Message #229: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: TB struck 300 of 519 Chiricahua Date: Mon, 16 Jun 1997 09:39:03 -0700 http://www3.pbs.org/ppol/apache.html The People's Plague On Line: The Chiricahua Apaches Text excerpted and condensed from the public television program The People's Plague: Tuberculosis in America. Narration: At the turn of the century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in America. Everyone was susceptible; but some were more susceptible than others. Northern Europeans, who'd been exposed for generations, had acquired some resistance to TB, but populations that had never faced the disease had almost none. Interview with Alan Kraut: When Caucasian explorers began to come to the New World they encountered native Americans and the encounter was a deadly one from the standpoint of the Indians.... - tuberculosis, measles, smallpox -- and those diseases devastated the native American population. Hundreds of thousands of Indians died because they had no immunities to those diseases being brought from Europe. Narration: The Chiricahua Apaches, a nomadic tribe of the desert Southwest, had never been touched by TB. Then, in the fall of 1886, 5000 US soldiers captured a force of 35 Chiricahua Apaches that had eluded and embarrassed the government for years. The rag-tag band of warriors, women and children was headed by Chief Naiche and his now-legendary medicine man, Geronimo. The remainder of the tribe, 500 in all, had been living peacefully on reservations in Arizona; but the government sent them with Geronimo's band to a Florida prison. On the journey from the desert southwest to the humid east coast, tuberculosis attacked the Chiricahua for the first time. Interview with Henrietta Stockel: It was an unseen enemy. It was not something they could aim their bows and arrows at, aim their guns at and shoot. It wasn't something they could outrun. It wasn't something they could pray to be relieved of. It just wouldn't go away. Narration: After ten days on the train, the Apaches were interned at Fort Marion in St. Augustine. They were crowded together on the fort's parapet; their outhouse was a sandy floor a few feet from the water supply. Weakened by the journey, sick from unfamiliar food and filthy living conditions, the Indians did not have the strength to fight the disease. Fearing a mutiny, the army shipped Geronimo and his seventeen men to Fort Pickens, an island prison three hundred miles to the west. Local authorities began to ferry tourists across Pensacola Bay to meet and mingle with the famous Apache warriors. Interview with Henrietta Stockel: Well, Geronimo played to the sympathies of the tourists... ladies were going back and forth in this boat bringing blueberry muffins, shirts, pants, food to the 17 warriors and none of them none of them fell ill. Narration: The army moved the remaining adults to Fort Vernon, in a humid, swampy part of Alabama; their TB promptly became worse. Meanwhile, the children were sent away to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Interview with Henrietta Stockel: There were 116 children initially removed from their parents. They lived in very close dormitory quarters. Of the 116 Apache children at Carlisle, 37 died from tuberculosis. Captain Henry Pratt who was the superintendent of Carlisle at the time devised a plan and that was to put terminally ill Apache children on trains and send them back to the prison camp at Mt. Vernon, Alabama to die and by doing that, he avoided the statistics that were alarming government officials. Some of the children were so ill that they dies en route. When the train arrived at the Mt. Vernon prison camp, those children who managed to survive the trip would unload the corpses of their friends and put them into the arms of the waiting parents who buried them. This was the case of Chappo Geronimo who was at the Carlisle school and was sent home and after Geronimo took his son off the train, three days later Chappo died. Interview with Henrietta Stockel: Out of a population of 519 Chiricahua who were first imprisoned, approximately 300 died as victims of tuberculosis during their 27 years as American prisoners of war.