“Civilizing” the Apache Savages

Tourists found Apaches more captivating than ever, especially Geronimo. He and other POWs were displayed at national and international exhibitions.

“What a change there has been in the sentiment and interest pertaining to the Indian in the past thirty years!  When these same … (westerners) … who then were ever fearful of an “attack of hostile Indians”, came to plan … (Exposition in Omaha) … they sought an assemblage of the “red skins” of all tribes….

“… (T)he people at large held little interest in the educated Indian of the time. They wanted to see him in his wild state, in his blanket and aboriginal tepee … and cared little to see him if not wrapped in a blanket of primitive weaving and decked out with paint and feathers.”  (W. V. Cox, Secretary of the Government Exhibit Board, the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition. http://www.omaha.lib.ne.us/transmiss/secretary/indcongress.htm.)

“The Indian Congress (in Buffalo, New York) furnishes a dashing spectacle. There at the entrance … (is Geronimo) mounted, lashing his horse with leather thongs, wearing the hereditary sign of Apache chieftainship, a yellow cap; straight as an arrow, 88 years old, with the face of Napoleon and the carriage of Grant, grim, pre-occupied and inscrutable, the greatest war chief of his time, a figure fit for heroic commemoration. Waiting without, as always waiting there, are the United States regulars, for Geronimo is a prisoner of war and will remain so to the end of his time, for in his most balmy days he was the most vicious chief that the wild West had ever known.”  (Richard H. Barry, “Snapshots of the Midway of the Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, N. Y.,” 1901, pp, 65-68. Quoted in Skinner 1987:415.)

Anglo-Americans evaluated Apache advancement toward civilization, as white people defined such progress.

“Their conduct has been so uniformly good that almost everybody has forgotten that they are here and no white man or Indian in the vicinity of this reservation has had the slightest just cause for complaint against them. They work eight hours a day except Sundays and holidays, and usually with considerable faithfulness. All the younger ones speak English….”  (Captain Hugh Lennox Scott, in a letter to the War Department, 1896. Quoted in Skinner 1987:404.)

“At the head of the table, by the teacups, sat one of the little girls who invited us to tea, with one of the guests on her right, and at the foot of the table sat a little Indian boy, with another guest occupying the place of honor next to him. But was there even a sweeter surprise?  This little Indian boy and girl, scarcely in their teens, were the host and hostess, as we clearly discovered as soon as grace had been said. With perfect ease and charm of manner they did the honors of the table…. So we found that at Fort Sill the children were receiving an invaluable education in the refinements of Christian social life.”  (Reverend John G. Gebhard, Corresponding Secretary for the Reformed Church Educational Committee, “Education at Fort Sill,” Mission Field, August 1904:150. Quoted in Leroy Koop, Taking the Jesus Road, 2005:112. Comments made after visiting the Reformed Church’s school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.)

The great problem for the (missionaries) … to solve has been the “coming out dances.”  They have been the downfall of many of our church members; it is so hard to eradicate the old customs and superstitions. These dances are … of a religious nature…. We have succeeded in getting at least two of our people to give a feast and discard the dancing and everything that goes with it.”  (Reverend L. L. Legters, Fort Sill Dutch Reformed Church, Annual Report of the Women’s Board of Domestic Missions, 1910:24-25. Quoted in Koop, Taking the Jesus Road, 2005:124.)

“The Lord Is my shepherd, I shall not want,” was the text of a sermon which the Apache chief Geronimo delivered to-day to his people from an improvised pulpit on Fort Sill Military Reservation. The old warrior spoke from a stump in a cluster of elm trees on the bank of the Medicine River, and to which one hun­dred members of his tribe were gathered. When he had finished, tears dropped from his old face, and half his congregation gave evidence of a penitent mood. At the close of the services Geronimo of­fered a prayer for President Roosevelt.

“Geronimo was converted three years ago, and has heretofore participated to a limited extent in revival meetings, but this was his first appearance as a preacher. Missionaries are preparing for a series of revival services on the reservation, and Geronimo will take a prominent part.”  (New York Times, May 13, 1906.)

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