Published on January 28, 2013 by Amy
Lozen (c. 1840-1890) was a skilled warrior and a prophet of the Chihenne Chiricahua Apache. She was the sister of Victorio, a prominent chief. Born into the Chihenne band during the late 1840s, Lozen was, according to legends, able to use her powers in battle to learn the movements of the enemy. Victorio said, “Lozen is my right hand… strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”
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In the 1870s, Victorio and his band of Apaches were moved to the deplorable conditions of the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. He and his followers left the reservation around 1877 and began marauding and raiding, all while evading capture by the military. Lozen fought beside Victorio when he and his followers rampaged against Americans who had appropriated their homeland around west New Mexico’s Black Mountain.
As the band fled American forces, Lozen inspired women and children, frozen in fear, to cross the surging Rio Grande. “I saw a magnificent woman on a beautiful horse—Lozen, sister of Victorio. Lozen the woman warrior!”, remembers James Kaywaykla, a child at the time, riding behind his grandmother. “High above her head she held her rifle. There was a glitter as her right foot lifted and struck the shoulder of her horse. He reared, then plunged into the torrent. She turned his head upstream, and he began swimming.”
Immediately, the other women and the children followed her into the torrent. When they reached the far bank of the river, cold and wet but alive, Lozen came to Kaywaykla’s grandmother. “You take charge, now”, she said. “I must return to the warriors”, who stood between their women and children and the onrushing cavalry. Lozen drove her horse back across the wild river and returned to her comrades.
According to Kaywaykla, “She could ride, shoot, and fight like a man, and I think she had more ability in planning military strategy than did Victorio.” He also remembers Victorio saying, “I depend upon Lozen as I do Nana” (the aging patriarch of the band).
Late in Victorio’s campaign, Lozen left the band to escort a new mother and her newborn infant across the Chihuahuan Desert from Mexico to the Mescalero Apache Reservation, away from the hardships of the trail.
Equipped with only a rifle, a cartridge belt, a knife, and a three-day supply of food, she set out with the mother and child on a perilous journey through territory occupied by Mexican and U.S. Cavalry forces. En route, afraid that a gunshot would betray their presence, she used her knife to kill a longhorn, butchering it for the meat.
She stole a Mexican cavalry horse for the new mother, escaping through a volley of gunfire. She then stole a vaquero’s horse for herself, disappearing before he could give chase. She also acquired a soldier’s saddle, rifle, ammunition, blanket and canteen, and even his shirt. Finally, she delivered her charges to the reservation.
There, she learned that Mexican and Tarahumara Indian forces under Mexican commander Joaquin Terrazas had ambushed Victorio and his band at Tres Castillos, three stony hills in northeastern Chihuahua.
According to Stephen H. Lekson in his monograph Nana’s Raid: Apache Warfare in Southern New Mexico, 1881, Terrazas, on October 15, 1880, “surprised the Apaches, and in the boulders of Tres Castillos, Victorio’s warriors fought their last fight. Apache tradition holds that Victorio fell on his own knife rather than die at the hands of the Mexicans. Almost all the warriors at Tres Castillos were killed, and many women died fighting; the older people were shot, while almost one hundred young women and children were taken for slaves. Only a few escaped.”
End of Apache Wars and Lozen’s later years
Knowing the survivors would need her, Lozen immediately left the Mescalero Reservation and rode alone southwest across the desert, threading her way undetected through U.S. and Mexican military patrols. She rejoined the decimated band in the Sierra Madre (in northwestern Chihuahua), now led by the 74-year-old patriarch Nana.
According to Kimberly Moore Buchanan’s book Apache Women Warriors, Lozen fought beside Nana and his handful of warriors in his two-month long bloody campaign of vengeance across southwestern New Mexico in 1881. Just before the fighting began, Nana said of Lozen, “Though she is a woman, there is no warrior more worthy than the sister of Victorio.”
Lozen also fought beside Geronimo after his breakout from the San Carlos reservation in 1885, in the last campaign of the Apache wars. With the band pursued relentlessly, she used her power to locate their enemies—the U.S. and Mexican cavalries. According to Alexander B. Adams in his book Geronimo, “she would stand with her arms outstretched, chant a prayer to Ussen, the Apaches’ supreme deity, and slowly turn around.” Lozen’s prayer is translated in Eve Ball’s book In the Days of Victorio:
Upon this earth
On which we live
Ussen has Power
This Power is mine
For locating the enemy.
I search for that Enemy
Which only Ussen the Great
Can show to me.
“By the sensation she felt in her arms, she could tell where the enemy was and how many they numbered”, Adams writes.
According to Laura Jane Moore in the book Sifters, Native American Women’s Lives: In 1885 Geronimo and Naiche fled their reservation with 140 followers including Lozen after rumors began circulating that their leaders were to be imprisoned at Alcatraz Island. Lozen and Dahteste began negotiating peace treaties. One of which was that the Apache leaders would be imprisoned for two years then would have their freedom. The Americans leaders dismissed the peace treaty and Lozen and Dahteste continued to negotiate. The Apache rebels believed they had strong resolve until it was revealed all the Chiricahuas had been rounded up and sent to Florida. If they wanted to rejoin their kin, the Apache needed to head east. The Apache warriors agreed to surrender and laid down their arms. Five days later they were train bound to Florida.
Taken into U. S. military custody after Geronimo’s final surrender, Lozen traveled as a prisoner of war to Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama.
Like many other imprisoned Apache warriors, she died in confinement of tuberculosis sometime after 1887. Nevertheless, her life was noted as a validation of the respected place women held among the Apaches.
Lozen was the subject of Lucia St. Clair-Robson’s 2002 novel Ghost Warrior, Lozen of the Apaches.