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Texas History: Under the Indian Moon

The name Kaywaykla means “His Enemies Lie Dead in Heaps.” Before he died in 1963, Kaywaykla dictated his life story as a Warm Springs Apache to author Eve Bell, who published it in the book “In the Days of Victorio.”

As a boy in the early 1880s, Kaywaykla lived among the Apache tribes of West Texas that were considered hostile. For centuries, his people had roamed freely throughout the Southwest including Texas, Arizona, Chihuahua and Sonora (Mexico). But things changed as American settlers moved West.

The United States government offered the tribes financial remuneration in exchange for their land, and their agreement to live on reservations. But when the government failed to meet their expectations, several tribes went on the warpath. In response, the US military sent forces to defeat the rebels, and to return the survivors to the reservations.

The Apaches were led by such legendary chiefs as Mangas Coloradas, Geronimo, Cochise, and Lozen. But the chief that led the last major raid against US interests in Texas was Victorio, who died in October 1880 in the battle of Tres Castillos (Three Castles).

In the war council before the battle of Tres Castillos, Chief Victorio called for a ritual fire under the Indian Moon. The chief brought the 10 year old Kaywaykla before his warriors and ceremoniously consecrated his name as Kaywaykla.

When Victorio died, the survivors were herded onto reservations, and Kaywaykla eventually attended school and married. But he never forgot his experiences, which included learning the religious traditions of the Warm Springs Apache.

In his book, Kaywaykla recounted the amazing tradition of the White Painted Woman. Apaches believed that she saved their people when, as a virgin, she conceived a boy child by Ussen, the Creator of Life, who visited her as she lay on a rock awaiting death. The boy was named Child of the Waters.

At that time, the great enemy of the Apache people was Yehyeh, a giant evil monster. As Yehyeh destroyed the people, only the White Painted Woman and her son remained alive. Eventually, the Child of the Waters defeated Yehyeh, and the people lived in peace.

The Apache people had traditions that Kaywaykla found to be wise and full of integrity. He never rejected those values, but when he was introduced to Christ, he became a devout Christian.

At the conclusion of his book, Kaywaykla states, “Mine is an intensely religious people, and one with rigid standards of conduct. Today, many of us have accepted the religion of White Eyes. To us Christianity is not just a beautiful legend to be used as an alibi or consolation for injustice, but a stern and just code of daily living – in this way comparable to our old religion.”

Jesus came to bring Salvation to all humanity. As it says in Acts 4:12 NLT, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”


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