HUERA THE BRAVE?
The Chiricahua Apache woman Huera, depicted on P. 28 of John P. McWilliams’ June 2017 Indian Life article [“Geronimo Called Wife Huera ‘The Bravest of Apache Women’”], looks familiar. I’m enclosing a copy [see above] of a tintype I purchased about 10 years ago. I bought the photo because of the Indian police badge and 1875 Remington single-action revolver the Apache man is carrying. I have no clue as to the identities, but I’m wondering if the woman in the tintype is a young Huera (aka Tze-gu-juni). Could the young man be Mangas (son of Mangas Coloradas)? Thanks.
Editor responds: Perhaps a fellow reader can identify the Apaches in your tintype. We’ll forward any replies.
I enjoyed John McWilliams’ article about “the bravest of Apache women,” Huera. But was she the bravest? I have given many talks on the Tres Castillos battle and other stories relating to this event and have led groups of historians to the site many times, as my families are from Chihuahua, and I know the area very well. My grandmother Maria del Rayo (Mary of the Thunderbolt) Armendáriz de Ortega was a 15-year-old eyewitness to the triumphal entry of Joaquín Terrazas and the caravan when he returned to Chihuahua City 10 days after the battle. She told us about the parade, the waving of the scalps on lances, and also described the captive women in a city corral. I have her photograph and also a printed page of a Chihuahua newspaper that shows the woman. The captives Siki (the grandmother, later called Francesca) and Huera are easily identifiable in the print. But it was the grandmother, not Huera, who stole the knife, led the escape and killed the mountain lion that attacked them. Geronimo later married the badly scarred grandmother, not Huera. They made it back through our area to Monticello and the Warm Springs reservation, not San Carlos. That came later. On the Huera story, I would recommend books by Angie Debo, Jason Betsinez, Eve Ball, Joaquín Terrazas and my friend Dan Thrapp.
Luis Pérez Ortega
Silver City, N.M.
John McWilliams responds: There seems to be some confusion on the letter writer’s part. First, Siki Toclanni was never confused with Francesca. Siki was never called “grandmother.” That appellation was a sign of respect shown only to old Nana’s wife. In truth there are conflicting accounts between Francesca and Huera and Tze-gu-juni. However, according to many sources Tze-gu-juni is equated with Huera, as is Francesca, who was buried near the Geronimo cemetery at Fort Sill as Francesco (a Mexican male name). Further, per author Peter Aleshire, Geronimo did say Tze-gu-juni (aka Huera, aka Francesca or Francesco) was the bravest of Apache women, on PP. 76–77 of Reaping the Whirlwind: The Apache Wars. He also apparently took her as his last wife, because of the esteem in which he held her. Huera was captured in 1885 and subsequently sent back east as a prisoner of war. There she provided great moral comfort to many of the Chihenne Apache women as they lost loved ones to disease, overcrowding, malnutrition and generally hellacious conditions. With all due respect, who is to say this Mexican familial hand-me-down story is any more accurate than any other Apache hand-me-down story? It is still based on multigenerational hearsay. Should Huera or even Nana’s wife be maligned for any reason? They were both very brave Apache women, regardless of the details. Regarding the return to San Carlos, that comes from James Kaywaykla’s recollection and that of Nana’s wife, recorded by Eve Ball on PP. 68–174 of her book In the Days of Victorio: Recollections of a Warm Springs Apache. The reference to the returning former enslaved Apache women being brought to Ojo Caliente seems mistaken, as the Ojo Caliente site had been closed by 1878, the Chihenne Apaches sent forcefully to the San Carlos Indian Reservation. The U.S. military returned the women to their people years later, around 1884. The military would not have returned them to a place where their people no longer resided.
On P. 69 of the June 2017 feature article about Charles Windolph [“Last Man Standing,” by John Koster], I read that he worked at the Homestake Mine in Lead, S.D., for 49 years. My mother’s uncle worked at the mine for quite a few years, and when I was a boy, he took us in when our family visited Lead. I remember standing in front of a stack of gold bars. A number of years ago my wife and I revisited the mine; it was closed and full of water, but there was a museum of sorts and a statue out front with former employees. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember my mother’s uncle’s name. He might have known Charles Windolph.
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