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The excerpt below is from a working manuscript by John Hartman, who as the husband of the late Velma Bullis Hartman, great granddaughter of Chief Capitan Chiquito, and former San Carlos Indian Health Hospital clinic coordinator, is dedicated to securing the protection of Big Sycamore Stands There, the Aravaipa Apache settlement where the Camp Grant Massacre took place, along with researching and preserving the sites history.
The Story of Capitan Chiquito
By John Hartman
We brought her skull back in January.
It had been sitting in a drawer at the Smithsonian for 140 years, ever since Dr. Valary Havard picked it up from the massacre site and sent it back east. She was an Apache woman of 25 to 30 years old. Her skull was intact, so it had not been smashed in by Papago war clubs. She was probably shot or stabbed and, hopefully, not violated. When my wife died the following summer, I thought of the words of an elderly Apache lady at our repatriation meetings: "You all are not even supposed to be talking about this! This is not the Apache way to be thinking of the dead, or to have anything to do with the bones of the dead!" Yet another Apache woman related the story of a woman she met at a Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act meeting in Albuquerque. This woman worked in the very room that many Apache bones and artifacts are held. One day she had an Ezekiel like vision there. She said that the bones of the Apache people came together and told her," We want to go back to Ni Te gochi. Ni Te gochi is the old Apache name for the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
I think of my departed wife as an Apache princess, since her great-grandfather was a well-known and revered Apache chief. I did not even know that my wife was Apache when I fell in love with her many years ago in Los Angeles. When she finally agreed to marry me, we determined to come to the San Carlos Apache Reservation to take care of her father in his final years. I took a job with Indian Health Service in the San Carlos emergency room. My wife, Velma, worked with tribal social services. Her father was the grandson of Chief Capitan Chiquito, and he told me much about his grandfather. When he told me that his grandfather was in prison with Geronimo, I thought to myself: Oh sure, everyone wants a Geronimo connection. Capitan Chiquito was not Chiricauhua. This must be a family myth. I was later to discover that this myth was a reality.
About six months before Capitan Chiquito's grandson died, he pointed out the window on the south side of our home. He said, Do you see those bare breasted Apache maidens dancing there? I said, Im sorry Lonnie. I wish I could, but I cannot. I later learned that Apache women only danced bare breasted in a Victory dance when their men would return from a successful raid into Mexico.
I do not believe that I violated any Apache taboo for my part in returning this Apache ladys skull. An Apache Medicine Man once told me that this woman's spirit would never rest until her skull was brought back to the place of her murder. On a recent trip to the massacre site I walked among the graves with one of Capitan Chiquito's great grandchildren from his son Joe. I always get a feeling of nausea when I walk there. It is a place of screams, rape and murder. Not just one murder, but many. They were mostly women and children and babies. My friend was speaking in Apache as we walked along and I asked her what it was that she was saying. She said that they were asking her what we were doing here. She told them that we are here in respect of you and we want to see the place where Capitan Chiquito lived and died. The mesa of the massacre is overgrown with cholla cactus. You must be careful with every step or a cactus ball can penetrate your shoe. They are sometimes called jumping cactus, as you find them on your shirt or pants without even thinking that you touch the one. The spirits told her that the mesa is covered with cholla cactus because they do not want to be disturbed. There is much controversy about this place. It is thought to be haunted and is definitely a place where men have done evil to other men. There is an Apache saying that wisdom sits in places. That is to say, that the land itself influences the events that take place upon it, and the human events that take place upon the land leaving everlasting imprint upon it.
The young womans skull that we returned that day was possibly one of Capitan Chiquitos wives. It is documented that he had one or two wives killed in the massacre that morning. I do not believe that my wife's death took place because we returned that young lady's remains, but I do believe in serendipity. There are wheels within wheels and a time for every purpose under heaven. I feel that the return of my wife's ancestor was part of what she needed to accomplish to put closure on her life. The day that Velma became ill, I retired from the San Carlos emergency room after 21 years. There is nothing for me here in San Carlos now. It was an honor to serve the Apache tribe. I need to move on. Velma left the planet from the same West room and window of our home where her father left 14 years before her. The sister of the Medicine Man that brought the Sunrise Dance back to the San Carlos reservation once told me, John, if you ever try to leave Apache land, I will sing you back! You are an Apache captive. Well, she has left now through that same Western portal as my wife. It is time for me to leave here, and I pray to Usen, the Apache Father/Mother God, to guide me until the end of my life, and to give it purpose.
But before they will let me go, I have a story to tell.
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Deanna Bullis, great-granddaughter of Chief Capitan Chiquito, visits the grave of her sister Velma.
This photograph from the Smithsonian depicts the skull of a young Apache woman that was stolen from the burial site of the Camp Grant Massacre.