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Information courtesy of White Mountain Apache Tribe and White Mountain Apache History page.

The White Mountain Apache call themselves the Western Apache and constitute one nation of several different Apache tribes. They are closely related to the Apache located on the San Carlos, Payson, and Camp Verde reservations of Arizona. The White Mountain Apache are also related to other Apache nations: the Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarillo, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache peoples. However, variations may be found in the language, history, and culture of all Apache tribes.

The White Mountain Apache Reservation consists of 1.67 million acres (over 2,600 square miles) in east-central Arizona. The reservation ranges in elevation from 2,600 feet in the Salt River Canyon on the southwest corner of the reservation to over 11,400 feet at the top of Mount Baldy, one of the tribe's sacred peaks. It includes some of the richest wildlife habitats in the state, and more than 400 miles of streams. It is home to the Apache trout, a species brought back from the brink of extinction through the efforts of the Tribe with help from many partners. Through the Tribe's Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Division, many recreational opportunities are available on the reservation. Nearby towns and villages include Pinetop, McNary, Cibecue, Carrizo, Cedar Creek, Forestdale, Hon-Dah, East Fork, and Seven Mile. The town of Whiteriver, Arizona, is the tribal government seat.

When European exploration began, the White Mountain Apache lived in family groups and bands, with homes and farms along all of the major watercourses: the East Fork and North Fork of the White River, on Cedar Creek, Carrizo Creek, Cibecue Creek, Oak Creek, and others, all located in Arizona. The tribe farmed, growing corn, sunflowers, beans, squash, and other foods. They hunted deer and other game and collected abundant wild plant foods. The White Mountain Apache traveled widely, trading and raiding throughout the region and deep into Mexico. When the United States took control of New Mexico during the Mexican-American War, some of the Apache leaders went to Santa Fe to meet with those authorities.

In July 1869 Brevet Colonel (Major) John Green of the U.S. 1st Cavalry led a scouting expedition of more than 120 troops into the White Mountains area from Camp Goodwin and Camp Grant to the south. The expedition headed north, up the San Carlos River, across the Black River, and onward to the White River near the vicinity of the future site of Fort Apache, seeking to kill or capture any Apache people they encountered.

Army scouts reported finding over 100 acres of cornfields along the White River. Escapa, an Apache chief that the Anglos called Miguel, visited the camp, and invited Col. Green to visit his village. Green sent Captain John Barry, urging him "if possible to exterminate the whole village."

When Captain Barry arrived at Miguel's village, however, he found white flags "flying from every hut and from every prominent point," and "the men, women and children came out to meet them and went to work at once to cut corn for their horses, and showed such a spirit of delight at meeting them that the officers [said] if they had fired upon them they would have been guilty of cold-blooded murder."

Green returned to the White Mountains in November 1869, and met again with the Apache leaders Escapa (Miguel), Eskininla (Diablo), Pedro, and Eskiltesela. They agreed to the creation of a military post and reservation, and directed Green to the confluence of the East and North Forks of the White River. The following spring troops from the 21st Infantry and 1st Cavalry were ordered to establish a camp on the White Mountain River.

On May 16, 1870 the U.S. Military began construction of Camp Ord. The camp would be renamed Camp Mogollon, then Camp Thomas, and finally, Camp Apache. The post was designated Fort Apache in 1879. The Army abandoned Fort Apache in 1922. In 1923 the site became the home of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Theodore Roosevelt Indian Boarding School. First intended to serve Diné (Navajo) children, by the 1930s a majority of students at the school were Apache. Today Theodore Roosevelt School continues to serve as a middle school under the administration of a school board selected by the Tribal Council.

On November 9, 1891, by Executive Order, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation was established. Now known as the White Mountain Apache Reservation, it originally included the San Carlos Apache Reservation but was separated by an act of Congress in 1897.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe consists of approximately 15,000 members. The majority of the population lives in and around Whiteriver, while other tribal members reside in the communities of Cibecue, Carrizo, Cedar Creek, Forestdale, Hon-Dah, McNary, East Fork, and Seven Mile. The Whiteriver Unified School District and the Cibecue Community School offer public education. Other educational institutions include the Theodore Roosevelt School and John F. Kennedy School operated by the Indian Education Division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the East Fork Lutheran Mission School. Higher education opportunities are available through the regional Northland Pioneer College, which has a center at Whiteriver. Many Apache young people attend Arizona's three state universities and other schools and colleges around the country. Currently, tribal economics center on tourism and outdoor recreation, with some logging on reservation lands as well. The tribe operates the Hon-Dah Resort Center and Casino, as well as the Sunrise Park Ski Resort. Both properties are located on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

White Mountain Apache Tribe


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