Apache chief (c. 1825-1880). Proper name: Bidu-ya or Beduiat.

Victorio was a member of the Chihenne band of the Apaches, sometimes known as the Eastern Chiricahua. Some say he was part Mexican or part Navajo, but there's no real evidence of that. He said he was an Apache, and I ain't gonna say he weren't.

When he was in his 20s, he was already considered either a chief or a sub-chief, and he began riding with Geronimo. He became a leader of a band of Chiricahuas and Mescaleros in New Mexico and Arizona, and in the wake of Cochise's war against the Americans, he and other Apaches decided to try to accomodate the Army by living on reservations, especially after they were promised fair treatment, plentiful food and clothing, and living space on traditional Apache land.

Unfortunately, most of those promises were not kept. From 1870-1886, the Apaches were moved multiple times around three or more different reservations -- they often had to live in extremely poor conditions, with little food, extreme overcrowding, away from their traditional home. They once had to move just as crops were ripening, and they were often threatened by the Army. In time, Victorio and some of his band decided to leave the reservations and start fighting against the Americans again. Among his most trusted advisors were his predecessor as chief, Nana, who was considered the Apache's greatest strategist, and Victorio's sister Lozen, who was one of the Apache's bravest warriors.

Victorio's great success was only partly because of his military might. He was also greatly respected by other Apaches. During a battle at the Black Range near Ojo Caliente in the early months of 1880, a party of scouts had Victorio and his band pinned down in a crossfire. The scouts' leader, H.K. Parker, called for the Apache women to leave the camp so they wouldn't be hurt. The women said they'd stay in the camp and promised that, if Victorio died, "they would eat him, so that no white man should see his body."

Victorio led a raid on American settlers near Alma, New Mexico in April 1880. Soldiers from Fort Bayard ran the raiders off, but a number of settlers were killed, making Victorio public enemy #1. He managed to elude the Americans for months, but in October, Victorio and his band were surrounded by the Mexican army in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, near the Rio Grande. In the ensuing battle, Victorio was killed -- the Mexicans say they shot him, the Apaches say he killed himself with a knife so that the army couldn't claim to have beaten him.

Southern New Mexico Travel and Tourism

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