Head In That Direction: A warrior women shows fierce determination when it comes to protecting those she loves and the land and traditions that sustain her community. She is not afraid to set out on a perilous path to do what she knows knows in her heart is right.
Sometimes when I notice an old vintage photo, it feels as if the woman in it has something important to say about her life, her story. I can't wait to find out more. And yet, when I try to follow the threads of who she is, I find myself facing a great void. Sadly, I am confronted with the many ways women's stories have been undervalued and just left out of the historical record.
The inscription on this photo said “Female Scout, Arizona, 1886”. The photographer was Frank Randall who was a journalist/photographer who documented the Apache people during the U.S. military’s campaign to bring in or eradicate the Apache bands that were resisting US policies of removal from their traditional lands and other practices of colonization and genocide. His photos are well known and include legendary people such as Geronimo and Cochise, but he also documented many others, named and unnamed. His full collection of photos taken during the years 1883-1888 can be found at
Although much has been written about the service of Apache Scouts in the US military, I found no mention of women who also served as scouts. Randall identifies a small number of women in his photographs with the term “spy”. In my research of the complex history of Indian Scouts, I couldn’t track down any mention of women who might have served in that role except this one photo.
As one might expect, the oral histories of each Apache band told many stories of women who took up arms to protect their families and communities, gave counsel on war and other important matters, and also rode alongside men on raids. These Warrior Women are respected and revered today and their stories continue to be told through generations.
In 1940, a woman named Eva Ball relocated from her home in Kansas to Ruidoso, New Mexico. She was writer and historian of the American West. Her new home was located next to the Mescalero Apache reservation. She soon reached out to form connections with her neighbors, eventually earning trust, and being given permission to interview and record 67 Apache elders from the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, and Lipan tribes. Her book containing these histories, Indeh: An Apache Odyssey, was published in1980.
To learn more about the powerful stories of Apache Women, I highly recommend an excellent article in the New Mexico Nomad, “Apache Warrior Women: Gouyen, Lozen, Dahteste” and don’t forget to click on the video of Lynette Haozous as Lozen.