Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mangas Coloradas

More than a decade ago, I had a subscription to a magazine dedicated to the Wild West. Truthful articles filled the pages regarding almost every subject related to the era; the Gold Rush, famous shoot-outs, notorious and never-heard-of towns, cattle drives, and colorful characters on both sides of the law. Some of these people, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, stick in a person's mind. For me, it's Apache War Chief, Mangas Coloradas.

Mangas was born in New Mexico to an Apache father and a Mexican mother in the early 1790's. The exact date and year are unknown, as is his birth name. Since the Apache language was difficult to learn and speak, the Apache people and their locales were given Spanish names. Mangas Coloradas roughly translates to 'Red Sleeves' or to 'Roan Shirt', either because Mangas wore sleeves of red cloth or because he wore the blood of his victims on his skin. He was tall for an Apache, over 6ft, with wide shoulders and what is described as a broad head and chin, though his eyes were small. Ruthless, cunning and known to leave behind trails of carnage, some historians believe Mangas was the greatest Apache War Chief to have ever lived. Others dispute that, insisting he was never recognized as their chief. Regardless, his skills as a warrior and a Chief weren't what led me relate to him. Mangas had a peaceful side.       
Red Sleeves grew up in a time when his people were at odds with the Spanish. Raiding, looting, killings, broken treaties; what he wanted most was for his people and his ancestral lands to be safe. When the United States finally drove the Spanish out of New Mexico and off Apache lands, Mangas formed a peace treaty with the U.S. and pledged his alliance with Brig. General Stephen Kearny should Kearny want to invade Mexico. The General declined. After this, Mangas was quiet for a spell. (If memory serves me correct, this is the part of his life that I had read about where he made friends with some white people, and in Colorado Territory; hence the reason he's briefly mentioned in my novel, Lady Luck.)  

The peace he found with the U.S. was short-lived. The boom in the gold rush brought whites to the Apache lands in search of the shiny rocks. Mangas tried to peacefully remove the miners from his land, promising to take them to more lucrative spots, but the miners didn't trust him. They stayed put, and eventually their polluting Apache waters and driving off Apache game led Mangas to unite the Apache bands. His daughters were given to other leaders in marriage, one most notably to Cochise. Known for his wisdom, Mangas was a firm believer the Apache bands must stick together to dismantle the threat of the U.S. or Mexico overtaking the Apache way of life.

Mangas and Cochise joined forces and led the way for what is now known as the Apache wars. Their intent was to drive all Americans off Apache lands. Mangas was captured in January of 1863 by captain Edmond Shirland's First California Volunteer Cavalry. He was taken to Fort McLean in Arizona and later killed by his guards. Most of his remains were destroyed by the white man. Among his people in today's society, he is remembered as a great leader who strove for peace.     



Caroline Clemmons said...

Julie, great post. I am familiar with Cochise, but not Mangas. I enjoyed your post a great deal. Thanks for sharing.

Ginger Simpson said...

Love learning more about the American Indian. Great post, and I'm so glad you joined us.

Keta Diablo said...

I've been fascinated by the Apache for decades, as I am with all Native American history. I've seen several pictures of Mangas (love the name) and quake just looking at him. The Apache and Commanche led fascinating, brutal lives, one that demands a distinct place in our history.

Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the post!

Ellen O'Connell said...

Sorry I'm late seeing this great post. When I researched the Apache for my Dancing on Coals, their history fascinated and saddened me so much I had trouble stopping when I should have and writing my story. I know all the tribes have tragic and interesting histories, but the Apaches were such incredible guerilla fighters (they never were beaten by the Army but lured into surrendering), and they paid such a terrible price for it.

Julie Lence said...

Hello Ladies: So sorry to be late with replying. Bad on me, I completely forgot. Like everyone mentioned, the Apache were fierce fighters. But I have a deep respect for them. There's just something fascinating about them, and Mangas has always stayed in my thoughts since I initially read about him. Love his name, too.

Lyn Horner said...

Hi Julie, nice to meet you. sorry I didn't get here sooner to greet you. I enjoyed your post tremendously. Thanks for sharing your research.