Thursday, March 9, 2023

Courageous, Resilient, Determined Women of Oro Valley and Beyond

You might remember in previous articles that in the mid to late 1870s, during the establishment of Steam Pump Ranch, George Pusch and his family had interactions with Apache bands that still traveled through the area. George and the family were able to create a peaceful trade relationship with Apache.

We wonder if this Apache warrior woman might have encountered the Pusch’s after her escape from the San Carlos reservation.

Lozen was an Apache, or Nde, woman who was known for her bravery, military strategy and dedication to her people. She was a warrior shaman who was known to have supernatural powers when it came to finding the enemy. She was a trusted ally of Geronimo. Her brother was Apache Chief Victorio.

“Lozen is my right hand,” Victorio once said of Lozen. “Strong as a man, braver than most and cunning in strategy. She is a shield to her people.”

Born in 1840, Lozen was part of the Chihenne Apache band in New Mexico. Lozen’s name, which means “dexterous horse thief,” reflects the skill she acquired that enabled her to sneak behind enemy lines undetected, round up horses and steal them away. Her stealth and courage would become valuable qualities during a time of near constant conflict. She fought both the Mexicans and Americans as they laid claim to her homeland. In 1861 Chief Cochise was accused of kidnapping a rancher’s son (near Sonoita) which started a 24 year war. Lozen fought during these wars including the conflict at Apache Pass (near Bowie). She was moved to the San Carlos reservation in 1875. In 1877, Lozen and her brother Victorio along with other Chihenne fled the San Carlos reservation. Victorio was ambushed and died at Tres Castillos, where many other Apache also died.

After Victorio’s death, Lozen rode with Geronimo. In 1882, she joined him in a raid that freed 600 people from San Carlos and supported him again in 1885 during his final escape from the reservation. Geronimo surrendered near Skeleton Canyon in 1886.

The Commander of Fort Bowie, General Nelson Miles, promised Geronimo that he and his small band (including Lozen) would be able to return to Arizona after an indefinite stay in Florida. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition. Lozen, Geronimo and many others were taken to Florida prisons. She died in 1889 in Alabama (where she had been transferred from Florida) at the age of 50 from tuberculosis. Geronimo died at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1909 from pneumonia. Neither Lozen nor Geronimo were ever able to return to their homeland.
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The Oro Valley Historical Society is celebrating Women’s History Month with an exhibit featuring “Courageous, Resilient, Determined Women of Oro Valley and Beyond. You can discover the lives of other prominent women of our area including, Ina Gittings and The Countess of Suffolk. The Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch is open on Saturdays from 9 to Noon, March 11, 18, and 25.