The Tucson Ring

Brushing Against, Little Squint Eyes, San Carlos Apaches, 1897. (Florn88 / Wikimedia Commons)

Brushing Against, Little Squint Eyes, San Carlos Apaches, 1897. (Florn88 / Wikimedia Commons)

We are still fighting the Indian wars, and we treat the rest of the world—with the possible exception of Europe—as if it were Indian Territory. In the pages of John G. Bourke’s ethno-history of the late nineteenth-century North American Southwest, On the Border with Crook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), we note the formation of a shadowy group in Arizona that was dedicated to the diabolical proposition that success in life is measured by profits:

[At Camp Verde] the prospects of the Apaches looked especially bright, and there was hope that they might soon be self-sufficient; but it was not to be. A “ring” of Federal officials, contractors, and others was formed in Tucson, which exerted great influence in the national capital, and succeeded in securing the issue of peremptory orders that the Apaches should leave at once for the mouth of the sickly San Carlos, there to be herded with other tribes. It was an outrageous proceeding, one for which I should still blush had I not long since gotten over blushing for anything that the United States government did in Indian matters. (216-217)

This relocation to Camp Verde was prompted by the earnings that would ensue from the selling of provisions to the federal government for the allocations promised to the Apaches. If the Indians ever became self-sufficient, the stream of federal funds would dry up. It was necessary for the Tucson Ring to insure that the Apaches remained wards of the government:

A matter of great grievance with the Apaches, which they could not understand … was why their little farms … should be destroyed—as they were—and why their cattle and horses should be driven off by soldiers and citizens…. The whole scheme of Caucasian contact with the American aborigines—at least the Anglo-Saxon part of it—has been based upon that fundamental maxim of politics so beautifully and so tersely enunciated by the New York alderman—“The ‘boys’ are in it for the stuff.” The “Tucson ring” was determined that no Apache should be put to the embarrassment of working for his own living; once we let the Apaches become self-supporting, what would become of “the boys”? (437)

If the Apaches complained of the quality of the goods, or resented the relocation to “the malaria-reeking flats of the San Carlos,” or rebelled against the slavish submission to a foreign power, the Tucson Ring went into action:

The conspirators had only to report by telegraph that the Apaches were “uneasy,” “refused to obey the orders of the agent,” and a lot more stuff of the same kind, and the Great Father would send in ten regiments to carry out the schemes of the ring.

For there were profits to be made then also:

The motive of some being … a desire to induce the bringing in of more troops from whose movements and needs they might make money.

Band of Apache Indian prisoners at rest stop beside Southern Pacific Railway, near Nueces River, Tex. (Geronimo is third from the right, in front), 1886.  (Rolling Thunder / Wikimedia Commons)

Band of Apache Indian prisoners at rest stop beside Southern Pacific Railway, near Nueces River, Tex. (Geronimo is third from the right, in front), 1886. (Rolling Thunder / Wikimedia Commons)

This never-ending cycle of occupation of a foreign territory, which is showered with aid by the federal government (as long as the funds are used to buy goods and services from American companies), and military “surges” used to squash native opposition to the status quo, is a dynamic that is familiar to us in our time.

In the months before 9/11 George W. Bush created an Energy Task Force, chaired by then Vice-President Dick Cheney, in order to develop a national energy policy. The task force included cabinet members, administration officials, and held secret meetings with private executives and energy industry leaders. One wonders about the influence of such meetings on the government policies that led us into Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.

“The ‘boys’ are in it for the stuff.” Cheney still thinks we should have left troops behind in Iraq (Fox News).

OG

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