Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Honoring Lozen: Apache Warrior, Seer, and Shaman

Lozen was a Chihenne-Chiricahua Apache warrior, shaman, and sage, or seer. She was born in the 1840s ECD*, in a section of New Mexico/Arizona/Northern Mexico known at that time as Apacheria, within sight of the Sacred Mountain near Ojo Caliente where the People began. Some reports place her birth in the late 1840s ECD.

Lozen let it be known at a very early age that she had no interest in learning the duties of wife and mother, and set out on the warrior's path with her brother, who looked up to her. He was the Chihenne-Chiricahua Apache chief, Bidu-ya (also known as Beduiat; European name: Victorio).

At a ceremony at the time of her adolescence, Lozen was given the power to find the enemy which she did by going alone to a deserted spot, standing with her arms outstretched, her open palms facing skyward. She stood waiting, turning slowly until she felt a tingling in her palms. After this spiritual-physical experience, she knew that she had found the direction of the enemy. She could tell the distance of the enemy by the intensity of the tingling. She was legendary for such powers, Diya and Inda-ce-ho-ndi (or "Enemies-Against-Power"), in battle.

She was not the lone woman warrior in her band. She had a companion, Dahteste. Both women fought alongside Geronimo. Lozen did not appear, in photographs, as a woman among men. As is evidenced in several famous photos with fellow warrior Geronimo, there is nothing to indicate that she chose a more traditional Chihenne-Chiricahua woman's appearance: she dressed, lived, and fought as her fellow warriors did. She never married, devoting her life to fighting for her people's survival.

In addition to her considerable skill as a warrior, Lozen was also a skilled reconnaissance scout and clever battle strategist. She took part in warriors' ceremonies, sang war songs, and directed the dances of the war parties before going into battle.

Lozen was a person of many talents, on and off the battlefield. She was also a gifted seer and shaman. Her guidance was sought by many far and wide, and her advice to them was always true. It was while performing her duties as a medicine woman for a Mescalero woman in childbirth that she was not able to perform her usual rituals prior to her band going into battle. Because they did not know the enemy's whereabouts, the band was ambushed, and her brother was killed. Many of her people believed that such a tragedy would not have befallen them had Lozen been available, among them, for guidance.

Lozen and Dahteste, with Geronimo, were eventually taken as prisoners by the white male military; the whole of the U.S. government's military was a blood-thirsty and savage band of what would now be termed "illegal aliens", invading foreigners, and terrorists. She was taken to the prison in the U.S. territory termed Florida (named by the Spanish conqueror, Juan Ponce de León). She was later transported to Mount Vernon Barracks in the U.S. region called Alabama, a Muskogean Indian word. Lozen died there, presumably of tuberculosis, at the approximate age of 50.

Her brother, Bidu-ya, is quoted to have said that "Lozen is my right hand... strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people."

Lozen was among the Apache ringleaders shipped by train from Fort Bowie, AZ to Fort Pickens, Florida. During a rest stop, the prisoners were allowed out for a break, where this famous photograph was taken. Lozen is in the back row, the third figure from the right. (Geronimo is in the front row, third from the right.)

*"ECD" is my way of indicating the "Era of Christian Domination" (roughly the last two thousand years, if calendar time is to be measured in this way) which includes Western and Southern European imperialism, colonialism, white supremacy and rape, the formation and expansion of European white Christian patriarchal power, and the atrocities against so many peoples and regions of the Earth as a result of its existence. ECD includes all white male supremacist genocides and gynocides.

In researching this biographical material it was clear that Lozen's story has been told through the lenses of people impacted by the ECD worldview and its values. I have tried to correct as much of this Anglo and European patriarchal distortion as possible. But being a U.S.er raised inside that worldview--while critical of it, there is a limit to what I could do. I welcome further work being done by Apache story-tellers and record-keepers who also wish to uncontaminate their stories with white men's way of dualistically and hierarchically misperceiving spiritual-material reality. To note a couple of problems, one white man wrote that she held her hands toward heaven" as if "heaven" were a universal concept. Many men seemed preoccupied by her gender-role and her relationship to men, not noting that she didn't live in a patriarchal society, and was revered because of her own powers, not because her powers were comparable to men's power.

The sources for this biographical essay, with some additional information, all found online, are listed below: