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The Apache Diaries: A Father-Son Journey by Grenville Goodwin and Neil Goodwin

2000; 283 pp. $29.95. University of Nebraska Press.

When Geronimo surrendered, a small group of Apaches escaped to the Sierra Madre of northern Mexico. Anthropologist Grenville Goodwin, while living among Western Apache in Arizona in the 1920s, heard that the unsurrendered still survived. He went on a quest to find them, and encountered stories of postwar kidnappings, fear, murders, renegade Americans, orphans, thievery, disappearing tracks, and recently abandoned camps of the last "wild," unsurrendered Native Americans. Grenville died soon after, at 33. His son, Neil, read his journal over thirty years later, and decided to complete his father's quest?and, at the same time, to try to discover the father he never knew, by tracing his footsteps.

Apache Diaries weaves the father's and son's journal entries, grouping them by location. It's a totally unique addition to both American literature and history. We read the father's meticulous neutral observations, as well as the son's meticulous desire to maintain his father's honesty but also scrupulously reveal his own heart. The book begins to shine, as if the 'luminations of personal and human histories could turn to palpable silver and gold. Filled with premonitions and visions, haunting cold winds of the Apache wars, sorrowful yet beautiful discoveries of the destiny of Apache children, and momentary insights into the psyche of Neil's father, I kept thinking: maybe I love this book because I love the Sierra and my Apache friends. But it's much more. Apache Diaries, like Ishi in Two Worlds, Ceremony, and Yaqui Deer Songs, captures moments of contact between Europeans and Native Americans. It is rich tapestry?of fathers/sons, Indians/whites, chaotic cultures, and the heroic attempt of individuals to nurture soulful continuities across generations.

"1932, Bylas, Grenville's Diary

During ethnological field work on the San Carlos Reservation...several instances of contacts with the Sierra Madre Apache from Old Mexico after 1886 came to light.... "

Anna Price:

"This happened three years ago in the fall. I went across the river from Bylas and started back into the hills. I had gone about three miles when I heard some people coming, so I got in under a mesquite tree....They were hai-aha and I knew this because I could hear them talking together plainly. They must have seen me, because I could hear one of the men saying, 'do-da, do-da, don't kill that poor old woman'....I did not know where these hai-aha went from there or why they had come up from Old Mexico. I guess maybe they were going to Cibecue to try and catch some girls there while they were out gathering berries."

"Neil's Diary, the Bavispe Valley

Vengeful N'cori Chico ranchers determine once and for all to wipe out the Apaches....On July 1 [1932, seven months after Grenville had left Mexico], after combing the Sierra Madre for two weeks, the group comes upon an Apache camp with eight people?mostly women and children. The Apaches try to flee, but it's too late; the Mexicans are everywhere. The camp is a killing ground....

...Amid the blood, the lifeless forms, the scattered possessions and the ringing silence, are three stunned and terrified Apache children: one boy, and a three-year old girl and her twin brother. The twins are taken in by Ramon Hurtado and his family and are baptized....They contract dysentery or some other disease and are unable to eat what the Mexicans feed them. They do not survive the year. According to one version I hear of, the boy deliberately bites through one of his own blood vessels, severing it and thereby bleeding to death....This act of terrible determination by a child is equally remarkable whether imagined or factual.

" Nov. 24, 1930, El Paso P'lpito, Sonora, Grenville's Diary

This afternoon went up to look at cave on north side of pass....There were...several broken arrows on a ledge...feathers gone, but sinew still there. Took these arrows along with several pieces of corn cob, and a piece of pottery which had been used as a ladle. There were several petroglyphs...done in black and red, which I am going to copy. From the cave it is possible to see far up and down the pass, and must have made an excellent look-out.

"Neil's Diary, the Bavispe Valley

My father was an obsessive collector. Growing up on Long Island, New York, he used to walk behind farmers' plows and pick up arrowheads from the turned earth. It was an almost magical adventure, and it determined the course of his life.... "

 

ISBN: 0803271026

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