also become well known and respected by those people. Her husband came from the Tewa band and was both a leader in times of war and a gentle protector of the people.

Traders and other travelers had been bringing stories from the lands of the south that there were new people in the country. We now know that they were the Spanish people, but back then all that anybody knew was that they had terrible weapons and followed powerful gods. For a while the stories were about how they had brought down the tribes of the Maya and Aztec. Soon the stories turned into people fleeing the advances of the new ones.

Now the stories said that they were coming our way. One of the sons of 18 Coyotes who had married to the Chiricauhua people came to his mother and asked that she bring food, healers, and warriors south to them because the Spanish with horses and cannon were very close.

When the White Mountain people got to the Chiricauhua stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains they found that something had arrived before the Spanish. It was called "Red Flower Sickness" (probably smallpox) and there was nothing in the knowledge or arts of the healers that could stop its ravages. While the disease raged through the people, the Spanish (we now know that they were led by the warrior priest Marcos De Niza) advanced through the lands of the Tohono O'odham near what is now Tucson.

18 Coyotes understood some hard truths all at once. She knew that the sickness traveled with people. She gathered everyone together and told them that those who were not sick needed to move themselves at least two days walk from where they were. That they should take nothing with them. Not clothing, blankets, clothes or anything that had ever been around one of the sick. Every two days the people who left should camp and wait for two days. Each time this happened those who were sick needed to leave the main body of the people and come back to this place. She asked that when they arrived in the White Mountains that they tell the stories of what had been tried by the healers here to cope with the new sickness and to tell them that the people who were sick and stayed behind would fight the Spanish to slow them down. She said that runners should be sent to the Dineh people of Canyon de Chelly, and to the Hopi people of the mesa Pueblos.

Once the people who were still healthy had left 18 Coyotes gathered the ones who remained and she told them:

"We who remain here are already dead. We have taken this new sickness inside of us. There is nothing for us to do but to try and stop these new people for as long as we can so that our people might find a way to escape them."

All agreed and a place was chosen that is now called Apache Pass. It is a very high and narrow canyon that has been easily defended for as long as the Chiricauhua have been a distinct people. Those who were too sick to move easily were placed along the high points of the pass and great stones and other things were piled up beside where they lay. They were told that if they were still alive when the Spanish soldiers came through this place that they should send down the stones and logs on top of them. Those who were stronger were divided into bands that laid ambush zones where archers, lancers, and slingers would leap out upon the Spanish as they passed and kill as many of them as they could, along with their animals.

The battle of Apache Pass lasted for eight days. For eight days the Spanish paid with nearly two lives for each step they took through the pass. They still moved forward though. At the place where the pass gives way to the high plateau of pine and ample water 18 Coyotes built a big trap of fresh pine logs that were dripping with its volatile sap that ran for many yards along each side of the canyon. When the Spanish were almost through she lit these on fire and sent them down to the bottom of the pass. The fire was enormous. It killed many Spanish. It was still burning when 18 Coyotes and the rest of her Army of the Dead were finally taken by the disease.

The Spanish fell back to Tucson. They very rarely came much farther north after that. They were insatiable in their lust for gold and would send men up into the mountains to look for it. Sometimes they would find it and send the army and its priests to make slaves of the people nearby to work until the gold or silver was gone. Then they would leave. They found that Apaches make very bad slaves and even worse enemies.

After a few generations the Chiricauhua people went back to their home in the Dragoons. They found many ravens at the site of the battle. Since that time the warriors who dedicate themselves to the protection of our people, who stay behind in wartime to defend our elders and our children against attack have taken the Raven as their emblem.

When I finish this story Silas says to Schatzie "Our friend here is a Raven Soldier, he just forgets that from time to time."

Then he says that we need to go get some new rocks from the fire.




Blogger pogo said...

mb, thanks for the recommendation on the headphone amp - I saw that one, liked the compactness and direct plug in, but wanted advice from an elder statesman. Ordered it and will let you know my reaction.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Our friend here is a Raven Soldier, he just forgets that from time to time."

Breathtaking. Of course.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Sherry Pasquarello said...

fiercely tender.

now, that was a woman, and a people.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very powerful story. Thank You for sharing it with us.

3:30 PM  
Blogger FriĆ°vin said...

cuddle me.

do i really have to go to bed yet?

can't you be a master to me?


white stripes for every occasion.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MB ...when you publish, will the title be Superstition Ride or will it be Raven Soldier .... or perhaps that is another book entirely ....JB

6:02 AM  
Blogger joshhill1021 said...

I am speechless and that is how I feel after every reading of the Superstition Read. It takes me a day or so to be able to integrate it all in and even then it still is not fully understood by me.

I agree with amish that you need to at some point turn this whole thing into a book, it is simply amazing.

9:10 AM  

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