San Carlos Apache Reservation

Arizona Capitol Times Staff//March 18, 2016

San Carlos Apache Reservation

Arizona Capitol Times Staff//March 18, 2016

TP 031816-620

Despite its stark appearance, the U.S. Indian Agency at the San Carlos Apache Reservation was a marked improvement over the “…log hut with an earthen floor and canvas doors” that served as headquarters when John P. Clum, newly appointed agent, arrived on the reservation on Aug. 8, 1874.

Prior to Clum’s tenure, there had been a succession of short-term agents at San Carlos and great unrest among the 700 Apaches who lived there. Two companies of cavalry had been unable to keep order.

Convinced he could manage the Apaches himself, the 23-year-old Clum’s first order of business was to rid the reservation of soldiers. It was a decision that created controversy and contention, but Clum insisted that army interference was a root cause of Indian unrest on reservations.

Clum liked the Apaches and treated them fairly. They, in turn, cooperated when he set up a court system, using leading chiefs as a council of judges, and established an Apache police force to maintain order. He insisted on a regular head count of his charges, assuring the Indians that it was not just to see that they stayed on the reservation, but also to give them an alibi should they be falsely accused of raiding.

Each week he issued 300 pounds of beef, 50 pounds of flour, eight pounds of sugar, four pounds of coffee, one pound of salt and two bars of soap for each 100 Indians.

Clum engaged the Apaches in the construction of adobe buildings at the agency, and found them eager to work.

By 1875, relations between Apache and Anglo were more harmonious than at any time, since the Apache Wars had begun in 1860. Each tribe had been guaranteed title to specific land “forever,” and Clum had demonstrated that a reservation could be managed for the welfare of its inhabitants.

But Clum’s good works could not stem the tide of events to come, for 1875 was also the year that the government’s policy of “concentration” – a cruel and thoughtless uprooting of Indians from ancestral lands to be forced together into large groups with disregard for tribal differences and animosities – was put into force. From the beginning, it was a disaster. The net result was 11 more years of Apache wars with the most arduous military campaign in American history, the death of hundreds of civilians in the United States and Mexico, and untold damage and suffering to the Apaches.

—   Photo courtesy Arizona Historical Society; research by W. Lane Rogers.