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Tribe of North American Indians

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Apaches, a tribe of North American Indians belonging linguistically to the Athapascan stock whose original habitat is believed to have been Northwestern Canada. The family spread southwards to California and thence diffused itself over Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Onate, in 1598, is the first writer to mention Apaches by this name. The Apaches, from their first appearance in history, have been noted for their ferocity and restlessness. Opposed to fixed abodes, they have ever been a terror to the more peaceably inclined red men.

The history of Catholic missionary effort among the Apaches is a sad one. We find Franciscans at work among them as early as 1629, when Father Benavides founded Santa Clara de Capo on the borders of the Apache country in New Mexico. Yet, though an Apache chief, Sanaba, had been converted to the Faith, we hear of the tribe itself only as a despoiler of the Christian Pueblo Indians. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Jesuit missionaries of Upper California also came in contact with the Apaches. The latter frequently harassed the reservations near the Arizona frontier with a ferocity which gained for them the appellation of the Iroquois of the West. As a means of protecting their converts, the Jesuits attempted to convert the savage Apaches, and the celebrated Father Kino (Kuehn), cosmographer and missioner, undertook the task. He made such a favorable impression on them that they invited him to dwell among them, but his death shortly after frustrated the design, and we hear no more of Jesuit missions to the tribe. In 1733, Father Aponte y Lis, a Franciscan laboring on the Texan mission, devoted his best efforts to winning over the Apaches. He persuaded the Spanish Viceroy to lend material assistance, and finally, in 1757, San Saba and San Luis de Amarillas were established; but the nomadic Apaches refused to settle on reservations, despite the efforts of Fathers Terreros, Santiesteban, Molina, and other Franciscans. Moreover, the neighboring Indians resented the attempt to domesticate the Apaches near their homes, and murdered several of the fathers. Another mission, San Lorenzo on the Rio Jose, founded in 1761, was maintained for a few years by Fathers Ximenes and Banos. Out of some 3,000 Apaches they induced about 400 to settle at the mission, and baptized 80 persons in danger of death. Hopes of lasting results were now entertained, as the Apaches allowed their children to be instructed and their sick to be visited, but the Comanches destroyed the settlement in 1769. We read of no more organized work among the Apaches. Soon after the United States Government had acquired the southwestern territories, it came into collision with the restless Apaches, and, a relentless state of war with the tribe has existed practically down to the present day. In 1870 the Apaches of Arizona were visited by the Rev. A. Jouvenceau, a secular priest, but he found no Christians among them. A few Jicarilla Apaches, living dispersed among the New Mexican settlements, have been baptized, but as a tribe the Apaches have never been Christianized. Catholic missionaries and Indian agents agree in describing them at the present day as the most savage, degraded, and immoral of all our North American Indians. Their number is estimated at 5,200, of whom 300 have been removed to Oklahoma.


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