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Warrior Woman: The Story of Lozen, Apache Warrior and Shaman

Warrior Woman: The Story of Lozen, Apache Warrior and Shaman

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Warrior Woman: The Story of Lozen, Apache Warrior and Shaman

4/5 (1 évaluation)
378 pages
9 heures
Jun 30, 2015


Warrior Woman is the story of Lozen, sister of the famous Apache warrior Victorio, and warrior in her own right. Hers is a story little discussed in Native American history books. Instead, much of what is known of her has been passed down through generations via stories and legends.

For example, it is said that she was embued with supernatural powers, given to her by the gods. She would lift her arms to the sky and place her palms against the wind, and through the heat she felt in her open hands, she could detect the direction and distance of her enemies. Whether true or not, she did ride into battle alongside Geronimo in the Apache wars, and fought bitterly and savagely until she was captured along with her people, packed into railroad cars, and sent to imprisonment in the east, where she spent her last days.

Peter Aleshire uses historical facts and oral histories to recreate her life. With immaculate detail he tells the story of her childhood, surrounded by the vastness of nature and the Chiricahua legends and religions that shaped her thoughts. He describes her coming-of-age ceremonies, and induction into her tribe as a spiritual leader. As the white men slowly took over the land of her people and forced them from one reservation to another, her role slowly evolved to match that of the staunchest warrior -- an almost unheard-of occurence among the Native Americans of the 19th century, where a woman's place was with the children in the villages.

This is not only the story of Lozen, but the story of her people, from the events leading up to the Apache Wars until their inevitable and unfortunate conclusion.

Jun 30, 2015

À propos de l'auteur

Peter Aleshire is a respected and prolific journalist and author of two books, Reaping the Whirlwind and The Fox and the Whirlwind. He teaches in the Department of American Studies at Arizona State University.

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Warrior Woman - Peter Aleshire



On the Rio Grande

September 1880

Lozen stood on the northern bank of the Rio Grande with Eclode and watched the People hurry south—not doubting the path on which her feet had been placed, but wondering at it a little. The women and children dwindling from her sight were mostly Chihenne—Lozen’s own Red Paint People.¹ They trotted through the sand, not looking back to where Lozen stood on the riverbank. Not looking back to where the soldiers came on horseback behind. Not looking back to where the keen-eyed scouts, Native American Indians enlisted by the White Eyes, held the soldiers to the trail of the Chihenne.

The Chihenne warriors, with their Mescalero allies, were mostly cast out ahead and behind the women and children. Lozen knew that Victorio, her brother and the last hope of a free people, would remain far to the rear in the place of greatest danger. Normally, Lozen would ride alongside Victorio—using the Power the God Ussen had given her to warn him when his enemies approached too closely. He relied upon her ceremony, her judgment, and the tingling of her palms.

But then Eclode’s time of birthing had come.² Lozen had taken on the responsibility of returning the Mescalero woman to the reservation—although it was a journey of many weeks along their back trail where soldiers now swarmed like ants whose hill has been broken open. It made sense she should take Eclode back, if for no other reason than to keep the goodwill of the Mescalero warriors, who had accompanied Lozen’s band. Eclode wanted to go back to the reservation, where her baby would be safe and she would not need to jump up and run into the darkness whenever a raccoon made a noise in the night. So Lozen had said she would take Eclode home.

Even so, this was not the chief reason Lozen stood now on the riverbank watching the Chihenne flee into uncertainty. In truth, Lozen walked along a path she could not see, but only feel with her feet—as she had always done.

So she turned now with her rifle, her knife, and a cartridge belt and led Eclode back along their trail, away from the river, toward the soldiers and the scouts who were coming on quickly. As she walked, she looked for a place to turn aside where they would leave no gossipy tracks leading away from the main trail to whisper their secret to the careful ears of the scouts. But she had not gone far when she saw a faint smudge of dust. It might have been a playful twist of wind or a cow and her calf or a wolf chasing an antelope—but she knew it warned of the soldiers coming on quickly. She knew the time they had to hide was running with a dry rasp through open fingers. So Lozen turned aside and hid shortly before the soldiers appeared, riding warily along the trail, led by the scouts. Eclode made no sound, even when the labor pains came upon her, for the soldiers passed by so closely Lozen could have hit them with a stone.

Lozen shifted her Winchester into position, as one of the scouts reached the place where Lozen had turned aside from the trail. She watched him intently, knowing where he would stop, stoop, and turn to look in their direction if he saw their tracks. She decided that if he looked at them, she would shoot him—and then run to the south to lead the soldiers and scouts away from the girl, whose baby was coming on as though he could not wait another hour to be out in the world. Maybe the baby did not realize how dangerous the world had become in the small space left to the People between the White Eyes and the Mexicans.

But the scout did not look up when he reached the place where they had turned aside. He went on past it, trotting, his eyes overwhelmed by the clear trail of the women and the children who had gone on this way. So Lozen turned back to Eclode, to help her in the birthing, since the time had come. Lozen sang healing songs, her voice a whisper lest it carry on a treacherous breeze to the ears of the scouts. Ussen had given Lozen great Power in healing. She usually applied it to the wounds of the warriors, since she had always gone on the raids although she was not married and had no husband to help on the war trail. But, of course, she was Lozen, and Victorio’s sister, the woman warrior who sat in council with the chiefs.

She had no special ceremonies for childbirth. Still, Lozen knew prayers and songs and the use of herbs that would ease this birth—so she tended Eclode. She helped Eclode squat, holding on to a branch of the tree, so the child would come more easily. She did not have the water with the herb in it that would ease the birth, but she had the four small pieces from the inner leaves of the yucca that she fed to Eclode, one after another.³ Lozen massaged Eclode’s stomach, pressing down to ease the child out and into the world. When the baby finally came, she reached down to take him, as Eclode strained, making no sound. When she had the baby fully out, Lozen moved quickly. She cut the cord with a piece of black flint the length of her thumb, then tied off the stub of the cord with a piece of yucca string. The baby came into the world suddenly, looking around and whimpering a little, but not crying much, as though he knew his enemies were near—so Lozen knew the baby would be strong and of a good disposition. She did not have the grease and red paint she normally would have smeared over the baby’s body, but she took sacred pollen and ashes from a bag on her belt and spread it to the four directions, beginning with the east. Then she took the baby and wrapped him in a piece of a blanket Eclode had brought with her. She held the baby to the four directions, beginning once again with the east, saying the prayers that would ensure strength and a long life. Lozen then returned the baby to his mother, savoring Eclode’s smile and the baby’s strength. Lozen gathered up the afterbirth and the umbilical cord she had cut away and wrapped them carefully in another piece of the blanket. She said prayers over the bundle, so the child would be strong and live a long life. Then she left Eclode for a short time to find a fruit-bearing tree in which to hang the bundle. She found a tree and then hesitated, wondering whether the scouts coming along behind might see the bundle if she put it there in the branches as tradition demanded. She hid the bundle in the tree as best she could anyway, knowing that if she tried to bury the afterbirth coyotes might dig it up and give the boy bad luck all his life. Then she prayed four times, saying to the tree, May the child live and grow up to see you bear fruit many times.

When she returned, Lozen found the baby nestled against his mother, not crying—which was good because Lozen could still feel the presence of their enemies. The scouts came back soon, working along the trail. Lozen watched them with her rifle held ready, her fingers red with the afterbirth. But the scouts once again walked past the place where Lozen and Eclode hid. One of the scouts, a Chiricahua, nearly looked in their direction as Lozen’s finger tightened on the trigger of her rifle. But he did not quite look at them, nor quite hesitate. She decided he had either not seen them or had decided not to tell the soldiers.

Soon, Lozen and Eclode and the baby were left alone, in a land full of enemies, a long way from home—at least, a long way from Eclode’s home. Lozen no longer had a home, just the yearning for the Sacred Mountain that was once home, where Ussen had laid his gifts and his burdens on her. She could only remember the hot springs where she had been happy and where the rocks, grass, and trees knew the Red Paint People—as the wind knows the hawk and the streambed the water.

Lozen let her mind rest for a moment on the memory of the hot springs, steaming in the darkness as the stars wheeled past in the sky like one of the old stories that took all night to tell. She struggled once again to see the hidden logic in how Ussen had ordered things. Why had he given them to the Sacred Mountain, the hot springs, the pines, and the grasses if he intended to let the White Eyes have them? Why had he made the White Eyes so powerful, so numerous, and so relentless—although they knew none of his prayers? Why had he made the People run like hunted deer out onto the plain on weakening legs? Why had he given her the gift of Power, if Power could only delay death a little? But she could not hold to these thoughts for very long. Such questions came like hunger when the parfleche is empty, pushed aside unsatisfied. Most things could not be understood, but merely endured. Does the rabbit understand the snare, or the hawk the updraft? So she turned her attention back to Eclode and the baby and their return to the reservation through a hard and thirsty country—with soldiers guarding all the water holes.

It was good that Lozen turned her thoughts away from Ussen’s intentions.

For the test of her faith had only begun. It was best that she had not the Power of foresight, considering what lay ahead and what loved names she must never speak again. Lozen was to live the rest of her life in the deep shadow of the decision to leave her brother for the sake of Eclode. That choice was the high, rocky ridge of her life. Once she crossed it, everything changed. Had she known, how could even Lozen—the shield of her People—have walked the bitter path upon which Ussen had set her feet?


The Mid-1830s

Near Ojo Caliente, New Mexico

First, there was White Painted Woman—who some people called Changing Woman.

She lived, in the beginning, in a dangerous world.

Maybe it was after a big flood that drowned all the People who came before, people who prayed to the wind and the lightning but who didn’t know anything about Ussen, the Creator. Maybe it was after a flood that covered the world, right up to near the top of White Ringed Mountain¹ where the receding waters left a white ring you can still see today.² Many of the animals escaped the flood, even Turkey, whose tail was caught in the rising floodwaters and so remains tipped in white. But the only person who escaped was White Painted Woman, who went to the top of White Ringed Mountain and waited there for the waters to go down again.³

When White Painted Woman came down from the mountain, she found the world was full of monsters and dangerous creatures. So White Painted Woman prayed to Ussen, Life Giver, for guidance. And a spirit came to her and said, Lie down on your back and take off your clothes out there. You must have a child by the rain. Let the water fall on your navel. That boy, when he is born, you must call Child of Water. So she did.

Then she had twins. One she called Child of Water, because his father was lightning and rain. The other child she called Killer of Enemies.

It fell to White Painted Woman to protect her children from a fearsome giant, who came every day to her camp—looking for children to eat.

A Spirit had told her, Don’t let the giant seize your children, for he is surely going to kill them. There is only one way to save your children: You must dig a hole under your fireplace and put the babies there, out of the way of the giant. When Child of Water is old enough, make a bow and arrow for him so he can kill this giant, along with the eagle and the buffalo and the antelope. When the child is old enough to shoot the arrow, let him and Killer of Enemies go out hunting.

So she dug a hole under the fire where she could hide her children. Every day she waited and cried and thought how she could protect them.

One day when Child of Water was nursing, he began to cry. She quieted him as quickly as she could, knowing the giant would hear him. Quickly she put Child of Water back under the fire.

In just that moment, the giant

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  • (4/5)
    I got this book for research on the Apache. It was well written but you need to be aware that some of the things in the book are speculative as there is very little known about this warrior woman. It did give some good insight into the Apache life and the women's place in the tribes. The main events are verifiable but many of the details aren't and are taken from unverified sources or speculation.