In 1878 alongside the Little Colorado River, a Navajo encampment was attacked by a collection of Apache raiders. The planned attack by the Apache left most Navajo men, women, and children dead. As the Apache were looting the encampment, they came across three women whose lives were spared but were taken as prisoners. Navajo leaders eventually received word of the attacks and they sent 25 men in retaliation. Tracking the Apaches and obstructing the borders to the region, the Navajo men took their strategic approach with caution.
Unfortunately, their efforts quickly failed as the trails vanished from volcanic cinder flowing through a nearby river. News swiftly spread that yet another Navajo encampment had been raided alerting them that the Apache may still be in close proximity. Vanguards were again deployed to search the surrounding area. Amongst this crew, two were requested to explore the short arm of Canyon Diablo. During their hunt, they were alarmed by an odd breeze of hot air coming from underground. Carefully approaching, they discovered a cavern beneath them able to shelter the Apache raiding party and their horses. With the knowledge of the Apaches whereabouts, the two scouts returned to their tribe to prepare a retaliation attack.
After murdering the unsuspecting Apache guards, the Navajo gathered brush, kindling, and driftwood then proceeded to light a fire on the canyon floor right outside the entrance of the cave. As the smoke began pouring into their cavern hideaway, the Apache began to slit their horse’s throats and used the blood plus what little water they had in attempts to put out the flames. Begging for mercy, the Apache began to seal the entrance with the slaughtered corpses of their steeds. The Navajo people questioned the status of the three women the Apache had kidnapped and when there was no response, they began firing their guns into the cave. Piercing the flesh barriers adding fuel to the fire, the Apaches death songs faded as they all met their ill-fated ends.
As silence rained through the charred carcasses, the Navajo made a clearing, stripping the 42 Apache raiders of their goods and valuables. Since that tragic day in history, no Apache has approached the cave nor considered raiding the Navajo people. Local tribes would warn would-be pioneers of the caves lethal accounts claiming the land surrounding that area was forever cursed. Settlers passed this as superstition but pioneers later reported hearing unexplained groans and footsteps outside their cabins. It seems the folklore and legends that followed the massacre easily left an impact on the pioneer’s that later settled on those very grounds.
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