This article, written by myself, was published in the 14 January 1997 issue of the San Carlos Apache Moccasin, Globe, Arizona.
I wish to pen a special tribute to a wonderful, caring individual, recently deceased, Christmas Day 1996: Sally Ewing Dosela. I do so because I, personally, wish to honor her memory, and also because I was requested to do so by her son, San Carlos Apache Tribal Councilman, Rhyne Dosela. I sincerely appreciate the privilege of making this written memorial to her. She was a remarkable woman--a woman who strove hard to honor her Apache heritage, and who also demonstrated personal characteristics worthy of emulation among all peoples: strength of conviction to worthy ideals, love of family, and love of God and man.
My acquaintance with Sally Dosela came about in a somewhat unexpected, but to me, fortunate, manner. My understanding of her character is therefore not as extensive as those who truly knew her well, most especially her family. Her family and close friends, I know, saw aspects of her character that I never had the privilege of experiencing to any great extent. I wish I had had the opportunity. Nevertheless, I did have, on occasion, the chance to experience aspects of her personality that may have not been so readily apparent to others. It is those aspects that I wish to emphasize in this tribute--my own personal reminiscences of a relationship that, literally, changed my life for the better.
For many years I have had an interest in the history of the Pinal Mountain region. I have learned that this region has an incredible legacy--one that should be better known. In my efforts to learn more about the area I became acquainted with Sally Dosela because of a mutual church affiliation: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As I came to know her, I realized that she possessed a truly extensive knowledge about the region. I suppose she must have thought I was rather intrusive in my desire to know more, but she graciously decided to talk with me. What I learned I shall never forget.
Mrs. Dosela was a direct descendant of some of the survivors of the wrenching, despicable massacre of about 145 innocent Apache people (mostly women and children) that occurred at Old Camp Grant (south of Winkelman) on April 30, 1871. Her words to me, spoken because of the love for her people, and acquired because of her own respect for her family, stand as a witness to an incident that continues, I believe, to have repercussions to this day. The events of that seemingly long-ago, but in some ways perhaps not really so distant, time are truly difficult to fathom. In my recounting of Mrs. Dosela's words I hope that my recollections are accurate. I apologize beforehand for any errors that I may have made.
It was on a hot summer afternoon when I had my most important conversation with Mrs. Dosela about Camp Grant. When I came to her home she was immediately solicitous of my comfort, asking me to come out of the sun, and to sit with her in the shade near her home. I appreciated that little gesture of concern. I then began asking her questions about Apache place names, and I was surprised to learn that the Apache name for the Pinals is somewhat similar to what the Spanish word "Pinal" means: "place of pine trees."
Eventually the conversation shifted to her relatives, and gradually she became quite reflective. Her voice lowered, and she softly said, "Men from Tucson killed many people, some of them members of my family, at Al Waipa [her term for the Old Camp Grant area]." I asked if she wanted to tell me more. "Yes," she quietly replied.
"The sister of Uzbah [who married an important leader of the Apaches, Captain Jack] was there. She was visiting her aunt. The people wanted to have a 'sing,' and so almost all the men had left their families to hunt for meat in the mountains. About four in the morning Uzbah's sister heard some people come into the camp. She believed they were bringing water into the camp. But, 'Why so many?' she thought."
"Then, she heard the guns. She also heard the people start crying, and the children began howling. It went on a long time. Uzbah's sister ran away from there. She found a horse. She held on to that horse with one of her legs over its neck, so she couldn't be seen. Then, she went up a trail into a hollow area [box canyon]. She hid there. Later she came down and found her cousins and aunt lying all around. All were dead. Blankets were wrapped around the people, and they buried them there."
Mrs. Dosela continued her story, and I asked for a few details, but it was difficult to press hard. It was painful hearing about how her family dealt with the massacre, how her family tried hard to remain in what had always been their home--the Winkelman/Aravaipa Creek region, how they finally decided to move to San Carlos, and so on. She tried to show me her justifiable pride in the fact that her family had now adjusted well to the new ways of a different culture, but never abandoned their own. However, she obviously felt deeply the horrible injustice her family had experienced. In my mind's eye, I could not help but see Mrs. Dosela as a little girl listening to Uzbah relate the terrifying story. I had gotten my "Pinal story" all right, but it was a deeply disturbing experience for me. I only hoped that the memory I had stirred wouldn't trouble her as much as I knew it would me. I have read many accounts about this sad episode in our nation's history, but not one has affected me more than that of Mrs. Dosela. What she said, and how she said it, affects me to this day. It was something I will never forget.
I know that Mrs. Dosela was not just "telling me a story" that day. In her quiet, respectful way she was teaching me a powerful lesson--one that I feel many others can benefit from. It is very difficult for me to describe how I knew from her words and manner that she had a profound love for her family, and for the Apache people. Furthermore, I felt in her words an appreciation for the beauty of the land in which we live. Most of all, however, I knew that she was teaching me that life is sacred. It is holy and beautiful. It should not be taken because of hatred. As human beings we are prone to sometimes ugly passions. Tragically, at times we become victims of those passions. We, as fellow human beings, wherever and whoever we are, must always strive to harness them before they control and possibly destroy us. Such passions are unworthy of our true natures: creations of a wise God, of Bik'ehgo'ihi'nan--In Charge Of Life.
Over the next few years I continued to learn more about Mrs. Dosela. She had to cope with a cruelly debilitating disease: diabetes. It gradually made her life nearly intolerable. Through it all, however, she remained as cheerful as she could. She continued to show great affection for her family of eleven children. She continued to assist in teaching Apache customs and values. She also continued to demonstrate a deep commitment to her church. She was not afraid of the hardships of her physical afflictions. She bore them with real courage. I myself learned something about this aspect of her character, and to me she was a great example.
In the last few days I have also learned more about how much her family loved her. All of her children were present at her funeral, and there were many other relatives and friends there besides. The compliments given her by all were gracious and beautiful. I only wish to add my own. I will miss her.
Mrs. Dosela, thank you for the example of your life, for your kind words, your graciousness. Thank you for sharing something of the beauty of your culture and your faith with me. I know your family, and your people, will remember you. I will remember you. Walk now in the beauty of Bik'ehgo'ihi'nan.
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