Home News Vision Friends: Defeating Cha — searching for stories of friendship, part 5

Friends: Defeating Cha — searching for stories of friendship, part 5

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Veronika Ederer Photo Round Mountain where Cha's attack took place. A historical marker has been put in place to commemorate the events.

By Veronika Ederer

Special to the Daily Record

In March 1869, the renegades around Cha, the half-brother of Santana, attacked a mule train which was on his way from Fort Stanton to Fort Selden. When they reached the proximity of Tularosa, the Apaches stopped the train and killed every one of the 11 men and two women, with the only exception of a 12-year-old boy. He was out there with a friend, herding the cows of his family, and the boys forgot the time while they played. They saw the attack and tried to hide, but the Apaches saw the older boy, followed and killed him. The younger one hid and waited, then he ran 10 miles to Tularosa to spread the news.

A group of about 25 men, soldiers and volunteers of Tularosa immediately rode to the place to bury the dead and to prosecute the Apaches. The renegades were still in the area and also attacked this group who had to hide and defend themselves the whole day in small arroyos. Nobody was killed or seriously wounded, but they lost all their horses and had to march back to Tularosa after the nightfall.

Although none of Santana’s friends were killed during this incident, it happened in the area forbidden to Cha by Santana. At the same time, the promised peace medal arrived from Washington and Santana was invited to Fort Stanton. Arriving there, Santana already knew about the attack and was enraged. With the help of a translator, he told the commanding officer that Cha had shamed him with that action, and now Santana had to kill him.

That was the chance the officer had waited for since he often asked Santana to help him defeating Cha, but Santana always declined. To calm the angry chief the officer showed him the peace medal, but this upset Santana even more. He had been convinced that the president himself would come from Washington to present the medal. The commanding officer showed Santana the official document and offered to award the medal right then. But Santana wanted a music band, all soldiers in their best uniform and all the women in beautiful dresses as he had seen in Washington. The commanding officer knew that it would take years to get Cha without Santana’s help, so there was no other way than to appease him. He explained that the president was too busy to come, but he himself would present the medal to Santana as the head chief of the Mescalero on the next day. Santana was satisfied and agreed.

The next day, a speech was held, the music band of the fort played before and after the speech, the wives of the soldiers wore their best dresses and the soldiers their dress uniform. Food was served, and the cannons were fired when Santana got his peace medal. Though everything was much more work than the commanding officer wanted to do, the result spoke for itself. Santana was willing to support the soldiers in chasing Cha.

Santana sat down with the officer to discuss the chase. The chief asked for rifles to hunt the renegades down, but of course, the officer had no permit to give the Apaches firearms. However, he did give the Mescalero 10 permits for scouts to leave the reservation and look for Cha. He asked his supervisor in Santa Fe for the permit to furnish the warriors with rifles. Santana divided his warriors in small groups to track the renegades down. The soldiers stayed around for Stanton and Blazers Mill to receive the captives. They also wanted the renegades to think that they are not chased by anyone, so the soldiers didn’t take part in the hunt.

It took a while, but then the first women and children of Santana’s group were captured, and others gave up. During a few small battles, two of Santana’s men were killed and some wounded, but most of Cha’s women and children had already surrendered. The rest of his group tried to flee to the Jarilla Mountains but they were surrounded and captured, as well.

A wounded Santana saw his half-brother was brought in as a prisoner — also wounded. Cha had been struck in the head with a war club, but it still took two men to hold him. Santana didn’t want him to die at the gallows since they had the same father. He believed that despite all, his half-brother deserved an honorable death. However, Cha answered him:

“I care little, … I think you are like an old woman and afraid to fight the soldiers and the people, and a coward is no brother of mine.” (“Blazer 1999: pg. 156”)

So Santana aimed his gun and shot Cha in the head.

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During Santana’s and his men’s hunt for Cha and his renegades, a group of Comanches had attacked the reservation and stole women and horses. This happened frequently and was one of the reasons why Santana wanted to have a safer reservation in the mountains. The warriors wanted to pursue the thieves immediately, but for leaving the reservation, the Apaches needed permits. Santana knew that they would get permits for hunting and gathering but not for punishing thieves. Since Santana knew his people and knew how to work with the army, he had an idea.

To be continued …

Ederer received her PhD from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in cultural anthropology. Originally from Germany, she has worked several years in Switzerland in museums such as the North American Native Museum in Zürich and with the gifted program “Universikum” in Zürich. Ederer first visited the Mescalero Apache Reservation, 70 miles southwest of Roswell, in 2013 and has since witnessed Apache coming-of-age ceremonies and even was allowed to participate in a traditional mescal agave plant roast at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, south of Carlsbad. Ederer visited Roswell’s Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives in 2019 for research purposes.