WILLCOX — In celebration of being in operation for more than 20 years, Chiricahua Museum volunteers gathered Saturday morning.
An organization run by volunteers and kept in operation by local donations, the Chiricahua Regional Museum Research Center has accomplished 20 years of operation. The celebration included a meet and greet with the family of Elbys Hugar, the great-granddaughter of Cochise.
During the meet and greet, Debra Naiche Martinez, daughter of Hugar and great-great-granddaughter of Chief Cochise, gave a verbal history of the imprisonment of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. Martinez also spoke of the memories of her grandmother, depicting the Apache families being placed onto a train toward imprisonment.
Martinez’s adopted daughter, Marla Elbys Big Hunter, sang a song in Apache and English.
“My grandfather, being born a prisoner of war, in 1913, they arrived in Tularosa and he stepped off the train a free man,” Martinez said. “I’m very proud of being a Native American, being a descendant of Cochise. I’m very proud of my mother for all the things she has done, taught me and drilled into me over the years. Our culture, our traditions, our heritage, our history, she would tell me stories of Cochise; her father told her these stories and way back starting in the 1700s into the 1800s when they were battling settlers, the U.S. Army and Mexican Army.”
Kathy Klump told the Range News that there are seven new displays that include information and photos on “Tarzan” creator Edgar Rice Burroughs at Fort Grant, Dick Calkins, as well as famous people from Willcox. Klump also showed the Range News the new display on Dry Lake.
“The community has been very supportive of our museum,” Klump said. “We just roofed the Shortner House around the corner. We got a new roof, painted it, and it was all done with donations from the community and members of the Historical Society. So we’re really proud of the support we get. We’re all volunteers, and we’re an independent organization. We depend on memberships and donations to keep going.”