ASU professor shares personal story of Yavapai-Apache scouts in new book
Maurice Crandall presented special program titled, "After the Whirlwind: Yavapai-Apache Scouts and the Worlds They Made" in Prescott Feb. 2
PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Maurice Crandall, a member of the Yavapai Apache Nation and a history professor at Arizona State University, presented a special program titled, "After the Whirlwind: Yavapai-Apache Scouts and the Worlds They Made" at the Natural History Institute in Prescott.
The presentation explored the history of Yavapai-Apache scouts and the unique contributions they made to Arizona history.
Crandall, who previously taught at Dartmouth College, is an award-winning author whose first book, "These People Have Always Been a Republic: Indigenous Electorates in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1598–1912," was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2019.
A graduate of Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood, Crandall proceeded to earn a doctorate from the University of New Mexico.
He has presented his research throughout the United States, as well as in Canada and Europe.
Crandall said the story of the Yavapai Apache scouts is personal and matters to him.
“This is my ancestral land. My ancestors are buried here,” he said about Yavapai-Apache land. “The Indigenous history is often told by people who don’t have a stake in it.”
Crandall's newest book is about Yavapai-Apache who served as scouts.
“If you go back far enough, we all have links to scouts,” he said.
Crandall spoke about the most famous scouts, starting with Alchisay. One of the more interesting scouts was Mickey Free, who was non-Indian but raised by Apache. Free was called “half Mexican, half Irish and all sonovabitch.”
Crandall spoke about how serving as scouts had cultural meaning and made an impact on extended families. He drew much of his research from talking to elders in order to put everything in historical context, including colonization. He said after conquerors subjugated a tribe, they would employ Indian scouts for the U.S. in every war.
He said Spain fought Apaches for decades in the 1700s before they realized it was cheaper to feed and clothe them than to fight them. This went on from 1790-1830, but they couldn’t keep them off the reservation as they often went back to their families. He said the U.S. Army used Pima and Maricopa as scouts against the Apaches.
The Indigenous scouts received the same pay as the soldiers, but had shorter periods of enlistments. The scouts would go out on reconnaissance to locate the enemy but they often ended up fighting alongside the Army.
“They provided essential duties in defeating renegades,” he said.
General Crook was known to be enamored with his Apache scouts. The scouts wore red bandannas so the Army would know who not to shoot during battles.
“Yavapai-Apache Nation served in large numbers as scouts. They proved their worth in combat,” he said, adding that 10 of them received the Congressional Medal of Honor. “They showed a great amount of courage and daring.”
Scouts played a role in Geronimo’s surrender, as two Chirichua Apaches talked him into turning himself in.
Vincent Randall, a Yavapai -Apache elder, told Crandall the subject of scouts is not a pleasant subject and a lot of Yavapai-Apache don’t talk about it because “it turned people against people; family against family.”
When Scouts went home, they had a purifying ceremony and it would be forgotten and considered to be in the past.
“We’re still sorting through that,” he said.
Crandall said he is respectful, but telling the stories that need to be told. He said when he started researching the scouts he found that many of his tribal members did not know about them, so they thanked him.
“You can’t heal if you don’t talk about it,” he said.
Crandall said General Crook broke promises to the Yavapai -Apache. He said the Yavapai -Apache were placed on the Rio Verde Reserve in Cottonwood and Clarkdale and told they could stay there forever if they farmed the land.
The Yavapai-Apache lived up to their side of the deal as they farmed and irrigated the land, but in 1875 the Army shutdown the reservation and moved them to San Carlos where it was drier and harder. Some Yavapai-Apache became scouts so they could return to the Verde Valley when not scouting.
Many of the scouts made enough money that they could feed and clothe their families, including their extended families.
“Scouting meant taking care of your kin,” he said. “You could also live the old way with freedom of movement, be outside and carry a gun. There was also a desire to end the war so your people could live peacefully.”
Yavapai-Apaches left San Carlos over a period of several years. Some left and worked on roads like the Apache Trail or dams such as Roosevelt Dam. Some left to seek work elsewhere. They left both as individuals and as family units, and they mostly left on foot, wagon or horseback.
After 1900, when the Indian wars ended, the scouts were reintegrated into their communities. While they were scouts, they often learned economic and development skills that were used to help their tribes after they returned to them.
The one promise that General Crook tried to keep was that scouts were to receive pensions after they retired, if they served at least six months.
“A scout’s pension could support a family, especially during the depression,” Crandall said.
The pensions were also important for medical treatment for many of the problems scouts acquired while serving. The Ft. McDowell Apache Reservation was established because they had members who served as scouts.
Mike Burns, a Yavapai-Apache scout, was accepted as the first Indian citizen in Arizona in 1908 because he served as a scout.
Ismail Smiley was another famous scout, as he was known for embellishing his scouting escapades including claiming capturing Geronimo, which wasn’t true.
Crandall said Navajos were also known to serve as scouts, especially at Ft. Winage where they had campaigns against Mescalaros. His research did not find any record of Hopis serving as scouts.
He noted that some Hopis refused to go to boarding school and were sent to Alcatraz.