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post High Chaparral & Apache History, the Real Nock-Ay Del

June 23rd, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:09 pm

By Jane Rodgers

The historical accuracy of “The High Chaparral” was a source of pride for creator David Dortort, who demanded it…unless a little tweaking of history might produce a fine story. Hence, Maximillian is still alive in “The Terrorist,” even though he was executed by Juarez in 1867. And Doc Holliday heads to Tombstone sooner rather than later in “The Doctor from Dodge.” Eh, what’s a decade, give or take, especially if Jack Kelly is available to play such a charming drifter?

Especially noteworthy is the show’s accurate handling of Apache history. Geronimo we know, both from history and Rudy Ramos’s outstanding portrayal of the Bedonkohe warrior in the one man show, “Geronimo: Life on the Reservation.” As a character in THC, Geronimo appears in “Ten Little Indians,” and the real Geronimo, described by eyewitnesses as shorter and stockier than Cochise, likely resembled the uncredited actor who plays him in that episode. Geronimo had surely slimmed down to Ramos’s size by old age.

As for Cochise, his real life grandson Nino Cochise famously plays the Chiricahua chief in both the pilot and “Best Man for the Job.” The real Cochise, described as tall— even 6 feet—probably looked more like actor Michael Keep, who portrays him in season two’s “The Last Hundred Miles,” than he did his grandson or renowned character actor Paul Fix. Fix takes over as Cochise in season one when the part demands speaking, as in “A Hanging Offense.” The real-life Cochise, with whose TV counterpart John Cannon seems to meet frequently and with impunity, became close friends with at least one white man, the Indian agent Tom Jeffords.

Among the more frequent recurring Apache roles on THC is that of the Indian mystic warrior Nock-Ay-Del, played by X Brands. The Cannons get a lot of mileage out of Nock-Ay-Del once Victoria saves his life in the pilot. He appears as Cochise’s representative to bargain for peace in “The Assassins” and is mentioned in “Ride the Savage Land” and “Survival,” both times earning the principals favor amongst Apaches who’d prefer to kill them. Even perennial Apache bad guy Soldado understands Nock-Ay-Del’s significance.

The real Nock-Ay-Del was an Apache medicine man called Nochedelklinne, described in historical accounts as light-colored and slight. Nicknamed the Dreamer, Nochedelklinne launched the “ghost dance” movement among the Apache, a practice similar to that arising among the Paiutes in 1870 and spreading to the Sioux. The essence of Nochedelklinne’s prophetic dance was that the White Eyes would vanish from Apacheria, and the great chiefs Mangas Coloradas, Cochise, and Victorio would rise from the grave. These Apache revival meetings spread widely, and, like the tragic ghost dance at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890, were misunderstood by whites.

On Cibecue Creek, 46 miles north of the infamous San Carlos reservation, Nochedelklinne held a series of dances in summer 1881. On August 30, a force of over 100 soldiers, officers, and Apache scouts marched into the medicine man’s camp to arrest him. Nochedelklinne demurred, asking permission to eat a meal first. He must have eaten slowly. Tensions rose but finally the detail’s commander, Colonel Carr, escorted the gentle Nochedelklinne out of the camp. Nochedelklinne’s Apache supporters trailed the military escort and even crowded into the camp the soldiers set up en route to Fort Apache.
Then all hell broke loose.

An officer ordered the Apaches to disperse. They refused. A shot rang out. Colonel Carr allegedly ordered the soldier guarding Nochedelklinne to kill the medicine man. The soldier shot Nochedelklinne in the thighs; another placed his pistol in the shaman’s mouth and fired; a third soldier finally dispatched Nochedelklinne with an axe to the forehead. A pitched battle ensued, involving the Apache chief Juh, Geronimo, and Geronimo’s warrior sister, Lozen.  Casualities? Six U.S. soldiers, one officer, 55 horses and mules, 18 Apache dead.

Apache raiding parties hit army patrols in ensuing days. On September 1, a sizeable Apache force attacked Fort Apache from two sides, an unusual action from a people who much preferred guerilla tactics.

A court of inquiry eventually censured Colonel Carr, but the unjustified murder of Nochedelklinne would reverberate for generations among the Apache and stands today as another sad chapter of betrayal and mistrust.
Speaking of trust issues, in the episode “Apache Trust,” Morales, played by Chief Dan George, holds Blue captive until the High Chaparral men can exonerate Morales’s tribe of an attack on an army detail. Morales informs Blue, “Anyone can kill an enemy. It takes strength to kill a friend.”

These are nearly the same words that Eskiminzin, an Aravapai Apache chief, used to justify the killing of a rancher who was also his friend in the wake of a massacre of nearly 150 Aravapai by Tucson vigilantes in 1871. Stopping by the home of the rancher along the San Pedro, as was his wont, Eskiminzin ate dinner, pulled out a gun, and shot him.

“I did it,” Ezkiminzin explained years later to an army scout, “to teach my people that there must be no friendship between them and the white men. Anyone can kill an enemy, but it takes a strong man to kill a friend (Roberts 75).

It is in the wake of this tragedy and others that the Cannons arrive in Arizona, where John Cannon would strive to make peace with the Apache. And we are glad he did.

The author wishes to credit David Roberts’s Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994) and Edwin R. Sweeney’s Cochise (Norman: U of OK Press, 1991) for much of the Apache history in this article.

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