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The San Carlos Apache Nation

The largest of the Apache reservations, covering just under 1,900,000 acres is the San Carlos reservation lying east of Phoenix, AZ (NAA, 36-43). It is home to over 7,100 (AID, 41) Apaches from various old bands, making it the seventh largest reservation in the United States based upon population estimates from the 1990 census.

It was to the San Carlos Reservation that the great chief Cochise was taken, along with his followers, after his surrender in 1873 (GAI, 122-123). It was from here that Geronimo led his followers when they broke for freedom from the oppression of the U. S. military.

The Apache bands found on the reservation include the Aravaipa, Chiricahua, Coyotero, Mimbreno, Mogollon, Pinaleno, San Carlos, and Tonto (Ibid, 123). Their reservation was created in 1871 and reduced five separate times to accommodate white miners seeking copper and silver, and Mormons whose need for water led to the reduction around the Gila Valley.

Today the San Carlos reservation blends tradition, industry and tourism in a battle to overcome severe unemployment amongst its population that includes a small number of Yuma and Mohave Indians as well as the predominant Apache people ("San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation Community Profile", Arizona Dept. of Commerce, undated pamphlet). The Apache traditional craft of basket weaving is the main product manufactured for tourist consumption. It is still a craft passed down from mother to daughter keeping the centuries old art alive. For industry, cattle ranching and the mining of Peridot, a semiprecious stone found only in the Red Sea, the shores of Myanmar (Burma) and Arizona, are the main sources of employment ("Discover San Carlos Apache Reservation", San Carlos Apache Indian Tribe, brochure, undated).

Tourism is an ever increasing major source of jobs and revenue. The reservation abuts the Tonto National Forest and its land is equally as beautiful. Eastern Arizona is filled with Pine forest and lakes, both natural and manmade, making it a great locale for hunting, fishing and camping. As with many other tribes across the United States, the San Carlos Apache place their tribal seal upon a white background to create a tribal flag (sample seal provided by the San Carlos Apache Indian Tribe). The seal celebrates the natural beauty of the lands of the San Carlos Apache and the major sources of economic life for its residents. Central to the seal is a geographic tableau of the reservation showing the mountains, one of the many lakes and two prime elements of the flora of the reservation - the Pinon Pine and the Saguaro cactus. All these elements are depicted in natural colors. Below this scene is the head of a Hereford steer signifying the importance of cattle ranching upon the life of the Apache people. The steer's head has symbols of the mining industry, such as a pick and shovel to one side and Peridot ore to the other. The date of the adoption of both the seal and the flag are unknown to the author, but the present tribal government was created as a result of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

Although the flag is predominently a white field, a thin red line delineates the current shape of the reservation. The seal is centered within these boundaries. Around the four edges of the flag are different colored stripes. Across the top is white, along the hoist edge is yellow, the fly end appears in black while the bottom is a very dark green. The four stripe are separated from the white field by a very narrow red line known in vexillology as a fimbriation. They are, according to Paul Machula, the sacred colors representing the sacred directions used by the San Carlos people: East is black, South is blue or dark green (same term in Apache), West is yellow, and North is white. The blue/green swapability is common in several tribes, the blue or green color is often translated as “earth color” or “nature color”. Since these two are indistinguishable, a San Carlos Apache flag with a bottom stripe of blue would not be a different flagf from the one shown above.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603