This Date in Native History: On July 31, 1937, the Chiricahua Apache scout Charles Martine, who played a role in Geronimo’s eventual surrender, died.
Hiring Indian scouts began in 1886 and was done, as the weekly Arizona Miner of Prescott put it, “on the principle of putting a rogue to catch a rogue.”
Martine and another Apache, Kayitah, were two of these scouts. They were hired in 1886 by General Nelson Miles to help track down Geronimo.
Miles wanted Martine and Kayitah to try negotiating with the chief. If they succeeded, he promised the scouts would be rewarded by the U.S. government.
The two found Geronimo’s camp in northern Mexico and approached waving a white flag. They did talk him into meeting with Miles. It was during that meeting that Geronimo surrendered. But Martine and Kayitah were never given the rewards they were promised. Miles decided that they would instead be exiled with Geronimo and the other Apaches.
In 1913, they both chose to move to the reservation at Mescalero, New Mexico. Kayitah died three years before his friend Martine, who was 80 when he passed.
As scouts, they had been used and discarded. Even the Army saw their usefulness.
“If it had not been for Martine and Kieta, [sic] the Apache scouts, none of this would have transpired,” said an essay titled “The Indian Scouts” by Dan L. Thrapp posted on a U.S. Army website.
The Indian scouts weren’t given uniforms like enlisted soldiers, but they did wear a red band on their heads “to distinguish them from hostiles,” according to the essay.
According to Thrapp, Indian scouts typically worked against tribes other than their own, it was General George Crook who first thought to pit Apaches against their own people, “because, in Crooks’s view, they could do it better and more effectively than anyone else.”
The Army essay says it did reward Martine and Kayitah: “As a reward for their faithful service, Martine and Kieta were sent as prisoners to Florida, along with 13 other scouts still in service who were not discharged until October 9, 1886, after they had reached Fort Marion. All were kept under at least nominal arrest for 27 years, although eventually Martine and Kieta were given a small pension.”