The Chronicles Of Grant County

gila wilderness steve douglas flickr asterisk97 november 18 2012This photograph shows the Gila River as it flows through the Gila Wilderness. The Apache Nation once included lands throughout Grant County as well as other areas of what is today the Southwest of the United States as well as northern Mexico. (This photo was provided through Flickr courtesy of Steve Douglas, November 18, 2012.)

When describing people from a different culture, individuals sometimes use words that seem innocuous or pleasant to themselves. Yet those same words may be used purposely to bring pain to others and may be considered offensive to the individuals from that different culture.

"Happy hunting ground" is one such phrase.

When Spaniards, other Europeans, and Mexicans came through what is now Silver City and Grant County, they found that other people already lived in the area. This section of America's Southwest was once part of the homelands of the Apache Nation.

Wording used by these new settlers indicated that when an Apache died, he or she was sent to the "happy hunting ground." In many cases, the wording was used in derogatory fashions, though some people used the phrase in ways that were likely seen by contemporaries as complementary. Many news articles used the wording as shorthand to indicate that Apaches or other Native Americans were killed or had died.

On March 14, 1871, a news article in the Weekly New Mexican reported that "In the latter part of the year 1869, Capt. Bullard [Captain John Bullard, one of the founders of Silver City], in obedience to a call or authority from the Governor of New Mexico, organized a 'posse' of citizens for the purpose of pursuing and punishing marauding and murdering bands of Indians, that were continually harrassing the settlements. [Captain Bullard was killed during one of these pursuits in 1871.]…It will be remembered too that Major Kelly, 3rd Cavalry, stationed at Fort Bayard, had only a short time ago returned from a successful pursuit of marauding Indians. He reported and brought back proof of fourteen Indians killed in his fight. Mr. James Bullard [brother of John and also one of the founders of Silver City] was with him and sent more than one Apache to the 'happy hunting grounds.'"

The Albuquerque Morning Journal on October 27, 1882, included a news article detailing life in an American town in the Southwest "…which not many years ago was but a barren plain, held by that wild and savage race, the Apaches. No longer are the voices of the savage race heard; they have moved or rather left, and many have gone to that happy hunting ground."

A headline in the Deming Graphic on February 19, 1909, noted that "Geronimo Is Dead – Famous Indian Chief Goes to the Happy Hunting Ground." According to the National Park Service, Geronimo was "…a medicine man of the Bedonkehe band of the Chiricahua Apache" and that his birth name was "Goyakla." In his autobiography, though, Geronimo stated that his birth name was "Go khlä yeh."

The phrase "happy hunting ground" is considered offensive to the Apache Nation.

Michael Darrow, Fort Sill Apache Tribal Historian, explained that "happy hunting ground" is not wording that was ever used by the Apache Nation: "No, our nation never used any word or phrase that would translate as 'happy hunting ground.'" He explained that "it was never a term or phrase we used in our language."

"Presuming that 'happy hunting ground' is to be a native equivalent to the Christian concept of heaven, after missionaries began their work, our tribe would occasionally use a term that would translate as 'the good place,'" explained Mr. Darrow. "The term 'happy hunting ground' in English would only be used by our tribal members in a manner mildly mocking non-native use of the term as culturally applicable in situations involving natives. Describing native concepts of what the afterlife would be like by calling it the 'happy hunting ground' is derisive and belittling of native concepts along the lines of describing Christian concepts of heaven as 'clouds with flying babies.' The cultural concepts of what is seen to be of value is revealed by descriptions of golden mansions and streets of gold and golden slippers and pearly gates. Natives tended to place value not on money or treasure but rather on health and well-being and accessibility of natural resources."

Death is viewed differently in many cultures.

For the Apache, "When a person dies, their body is left behind but the person continues on," stated Mr. Darrow. "To allow them to go on, any possessions that are closely associated with them are destroyed, and their name is not uttered so they will not be called back."

"It is not considered appropriate to speak of death directly," noted Mr. Darrow. "Euphemisms are used. My aunt mentioned one which says, 'his/her footprints have disappeared.' That particular term is still used on rare occasions only among our tribal members who remain familiar with the term. It is perceived as thoughtful and respectful by those who are familiar with it."

When reading news content that was produced years ago, like the news articles that included the phrase "happy hunting ground," Mr. Darrow recommended that such "news content with offensive language produced years ago should be viewed with realization and understanding of the situation prevailing at the time and should not be thoughtlessly repeated unquestioningly in updated information."

Mr. Darrow explained that he "cannot speak for the other Apache Nations – Jicarilla Apache, Mescalero Apache, etc. – but I suspect they may have similar views."

Do you have questions about communities in Grant County?

A street name? A building?

Your questions may be used in a future news column.

Contact Richard McDonough at

If your email does not go through, please contact

© 2021 Richard McDonough

Click to search the Beat Click to search the Beat

Submitting to the Beat

Those new to providing news releases to the Beat are asked to please check out submission guidelines at They are for your information to make life easier on the readers, as well as for the editor.

Advertising: Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ads on the Beat.

Classifieds: We have changed Classifieds to a cheaper and shorter option. Check periodically to see if any new ones have popped up. The former software failed us, so it's just a category now, with prices posted. Send your information to and we will post it as soon as we can. Instructions and prices are on the page.

Editor's Notes

Please Note in Classifieds a dog looking for a home. And now a well-loved cat is looking for a home.

Here for YOU: Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News. Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—

Feel free to notify if you notice any technical problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.  The Beat totally appreciates its readers and subscribers!  

Compliance: Because you are an esteemed member of The Grant County Beat readership, be assured that we at the Beat continue to do everything we can to be in full compliance with GDPR and pertinent US law, so that the information you have chosen to give to us cannot be compromised. 

Content on the Beat

WARNING: All articles and photos with a byline or photo credit are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Disclaimer: If you find errors in articles not written by the Beat team but sent to us from other content providers, please contact the writer, not the Beat. For example, obituaries are always provided by the funeral home or a family member. We can fix errors, but please give details on where the error is so we can find it. News releases from government and non-profit entities are posted generally without change, except for legal notices, which incur a small charge.

NOTE: If an article does not have a byline, it was written by someone not affiliated with the Beat and then sent to the Beat for posting.

Images: We have received complaints about large images blocking parts of other articles. If you encounter this problem, click on the title of the article you want to read and it will take you to that article's page, which shows only that article without any intruders. 

New Columnists: The Beat continues to bring you new columnists. And check out the old faithfuls who continue to provide content.

  • The Beat has a column for you gardeners out there. The Grant County Extension Service will bring you monthly columns on gardening issues.

Newsletter: If you opt in to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option at the top of this page, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Go to Top