A painting said to depict Lozen that is on display at the International Native American Memorial in St. Augustine, FL
“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
“That women who dare to be heard and dare to pursue accomplishment were considered to be disobedient is not just a part of history. It is a part of my lifetime. The trail that was blazed by disobedient women is still being cleared today.” —Catherine Carroll
Lozen was a warrior, a skilled fighter and strategist, a shaman, and a prophetess of the Chihenne Chiricahua Apache. She was born in about 1840 near Ojo Caliente, New Mexico and was the younger sister of the famous Apache Chief Victorio. Lozen defied gender norms—especially notable amongst the apache people, who adhered to strict gender roles—and was a resistance fighter who fought to protect her people.
In a time when the men were hunters and fighters, and the women gatherers, cooks, and caretakers of the family and households—Lozen was allowed by her parents to learn how to ride a horse. She went on to become one of the best riders in her band. This began to pave the way toward her unusual destiny.
When Lozen was about eight-years-old, she witnessed an ambush of her people by a group of outsiders. Lured in by the promise of trade and gifts, her people were surrounded and shot. Lozen and her brother Victorio escaped, but many of the Apache died, including men, women, and children. The trauma of this event seared itself into Lozen’s mind—she would never forget this incident—and it would affect the outcome of her life.
Past this time, Lozen continued to be raised as a typical Apache woman. She learned the traditional skills that would expected of her as a wife and mother. However, during her coming-of-age ceremony, a time that celebrated an Apache girl’s entrance into womanhood, Lozen received a sign that she should become a warrior. Indicated as a spiritual calling, Lozen told her band that she now had the ability to sense the location of her enemies.
When Lozen’s brother became the new leader of their band, Lozen began to join the men on raids, this along with her talents as a horseback rider and hunter, and her ability to locate enemies, made her a highly respected warrior. From here, she would never marry or have children. Her destiny as a warrior had been sealed.
“Lozen is my right hand… strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.” — Apache Chief Victorio
Some of Lozen’s history has been outlined here (Shared from New-York Historical Society):
“After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, the lands in the Southwest became part of the United States. More white people settled in the area, and the government wanted to grant even more land to white citizens. That’s when the U.S. military forced Apache groups onto reservations.
In 1870, the Warm Springs Apaches agreed to move to a reservation in Ojo Caliente. However, the government revoked their agreement and forced all Apaches to relocate to the San Carlos reservation in 1875. San Carlos was far away from Ojo Caliente and the conditions there were terrible. Apache members struggled with hunger and disease. The government forced members from different Apache groups to live together on the reservation, and tensions soon broke out between them.
In 1877, over 300 Apaches decided to leave the terrible conditions at the San Carlos reservation. The group included Lozen’s band. Many who escaped were caught or killed by the U.S. military. Others fled to Mexico. Victorio decided to lead his group back to Ojo Caliente and tried to pressure the government to honor their initial agreement to let them live there. When they returned to the Ojo Caliente reservation, they found that the military had shut it down.
Back at San Carlos, the government arrested Chiricahua leaders, including the famous Apache leader Geronimo. When the Warm Springs Apache heard rumors that there were plans to also arrest Victorio, they fled to the mountains. There they attacked a small group of American soldiers. This started a war between their band and the U.S. military.
Lozen’s group was on the run. When under attack, the women and children traveled in small groups separate from the warriors. During one such attack, a group of women and children had to cross a river to escape from American soldiers. The rising water made a safe crossing difficult. Lozen left the group of warriors to help them cross safely.
Lozen continued to prove herself to be a brave warrior. In 1880, the Warm Springs Apaches were on their way to Mexico through Texas when a pregnant woman went into labor. American soldiers were very close, but Lozen left the group to help the woman give birth. Being separated from the group was dangerous. Lozen left her horse behind to avoid being noticed by the military. The two women and the new baby did not have food and water. Lozen noticed a Mexican camp and decided to steal one of their horses. She waited until the men were asleep and crossed the river. As she jumped onto the horse and rode to the river, Lozen evaded bullets from the guard. She made it safely back to the woman and child and the three fled together.
As Lozen tried to reunite with the main group, she discovered that the American soldiers were guarding every water source on their route. She was able to find her way back, taking a long and dangerous route that took several weeks. This long, harrowing event exemplifies how Lozen blurred gender lines. As a skilled warrior, she was able to steal a horse and evade capture. As a woman trained in family care, she was able to help deliver and care for a baby.
When Lozen reunited with the main group at the Mescalero reservation, she learned that Mexican troops had ambushed the Apaches. Around 80 members of her band were killed, including Victorio. Lozen was devastated. She left the new mother and baby at the Mescalero reservation and went to look for other members of her band. She eventually rejoined the survivors of her band in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Apaches that remained in San Carlos fled the reservation under the leadership of Geronimo in 1885. Lozen fought beside Geronimo and used her power to evade capture by American and Mexican soldiers. Then Lozen and Dahteste, another female warrior, started peace negotiations with the Americans. However, the Americans did not take the negotiations seriously. They decided to relocate the Chiricahua to Florida. Lozen and the other leaders decided to surrender and join the forced relocation to Florida. Geronimo surrendered to the U.S. government and Lozen was taken prisoner by the American military. They imprisoned her at the Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama. She died there from tuberculosis on June 17, 1889.”