'Massacre at Camp Grant,' by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh
In the annals of Western history, there are legends and tales of brutal massacres - from Sand Creek to Bear River to Wounded Knee. But one atrocity perpetrated against the Apaches in 1871 has gone largely overlooked.
Author Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh sheds new light on the Camp Grant Massacre in a book recently published by the University of Arizona, titled ''Massacre at Camp Grant: Forgetting and Remembering Apache History.''
The little-known atrocity happened as ''Blue Dawn Boy'' walked into the sky, following an all-night dance. Tohono O'odham warriors, backed by American and Mexican citizens, attacked the Aravaipa camp and murdered more than 100 men, women and children. In addition, more than two dozen children were stolen away and used as servants or sold into slavery.
The Aravaipa had come into Camp Grant, seeking to live in peace under the protection of American soldiers. Placing a rock on the ground, Apache Chief Es-Kin-In-Zin said, ''We have faith in you. You have spoken to us as men, not dogs. I shall bring my people to you. And so long as this stone shall last, the Aravaipa Apache will keep peace with the Americans.''
But in the 1870s, one cannot underestimate the hatred held against Native people. Many in the federal government openly lobbied for the genocide of all Indians, and Gen. Phillip Sheridan supposedly declared, ''The only good Indian is a dead Indian.''
Colwell-Chanthaphonh grew up in Tucson, and yet knew little about the horrific events. What material that was available generally told the events from the American side.
He took a different tack. Instead of trying to tell the story from beginning to end, Colwell-Chanthaphonh lets people speak in their own voices.
In one chapter, he uses versions of the attack as told by six different survivors. He doesn't try to mesh the versions, but lets the Apaches describe what they saw, experienced and felt.
While the various versions hold differences, they are most striking for what they agree on.
Colwell-Chanthaphonh also discusses various mainstream versions of the events, juxtaposing Helen Hunt Jackson's ''A Century of Dishonor'' with Larry McMurtry's ''Oh What a Slaughter.''
The author notes that American writers often tried to explain - if not excuse - the event.
Occasionally, Colwell-Chanthaphonh's work seems to get bogged down as he takes pains to explain at the beginning of each chapter what it is he is trying to accomplish. While interesting, such asides may have been better served to be in notes at the end of the chapters instead.
His book is most powerful when he steps aside and lets the people involved in the massacre - on one side or the other - give their versions of the time.