By 1600, they reached the state of Arizona. They fought many wars among other tribes and they became well
known for their great skill in warfare and their extraordinary endurance. When not at war, they were the exact
opposite of "fierce." They were gentle people, fair to others, and extremely faithful to their friends.
As soon as an Apache boy could walk, training began to make him a warrior. If he got in trouble for doing
something wrong, the punishment would be to run up a mountain trail without stopping to catch his breath. Other
times, he would be sent to run after white-tailed deer or antelope and told to catch them. Many times the boys
would be forced to go without food or sleep for days at a time and they could only bathe in the frigid mountain
streams. Everything they did was to train their minds and bodies for war!
By the 1800s, the Apaches had formed three tribes near Arizona's Pinal Mountains: the Coyotes, the Tontos and
the Pinals. In the 1870s, white men began to edge out and attack the Apaches, taking over their lands and camps.
The Apache tribes were forced into setting up strongholds (places of security) in the mountains to the north and
to the east. The Pinal Apaches developed their stronghold at the top of "Big Picacho," a treacherous face of
the Pinal Mountains on its western edge. Because of this location, the Apaches were confident and felt safe
from attack from the U.S. Cavalry.
APACHE TEARS ARE SHED
In the fall of 1870, the Apaches carried out extensive raids to take the white men's cattle and horses. Because
of this, General George Stoneman built an outpost, a settlement of troops that would protect them from the
Apaches. This Cavalry settlement became known as "Picket Post," located at the foot of the Pinal Mountains.
The troops at this outpost were well aware that a tribe of Apaches lived on the top of Big Picacho, but they had
never been able to find the trail to the top.
In late 1870, the Apaches made another significant raid on the white settlers in the area. The Cavalry, from
nearby Camp Pinal, along with some volunteers, went after them, searching for the secret trail that would lead
them to the top of the towering cliffs and to the Apache camp.
No official record exists of the Cavalry's raid on the sleeping Apaches, but it is believed that after the military
discovered the Apache's trail to their camp, they hid, waiting for dawn to make their attack. As dawn broke,
they took the Apaches by surprise, killing 50. The rest of the tribe retreated to the edge of the cliff with
no weapons and no chance of escape. The 25 remaining warriors chose to die by leaping over the cliff's edge.
Thereafter, the cliff became known as the Apache Leap.
Legend says that the Apache women gathered at the base of the cliff for a whole moon (27.3 days) to mourn
their brave warriors and their renowned fighting spirit. Their tears were filled with immense grief. The
Apache gods felt the sincerity of their sorrow and a strange phenomenon began to occur. As their tears fell,
they became imbedded into the dark, black obsidian stones that covered the ground beneath the cliff.
These mysterious stones later became known as "Apache Tears." When held to the light the stones become
translucent, allowing the light to shine through, showing the shape of a tear drop. It is believed that each of
these stones carries a tear of an Apache widow whose warrior husband had died, along with tears that were
shed for the land that they lost to the white men.
For those who possess one of these unique stones, it is claimed that the Apache Tear will protect them from
being taken advantage of and will also bring them good luck. But most importantly, whoever owns one will never
have to cry again — the Apache women have already shed their tears for them. Copyright 2012.
Karr, A. (1951). Apache Indians; raiders of the Southwest.
Hatfield, S. B. (1947). Chasing shadows : Indians along the United States-Mexico border, 1876-1911.
Robinson, S. K. (2000) Apache voices : their stories of survival as told to Eve Ball.