Who is the American Indian Massai?

Who is the American Indian Massai?

Ross Taylor

Nashville, Tennessee

A Mimbres Apache, Massai was born circa 1847 and died 1911. He became a famous Apache warrior in 1886 for his grand trek following his escape from a train that was transporting his people to Florida. Guided by his instincts, traveling by night and sleeping by day, he escaped west of St. Louis, Missouri, back to his homeland in the Black Range in the vicinity of Silver City, New Mexico. The journey took some three months to complete.

At the Mescalero Reservation, he kidnapped a young Apache woman and took her into the Black Range, where they remained on the run for 25 years. In 1911 he was shot and killed by an assailant north of the former agency at Warm Springs. Whoever did the deed burned his body.

Paul Wellman’s novel about Massai, Bronco Apache (1936), along with the Burt Lancaster film Apache (1954) brought widespread attention to the warrior.

Eve Ball interviewed Massai’s last living child, daughter Alberta Begay, who shared the last years of his life in the July/August 1959 True West.

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Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.