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San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation facts for kids

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San Carlos Apache Nation
Flag of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.PNG
Flag of the San Carlos Apache Nation
3355R San Carlos Reservation Locator Map.svg
Location of San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States (Arizona)
Western Apache, Spanish, English
Traditional Tribal Religions, Christianity (especially Lutheranism)
Related ethnic groups
Apache, Navajo, Dene

The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation (Western Apache: Tsékʼáádn), in southeastern Arizona, United States, was established in 1872 as a reservation for the Chiricahua Apache tribe as well as surrounding Yavapai and Apache bands removed from their original homelands under a strategy devised by General George Crook of setting the various Apache tribes against one another. Once nicknamed "Hell's Forty Acres" during the late 19th century due to poor health and environmental conditions, today's San Carlos Apaches successfully operate a Chamber of Commerce, the Apache Gold and Apache Sky Casinos, a Language Preservation program, a Culture Center, and a Tribal College.


On December 14, 1872, President U.S. Grant established the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The government gave various religious groups responsibility for managing the new reservations, and the Dutch Reformed Church was in charge of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. The church chose John Clum, who turned down the position twice before accepting the commission as Indian Agent for the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in the Arizona Territory on February 16, 1874.

The U.S. Army showed both animosity toward the Indians and disdain for the civilian Indian Agents. Soldiers and their commanding officers sometimes killed the Indians for sport while politicians in Washington, D.C., knew little about differences in tribal cultures, customs, and language. Politicians also ignored political differences and military alliances and tried to apply a “one-size-fits-all" strategy to deal with the “Indian problem”. As a result, tribal friends and foes were forced to live in close proximity to one another. Meanwhile, the Apaches were supposed to be fed and housed by their caretakers, but they rarely saw the federal money and suffered as a result.

Eskiminzin, an Aravaipa Apache chief

Clum arrived at the reservation on August 4, 1874. During his tenure at San Carlos, he struck a lifelong friendship with Eskiminzin, an Aravaipa Apache chief, and persuaded many of the White Mountain people to move south to San Carlos. Clum won the Indians' confidence and the Apaches responded by turning in their weapons. The Apaches formed a tribal court to try minor infractions and joined the Tribal Police organized under Clum's command, which helped to form a system of limited Indian self-rule. The agent soon attracted 4,200 Apache and Yavapai Indians to the semi-arid reservation. The Army bristled at Clum's actions because they prevented them from taking part of the funds that passed through the reservation.

On April 21, 1877, Clum, along with 100 of his best Apache Police, captured Geronimo at the Ojo Caliente Reservation in the New Mexico Territory. The U.S. Army, which had mounted intense efforts to track down and capture Geronimo, was seriously embarrassed by Clum's success. Indian Bureau administrators and U.S. Army commanders disliked Clum's methods and continually frustrated his efforts. Clum finally resigned, and the reservation's new administrators released Geronimo, resulting in more than 15 years of conflict across the American southwest.

San Carlos Reservation police 1880
Guard House in San Carlos, Arizona circa 1880. Photograph by Camillus S. Fly.

Tribes consolidated

In March 1875, the government closed the Yavapai-Apache Camp Verde Reservation and marched the residents 180 miles (290 km) to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. More than 100 Yavapai died during the winter trek.

San Carlos Apache woman (F24259 DPLW)
San Carlos Apache woman

After the Chiricahuan Apache were deported east to Florida in 1886, San Carlos became the reservation for various other relocated Apachean-speaking groups. These included the Pinal Coyotero of the northern Gila River area, the former San Carlos Apache bands Aravaipa (also Arivaipa or Tsee Zhinnee), Pinaleño (also Pinal Apache or Tiis Ebah Nnee), Apache Peaks (also called Bichi Lehe Nnee), and San Carlos proper (also Tiis Zhaazhe Bikoh or ′Small Cottonwood Canyon People′), the former Canyon Creek, Carrizo Creek and Cibecue bands of the Cibecue Apache.

Today the Community Cibecue is part of the Fort Apache Reservation of the White Mountain Apache, historically with the communities Cedar Creek and Carrizo of the Cibecue Apache territory, various bands of Southern Tonto Apache, Tsiltaden (“mountain side people”, a clan or band of the Chiricahua Apache a part of the Pinaleño), some Eastern White Mountain Apache (Dził Ghą́ʼ oder Dzil Ghaa a or ‘On Top of Mountains People’), and the Lipan, Dzil Dlaazhe (Mount Turnbull Apache, a mixed Kwevekapaya San Carlos Apache band). By the early 1900s, Yavapais were drifting away from the San Carlos Reservation and were requesting permission to live at the original Camp Verde Reservation.

After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the various Apache groups formed a government and became federally recognized as the San Carlos Nation. Grenville Goodwin, an anthropologist who had lived with the Western Apache since the late 1920s, helped them to decide what government they wanted to form under the new law to gain more sovereignty.


As of August 2014, the San Carlos Apache tribe has an enrollment of 15,393 tribal members.

The San Carlos Reservation is one of the poorest Native American communities in the United States, with an annual median household income of approximately $27,542, according to the US Census. About 49.2 percent of the people live under the poverty line, and 36.7 percent of the active labor force is unemployed.


Moonrise (4490465646)
Moonrise over San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation

The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation encompasses 1.8 million acres of land area in northern Graham, southeastern Gila, and eastern Pinal Counties. The reservation's communities include Bylas, Gilson Wash, Peridot, and 7mile. The San Carlos Lake was formed by the construction of Coolidge Dam and is the second largest body of water in Arizona. The reservation is the tenth-largest Indian reservation in land area with desert, alpine meadows, and Ponderosa Pine forest. The Fort Apache Indian Reservation, which has a smaller land area, is directly north.


  • The San Carlos Apache Culture Center tells the stories and history of the Apache people.
  • The Apache Gold Casino, owned and operated by the San Carlos Apache Nation, offers gaming, dining and lodging.
  • The San Carlos Recreation and Wildlife Department offers hunting, fishing, boating, camping, birdwatching, and nature study on the scenic 2,900-square-mile (7,500 km2) reservation. Tribal permits (required) available from local convenience and sporting-goods stores.


U.S. Route 70 traverses the reservation from east to west.

San Carlos Apache Nnee Bich'o Nii Transit provides transportation within the reservation, as well as service to Globe and Safford. Greyhound Lines serves Bylas and Peridot on its PhoenixEl Paso via Globe route.

Notable San Carlos Apache tribal members

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