Days Past: Scouts and trackers in 1800s Yavapai County: Part II
In 1866, the U.S. Army implemented General Order #56 to recruit Indians into the regular force as scouts. With their knowledge of the local terrain, languages and tribal habits, the Indian scouts proved essential for the Army to pursue and attack rival, uncooperative warring Indians. In Part I, Al Sieber, a white civilian, was contracted as a scout by General Crook and did not hold rank, although he did have the title of Chief of Scouts. On the other hand, American Indians were enlisted men and could even attain rank if they served repeated enlistments. A civilian contractor scout did not receive discharge papers from the military and was not eligible for a pension like the Indian Scout. Fifteen Indian scouts between 1869 and 1890 were awarded the Military Medal of Honor.
Many Indian scouts in Yavapai County were Apaches with only a few coming from other tribes. Many served under General George Crook and were stationed either at Fort Whipple or Camp Verde.
One native Army scout was called The Flying Fighter or Oskay-de-no-tah in the Apache language. He enlisted in 1873 at Camp Verde along with 19 other Indians. He described himself as previously "a renegade and a broncho, but after enlistment I kept the faith with the government in every way."
He described how scouting was done entirely on foot and how various tribes helped kill members of other tribes both they and the whites considered "troublesome." He also described the use of "runners" - Indians who could run long distances to carry messages between the fort and various Indian chiefs. In addition to scouting, Flying Fighter signed onto the San Carlos Agency Police force for a year. According to his account, "When my year as a policeman was up, Al Sieber tried to get me to re-enlist as a scout, but I felt I had done my duty and I wanted a rest; I now had five wives to manage, which was a man's job." Indeed!
Another well-known Indian Scout was Ma hoi na vie, a full-blooded Hualapai. His name was changed to Jim Mahone when he enlisted in the Army in 1873. According to his personal affidavit in 1924, he was unsure of his date of birth, adding, "Indians have no way of keeping record of their birth, like white people." He remembered, "I enlisted as a scout before the railroad was built through this country. Soldiers were located at Prescott, Ft. Rock and Ft. Mohave, Ariz. A man who was carrying money to pay the soldiers was killed by the Apaches somewhere west of Prescott, and the soldiers called the Hualapai Indians to trail the Apaches and to capture them."
One of his prized possessions was a written recommendation signed by 1st Lieut. W. George Elliott. It read, "This, Jim Mahone of the Hualapai Indian Tribe is a trustworthy and intelligent man. He is an old scout having served under General Crook in the years gone by. Of him, the General says 'no braver man ever trod shoe leather.'" Jim carried it until it was
badly worn but still legible.
The newspaper at Williams, Ariz., 1949: "Famed Indian Scout dies. Believed to be probably the oldest Indian known, Jim Mahone, 120-year-old scout who helped trail Geronimo, last of the outlaw Apache chiefs, has been buried. He died August 6 at Peach Springs, was buried at Seligman cemetery after he had been honored with both Indian services by his Walapai brethren and military services in recognition of his services to the U.S. Army. When General Crook was put on the trail of the warring Apaches with orders to subdue them once and for all, he called upon Jim Mahone. Many other Indian scouts had been captured, tortured and killed by the Apaches, but Mahone stayed on the job until the last renegade band was brought under control. An old man 40 years ago, Jim had been for the past four decades a familiar figure about the streets of Seligman, Ashfork, Williams and Prescott."
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