Buffalo Soldiers Focus of Archaeological ProjectThe Black Range Mountains located in southwestern New Mexico are the homeland of the Warm Springs Apaches.
From the 1860’s to 1890’s, numerous battles between the U.S. Army and Native Americans occurred on the Gila National Forest. Today, the Forest is providing opportunities to share this rich history with archaeology students and academia through the Gila Archaeological Project (GAP).
Recently, Gila archaeologists hosted a dozen university students for two weeks as part of an archaeology field school held in the Black Range Mountains of the forest. Students spent their time mapping historic buildings, conducting a reconnaissance survey of an 1880 Apache battle site, and completing surveys of other prehistoric and historic sites. This field school known as “Windows on the Past!” will give students the opportunity to learn about the historic conflict between a well-known Native American tribe and a unique cavalry regiment.
In addition to conducting field work, students also had the opportunity to learn about the historic conflict between the Warm Springs Apache Indians and the army regiment known as the Buffalo Soldiers, a nickname given by the Native American tribes they fought.
The Buffalo Soldiers, who were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular United States Army, were significant participants in the history of settlement of the West. They were members of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments.
The Warm Springs Apaches formed the eastern branch of the Chiricahuas who frequented southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and Chihuahua, Mexico.
The Black Range Ranger District’s Zone Archaeologist, Chris Adams, says the GAP field school is not only to study the Apache and Buffalo Soldier conflicts through surviving relics, but to include the human aspect.
“During last year’s field school, students from the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation in south central New Mexico heard stories about the area and their forefathers’ history in the Black Range Mountains. By being in the area where their forefathers lived, they were able to re-connect with the past and the oral histories they had heard. When they left, a piece of their people’s history went with them. Their history then became more personal and real to them,” said Adams.
The field school will again be based at the historic town site of Hermosa on private land adjacent to the Gila National Forest. Hermosa’s history started in 1883 during the area’s silver mining boom. Historic records indicate the Black Range Mountains were the location where over 40 different battles occurred between the Apaches and the U.S. military, including the Buffalo Soldiers. Today, Hermosa is part of the Ladder Ranch owned by Ted Turner, media owner and philanthropist.
The GAP program is the result of a participating agreement the forest has with Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Howard University in Washington, D.C. This is the second year the field school has been hosted by the forest.