On the Bloody Road to Jesus: Christianity and the Chiricahua Apaches

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This is a study of the rich religious legacy of the Chiricahua Apaches and its inevitable collision with Christianity. Beginning with Apache creation stories, H. Henrietta Stockel describes Chiricahua beliefs and ceremonies before going on to recount the conditions of the Spanish colonial frontier at the moment of conquest. Subsequent chapters trace events that culminated in the surrender of the Chiricahua Apaches in 1886, the twenty-seven years of incarceration as American prisoners of war in Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma, and the life-changing consequences of the children's education in government-sponsored boarding schools. Stockel portrays an unbroken sequence of economic motivations on the part of the Spanish, Mexican, and American governments, each eager to expand their respective territories. Equally unbroken was the resistance of the Apaches to indoctrination. According to Stockel, the Chiricahua Apaches never completely surrendered their traditional religion to Christianity. Like other syncretistic religions, their beliefs incorporated aspects of Christian dogma even while they protected their own religion from outsiders. This is a complicated story rich in cross-cultural encounters on the battlefield, in mission churches, and in the classroom. Stockel's research and writing bring to life the fierce resistance of a heroic people.