Creating the Chiricahua Apache Reservation (1871)

Washington, D. C., November 7, 1871.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a communication addressed to this Department by the Hon. Vincent Colyer, one of the board of Indian peace commissioners who recently visited Arizona, wherein he states his views in relation to the Apache Indians, and describes certain tracts of country in Arizona and New Mexico which, during his recent visit to said Indians, he has selected to be set apart as reservations for their use, as authorized to do by orders issued to him before visiting the Apaches.

I have the honor to recommend, in pursuance of the understanding arrived at in our conversation with the Secretary of War on the 6th instant, that the President issue an order authorizing said tracts of country described in Mr. Colyer’s letter to be regarded as reservations for the settlement of Indians until it is otherwise ordered. *    *    *

I would further suggest that the War Department will, for the present, select some suitable and discreet officer of the Army to act as Indian agent for any of the reservations in Arizona which may be occupied by the Indians, under the order herein contemplated. Such agents will be superseded by persons hereafter appointed by this Department, at such times as the President may hereafter deem proper.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. DELANO, Secretary.


These recommendations were approved by the President as follows:

Washington, D. C., November 9, 1871.

Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War, who will take such action as may be necessary to carry out the recommendations of the Secretary of the Interior.


And indorsed by General Sherman thus:

Washington, D. C., November 9, 1871.

GENERAL: I now inclose you copies of a correspondence between the Secretary of the Interior and War Department on the subject of the policy that is to prevail in Arizona with the Apache Indians. The Secretary of War wishes you to give all the necessary orders to carry into full effect this policy, which is the same that prevails in the Indian country generally, viz: to fix and determine (usually with the assent expressed or implied of the Indians concerned) the reservation within which they may live and be protected by all branches of the Executive Government; but if they wander outside they at once become objects of suspicion, liable to be attacked by the troops as hostile. The three reservations referred to in these papers, and more particularly defined in the accompanying map, seem far enough removed from the white settlements to avoid the dangers of collision of interest. At all events these Indians must have a chance to escape war, and the most natural way is to assign them to homes and to compel them to remain thereon. While they remain on such reservations there is an implied condition that they should not be permitted to starve, and our experience is that the Indian Bureau is rarely supplied with the necessary money to provide food, in which event you may authorize the commissary department to provide for them, being careful to confine issues only to those acting in good faith, and only for absolute wants.

The commanding officer of the nearest military post will be the proper person to act as the Indian agent until the regular agents come provided with the necessary authority and funds to relieve them; but you may yourself, or allow General Crook to appoint these temporary agents regardless of rank.

The citizens of Arizona should be publicly informed of these events, and that the military have the command of the President to protect these Indians on their reservations, and that under no pretense must they invade them, except under the leadership of the commanding officer having charge of them.

The boundaries of these reservations should also be clearly defined, and any changes in them suggested by experience should be reported, to the end that they may be modified or changed by the highest authority.

After general notice to Indians and whites of this policy, General Crook may feel assured that whatever measures of severity he may adopt to reduce these Apaches to a peaceful and subordinate condition will be approved by the War Department and the President.

I am, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, General.

Commanding Military Division Pacific.

EXECUTIVE MANSION, December 14, 1872.

It is hereby ordered that the following tract of country be, and the same is hereby, withheld from sale and set apart as a reservation for certain Apache Indians in the Territory of Arizona, to be known as the “Chiricahua Indian Reservation,” viz:

Beginning at Dragoon Springs, near Dragoon Pass, and running thence northeasterly along the north base of the Chiricahua Mountains to a point on the summit of Peloncillo Mountains or Stevens Peak range; thence running southeasterly along said range through Stevens Peak to the boundary of New Mexico; thence running south to the boundary of Mexico; thence running westerly along said boundary 55 miles; thence running northerly, following substantially the western base of the Dragoon Mountains, to the place of beginning.

It is also hereby ordered that the reservation heretofore set apart for certain Apache Indians in the said Territory, known as the “Camp Grant Indian Reservation,” be, and the same is hereby, restored to the public domain.

It is also ordered that the following tract of country be, and the same is hereby, withheld from sale and added to the White Mountain Indian Reservation in said Territory, which addition shall hereafter be known as the “San Carlos division of the White Mountain Indian Reservation,” viz:

Commencing at the southeast corner of the White Mountain Reservation as now established, and running thence south to a line 15 miles south of and parallel to the Gila River; thence west along said line to a point due south of the southwest corner of the present White Mountain Reservation; thence north to the said southwest corner of the aforesaid White Mountain Reservation, and thence along the southern boundary of the same to the place of beginning; the said addition to be known as the “San Carlos division of the White Mountain Reservation,” which will make the entire boundary of the White Mountain Reserve as follows, viz:

Starting at the point of intersection of the boundary between New Mexico and Arizona with the south edge of the Black Mesa, and following the southern edge of the Black Mesa to a point due north of Sombrero or Plumoso Butte; thence due south to said Sombrero or Plumoso Butte; thence in the direction of the Piache Colorado to the crest of the Apache Mountains, following said crest down the Salt River to Pinal Creek to the top of the Pinal Mountains; thence due south to a point 15 miles south of the Gila River; thence east with a line parallel with and 15 miles south of the Gila River to the boundary of New Mexico; thence north along said boundary line to its intersection with the south edge of the Black Mesa, the place of beginning.


Kappler, C. J. (ed.). 1904. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Volume I. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.  (Accessed 27 April 2006)