This is the grave of Taza.
A leader of the Chiricahua Apache, Taza was born around 1843, the son of the legendary Cochise. He grew up in a period where the life for his people was in complete collapse. The various Apache groups had more than willingly adopted horses when they became available in the early 18th century but had been largely outcompeted on the Plains by the Comanches and most moved to the southwest, near what is today the U.S.-Mexico border. The Chiricahua though had been in the area for some time before this. Excellent warriors, they more than managed to hold their own against the Spanish and Mexicans for a long time. The Chiricahuas were a major raiding tribe by the early 19th century, leading the Mexican military to move against them, killing Taza’s grandfather.
By the time Taza was a young warrior, the Chiricahua were engaging in raids against white Americans invading their lands. In 1863, American troops killed Taza’s other grandfather, the notorious warrior Mangas Coloradas, after luring him into a trap. That led to even more war, which Taza fully engaged in. In 1872, the Chiricahua were finally defeated and Taza followed his father into the new reservation. Cochise died in 1874 and Taza became one of the Chiricahua’s most important leaders. In 1876, Taza was part of a delegation of Chiricahua that went to Washington to work for whatever they could get out of the American government. The reservation was a disaster, his people were starving, supplies were stolen by the agents supposedly in charge of them, and white settlers did not respect reservation boundaries. A typical story. Sadly Taza died on his trip, catching pneumonia, just another victim of the European diseases of conquest that went along with the genocide against his and so many other peoples. He was about 33 years old. He was not allowed to have Apache burial rites. Instead, whites buried in the way they thought appropriate while the other Apache leaders watched. White leaders talked about how this would civilize the savages. The Indian Agent for the Chiricahua:
[His] … illness and passing were not devoid of beneficial results … They afforded the Indians in our party an opportunity to observe the civilized methods and customs of … preparing the dead for burial as well as our funeral rites and ceremonies.”
In the aftermath, Taza’s brother Naiche would unite with Geronimo and take the Apaches back to war into the 1880s.
There’s no evidence that there was ever a photograph of Taza and the carving on the grave, made in 1971, was evidently a created image of what he might possibly have looked like. Somewhat surprisingly to me, there was a 1954 movie about Taza. Who played him? Rock Hudson. Hmmm… Douglas Sirk directed it as well.
Taza is buried in Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
If you would like this series to visit other graves of Native leaders, you can donate here to cover the required expenses. No one knows exactly where Cochise is buried, but it is well-known that he is somewhere buried in what is today called the Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona. I’m sure a picture of the Stronghold would be good enough. Geronimo is buried in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where the Apaches were eventually sent after their final defeat. Previous posts in this series are archived here.