“No Statue of Liberty
Ever greeted our arrival in this country…
We did not, in fact
Come to the United States at all.
The United States came to us.”
― Luis Valdez
Part Two of Two photo/essays on a recent outing to Fort Verde State Park in Camp Verde Arizona.
Fort Verde State Park offered to me a fascinating glimpse into the values, beliefs, goals, lifestyle, technology, fashion, weapons, and recreations of the U.S. Military in the latter part of the 1800’s.
A small museum/gift shop is located in the original Military Headquarters Building along with a museum revealing in artifacts, film, photos, information boards, and very knowledgeable Park Service employees…. who value storytelling… exactly what brought the 306 enlisted men, 11 officers, 19 civilians, and 36 Apache Tribal Members acting as Scouts, to the Verde Valley in the 1860’s. And while I twice would snort in disdain at the smooth over depiction of the U.S. Army’s treatment of the already settled into the area tribal population, this beautifully executed museum enabled me to become an observer, see the events and people involved from a distance, while standing in place see their place in the events. As an observer, I could appreciate for the first time a bigger story than I previously knew: The variety of goals, values, and belief systems of very different individuals and groups that were sharing one space, the clash and conflict inevitable. Miners, ranchers, settlers, U.S. Government, and the U.S. Army all focused on this place and time where I stand now for very different reasons. Whether in their behaviors and actions, or choices of possessions ( shown in the well narrated display cases )- the tools, clothing, weapons, correspondence, or technology all these things speak the story of what the people involved valued.
While the Civil War raged, the United States Congress passed the“Arizona Organic Act(1863)“, splitting the western portion of the New Mexico Territory and declaring it the new Arizona Territory. Slavery was abolished in this new Territory, a practice already limited in the area by the Mexican tradition, laws, and settlement lifestyles. The Arizona Organic Act can be traced to businessmen from Ohio with silver mining investments in southwestern area , taking their request for Arizona Territorial status to Congress. was Union Army needed silver for the war. The following year Prescott was named the Territorial Capital and not only were businessmen investing in mining operations, but a placer gold strike near Prescott, brought thousands of ill prepared and inexperienced miners into the region:
Farmers, merchants, and would be homesteaders were further encouraged to travel west and settle in the bottom lands of the Verde River to farm and build communities:
At issue with this westward migration of people, industry, and land use, was the fact that the geographical area was already occupied and well established into the functioning communities of the Yavapai and Tonto Apache Tribes.
The conflicts came with the sudden intensified land and resource use in an ecological area where the margin for sustainability is often thin between enough and ruin, living and death. The conflicts came in culture clashes, with differences in goals, experiences, lifestyles, beliefs of land ownership, restrictions on land use, purpose and value of mining, and rules of engagement for the raiding/respect of other communities.
It took over a year but soon these conflicts lead the businessmen with mining interests, miners, settlers, and ranchers , as residents of the newly recognized Territory of the United States to demand assistance/protection from the native tribes by the U.S. Government. First to assist were a voluntary military of Mexican recruits, who marched barefoot on half rations, but were recognized by the U.S. Army as ‘brave fighters.’
In 1865 the regular U.S. Army arrived with a tent camp near West Clear Creek, releasing the volunteer recruits from duty the following year. The tent camp relocated once and again, with malaria prompting the final move in 1870 to the present location, named Camp Verde. With 22 buildings constructed around a parade ground Camp Verde soon served as a staging base, with connecting roads built to service Fort Whipple to the west and Fort Apache to the East.
In addition to the road building goal, the U.S. Army was charged with enforcing the Federal Indian Policy to control the Yavapai and Tonto Apache Tribes by creating reservations (specific geographical areas designated by the U. S. Government for Native Tribes to live on.)
While the different Tribes were recognized by the Army as ferocious fighters, and had the advantage of local knowledge , the Tribes were at a very real disadvantage as they were simultaneously responsible for their families, they lacked the modern technology, weapons, training, discipline, supplies, of the U.S. Army. and were already involved in disputes and responding to raids from other Tribes.
Between 1873 and 1875, nearly One Thousand Fifteen Hundred people from different Tribes were relocated to the 800 acre Rio Verde Reservation near Cottonwood, where they dug irrigation ditches and put fifty six acres under cultivation. But very quickly (February 1865), business men and settlers wanted the land for commercial mining, farming and ranching and took their demands to the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Army was charged with the responsibility of relocating entire tribal population, and did so on an 180 Mile 10 day winter walk without adequate food, water, or shelter to the Sans Carlos Agency in Globe. The number of tribal members who died or disappeared is disputed, but I believe well over one hundred.
Following this move, the U.S. Army primarily policed the reservations and their people renaming Camp Verde, Fort Verde in 1879. The post was abandoned in 1899, and sold at Public Auction in 1899.
Made a State Park in 1970 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places one year later. There is much more to see, I encourage you to go, and Arizona is not bragging when claiming Fort Verde State Park to be ‘the best preserved example of an Indian Wars period fort in Arizona.’
Park and Facility Hours : 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily Visitor Center/Park Store 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily Park Entrance Fees Adult (14+): $7.00
Youth (7–13): $4.00
Child (0–6): FREE
Interested in Arizona or Tribal History? Here’s my recommendations:
Jack Utter- American Indians: Answers to Today’s Questions- Second Edition- 2001 National Woodlands Publishing/University of Oklahoma Press
Marshall Trimble – Roadside History of Arizona–
An excellent week to each and everyone.