Lived:c.1793 - 1863
Mangas Coloradas was the leader of the Apache during a period of extended conflict between his people and the Americans that later became known as the Apache Wars. Little is known of Coloradas's early life. But by the 1830s, the Apache leader found himself in an exceedingly difficult position. His territory, wedged uncomfortably between the newly-formed and highly ambitious Mexican nation and the manifest-destiny obsessed United States, became even more valuable when great troves of copper and gold were discovered to lie beneath its soil.
The Mexicans struck first, beginning a campaign of annihilation against the Apache. The Apache fought back with fervor, creating a force that included two of the greatest native warriors in history - Cochise, leader of the Chiricahua Apache, and later, Geronimo, the seemingly invincible medicine man of the Chiricahua. Bloodshed continued between the Mexicans and the Apache until the United States stepped in, declaring formal war on Mexico in 1846. Coloradas granted the American troops safe passage through his lands and even offered Apache support to the Americans if they would guarantee the natives' sovereignty.
Such a deal, however, would never be struck. The call of gold and copper in the Apache territory was too much for the American miners, who increasingly trespassed on Apache soil. The specific incident that drove Coloradas to war is disputed. Some claim his family was murdered. Others believe he was bound to a tree by miners, whipped, and left for dead. Whatever the cause, the effect is known - Mangas began a brutal war against the Americans, both miners and soldiers alike. Back and forth raids by Apache warriors and American soldiers turned the whole of the American Southwest into a battlefield.
By 1862, the war had reached an uneasy calm. Coloradas, who had spent nearly all of the past four decades at war, was lured by the offer of peace made by an American general. Upon arriving for the talks, Mangas was bound, tortured and executed. This stunning act of duplicity drove Cochise and Geronimo to resume all-out war against the Americans. Geronimo, the last great Apache leader to be captured, would not cease to fight until 1886.