The icon of the Apache Christ is an effort to heal wounds Christian missionaries have inflicted on native people in the past. In 1870, President Grant inaugurated his “Peace Policy” for Native American tribes. Because the Indian Service had become so corrupt in handling reservation affairs, the government would now turn every reservation over to a specific Christian sect. Missionaries from these sects would not only govern the reservations, but “civilize” the Native Americans as well.
To be “civilized,” in the eyes of the government, was to be Christian. Conversion by force became part of United States policy. Native religions had no validity in the eyes of the government, and native religious leaders could be jailed for refusing to cooperate. Native peoples had no choice about which sect the government imposed on them, and many missionaries nearly destroyed native cultures by outlawing ceremonial dancing and other traditional forms of religious expression.