Santana: War Chief of the Mescalero Apache

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9780971865815: Santana: War Chief of the Mescalero Apache

Until the publication of this volume, Santana, among the most brilliant of all Apache chiefs, has been virtually unknown in recorded history. Known in his early years as the most cunning and vicious of the Mescalero leaders waging war against the Anglo invaders, it is ironic that Santana's most notable contribution related to making peace rather than war. Anonymity is often the fate of peacemakers. Santana understood in the 1860s, earlier than most of his contemporaries, that the probable ultimate result of continued struggle with the white man was the annihilation of his people. Recognizing that he would be among the first to die as punishment for his warlike behavior, he disappeared into the mountains for 8 years, until the heat was off and the Army's attention was focused on a new generation of war chiefs. After his reappearance, he led his followers into peace to prevent their annihilation as a people and negotiated for them a reservation in their traditional homeland in the Sacramento mountains of south-central New Mexico.

Santana needed a friend from whom he could learn about the ways of the white world and who would intercede for him with the alien culture. He found that friend in J. H. Blazer, who operated a mill, La Manquina, later to become known as Blazer's Mill, on the Rio Tularoso at a site one-half mile downstream from the present-day Mescalero Agency. After their tension-fraught initial meeting in late 1867 or early 1868, the two men learned to like and respect one another and developed an abiding friendship that lasted until Santana's death from pneumonia in the winter of 1877. The manuscript itself contains both accounts of J.H. Blazer's interactions with Santana and descriptions of certain aspects of Mescalero life and culture supplied from the experience of the author, A.N. Blazer, son of J.H., and from stories told him by his Mescalero acquaintances, some of whom were contemporaries of Santana.

This is not an academic history. Any reader expecting such an account will be disappointed. Many of the events and conversations related herein cannot be verified because they come from the memories of people who had no written language (and who, it should be noted, had far better memories as a result). What is presented here is a very cogent account, verifiable in many important particulars, of a remarkable man and certain aspects of the Mescalero culture which spawned and shaped him.

Santana was a remarkable man for any age or time. Recognizing his own limitations in dealing with an Anglo juggernaut bent on overwhelming and destroying his culture and his people, he was able to step outside his cultural heritage of war and conquest and use his exceptional skills as a tactician, negotiator and leader to find a way to preserve both with a minimum of bloodshed. In this age of increasingly violent cultural and religious conflicts in many parts of the world, surely his story deserves substantial recognition.

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About the Author:

A.N. Blazer (1865-1949) was the son of Dr. Joseph Blazer, mill owner, Indian trader and friend and confidant of Santana. Almer arrived on the Mescalero Reservation in 1877 at the age of 12. He grew up on the reservation and remained there virtually the rest of his life, making many enduring friendships among the Mescalero people, and becoming fluent in Apache and in Spanish, the 2nd langauge of many of the older Mescaleros.

An inventor, author and noted authority on the history and culture of the Mescalero people, Almer Blazer was described by C.S. Sonnichesen, author of The Mescalero Apaches (University of Oklahoma Press, 1958) as being the Anglo most knowledgeable about the history of the Mescalero people.

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