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“Civilize” and “Christianize” Navajo Treaty

Ndé (Mescalero Apache) Escape


Throughout 1865, drought, hail, frost, and plagues of insects destroyed the crops the Mescalero Apaches could raise at Bosque Redondo. While the Civil War continued to drain supplies from New Mexico, Brigadier General James H. Carleton ordered rations to the internees be reduced. The resulting shortages of food, along with disease epidemics, led to many Mescalero deaths. On November 3 of that year, hundreds of Mescalero Apache men, women, and children crept silently away from the concentration camp in carefully planned precision. Just nine stayed behind to tend their fires and present the appearance that nothing was amiss. The Mescaleros scattered as they fled to frustrate their pursuers and to ensure that at least some among them might live.

One night we left; we slipped away, very quietly, and started back to our mountains where there was pure, cold water and plenty of wood and no worms, no bad smells, no Navajos, and no soldiers. It took us several days to reach our old camp in a hidden valley in the Guadalupes. Death meant nothing to us if it could be in that good place which Ussen [Creator] had given us.

Big MouthNdé


Within a few days of the escape, the nine who remained also fled Bosque Redondo. In response to the Mescaleros' escape, General James H. Carleton initiated the first of several pursuits and ordered his soldiers to kill all Mescalero men. Stories passed down by the Mescaleros relate that the U.S. Army killed not only men, but women and children as well. The Mescaleros scattered to create many trails and frustrate their pursuers. Some headed to Mexico, some joined the Warm Springs and Lipan Apaches, and some joined Comanche bands. Small groups of Mescaleros wandered for years until negotiations began for the Mescalero Apache Reservation in the early 1870s.

Our old people say that the soldiers pursued them, went after them and hit them with the butts of their guns, shot them down. Men, women, and children were shot on the way out. As many as could get away got away, but those that they could catch, they punished them by killing them. The books don't say that. So, this is what the old people say happened to ours.

Frederick Peso Ndé