MANGAS COLORADAS: Chief of the Chiracahua Apaches by Edwin R. Sweeney

MANGAS COLORADAS: Chief of the Chiracahua Apaches

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A plodding, long, but serviceable biography of the great Apache leader. Sweeney (Cochise, 1991) synthesizes the existing literature on Mangas Coloradas, alias ""Red Sleeves,"" a strikingly gifted Apache war leader and diplomat who was ambushed and murdered by American soldiers in 1863. He also tums up some hitherto unknown details about Mangas Coloradas's life and, more valuably, debunks earlier portrayals--especially the unreliable writings of the contemporary journalist John C. Cremony. It was Cremony who spiced up an already dramatic story by writing that Mangas Coloradas turned against the US government (toward which he had originally been well-disposed) as the result of an unceremonious beating he received at the hands of white gold miners. Sweeney believes that this incident never took place; instead, Mangas Coloradas simply ran out of options in attempting to negotiate the boundaries of a territory his people, the Chiricahua Apaches, could call their own. ""Intolerable American encroachment,"" according to Sweeney, ""came in the form of miners, farmers, and ranchers. They swallowed up much of his country, occupied prime fanning areas, devoured the earth by mining, and drove out much of his game."" And when those Americans did so, Mangas Coloradas took up arms, leading his people in a ferocious two-year war against the US Army. That war cost the Apaches dearly, and it was settled only briefly; as Sweeney notes, Mangas Coloradas's son-in-law (the better-known war leader Cochise) continued the struggle--as did a distant relative named Geronimo. The irony in all this, Sweeney properly remarks, is that the Americans could easily have made a lasting peace with Mangas Coloradas, whose demands for self-determination were altogether modest. Sweeney's narrative is weighted down with too much incidental detail, but it accords the great Apache leader his due.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma