September 4, 1886
During the late 1800’s, non-Indian settlers were flooding into southwestern United States. The Chiricahua Apache nation, including the great warrior, Geronimo, spent decades leading raids against the Mexicans and Americans. Geronimo’s mother, wife and children had been murdered at the hands of a group of Mexicans, and Apache land was disappearing at an alarming rate. For thirty years, Geronimo sought revenge.
In 1874, sixteen years after his family had been massacred, the US government displaced Geronimo and the rest of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, moving them to the San Carlos reservation in eastern Arizona. The conditions on the reservation were appalling; the Indians were now considered to be “wards of the government.” Only a few years passed before Geronimo and his followers escaped. An Apache prophet on the reservation was murdered in 1881, bringing Geronimo’s peaceful existence on the reservation to an end. More raids on white settlers followed, and Geronimo was brought back to the reservation by officials time and time again. In 1882, Geronimo was captured by Apache scouts working for the US government. He was returned to the reservation and remained there as a farmer for the next three years.
In 1885, Geronimo and 35 Chiricahua Apache warriors escaped the reservation once again. 109 women and children joined Geronimo and the warriors, and over 5,000 US troops followed the Indians into Mexico. US troops attempted to force a surrender and failed in March, 1886, but were successful on September 4 of the same year. In Skeleton Canyon, near Fort Bowie along the Arizona-Mexico border, General Nelson Miles captured Geronimo, took him into custody, and shipped him to Pensacola, Florida by rail, as a prisoner of the government.
Geronimo is known as the last great warrior to surrender to the US government; his capture marked the end of the Indian Wars of the Southwest. Geronimo became something of a celebrity in his later years, appearing at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and riding in Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration parade in 1905. He dictated his autobiography for publication in 1906, calling it Geronimo’s Story of His Life. Geronimo died of pneumonia at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1909, having spent 23 years in captivity. He is buried in the Apache Prisoner of War Cemetery at Fort Sill. The Chiricahua Apaches were released from captivity in 1913.
The Apache name for this bread can be tsegustei meaning “cooked on a rock” or chigustei which means “cooked on embers.” These days it is ordinarily cooked on a griddle. Chigustei resembles a thick version of a Mexican-style flour tortilla. It has been a familiar Apache food item for a long time and is mentioned in accounts from the 1800s. Chigustei is very good served with boiled meat.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
¾ cup warm water
Blend shortening with dry ingredients. Add water. Mix well. Knead lightly. Let the dough rest, covered in a warm place for 30 minutes. Divide dough into 6-8 pieces. Keep the dough covered until it is used. Take a piece of the dough and roll it into a flat circle no more than ¼ inch thick and cook on a non-stick griddle or lightly greased iron griddle over medium-high heat turning the bread over once. They should have dark speckles on one side and dark spots on the other. Serve them warm. They are often torn into pieces and dropped into the broth with the boiled meat.
*This recipe is from the Fort Sill Apache website, found at www.fortsillapache-nsn.gov