Cochise; Apache K'uu-ch'ish "firewood"; c. 1815–June 8, 1874 was a chief (a nantan) of the Chokonen ("central" or "real" Chiricahua) band of the Chiricahua Apache and the leader of an uprising that began in 1861.
Cochise was one of the most famous Apache leaders (along with Geronimo) to resist intrusions by Americans during the 19th century. He was described as a large man (for the time), with a muscular frame, classical features, and long black hair which he wore in traditional Apache style. Cochise's family currently resides at Mescalero Apache Reservation, New Mexico.
Cochise and the Chokonen-Chiricahua lived in the area that is now the northern Mexican region of Sonora, New Mexico, and Arizona, which were traditional Apache territories until the coming of the Europeans. Due to encroachment by Spain and later Mexico, the Chokonen and Nednhi-Chiricahua became increasingly dependent upon food rations issued by the Mexican government to placate them. When this practice was abruptly ended in 1831, the various Chiricahua bands resumed raids to acquire food.
The Mexican government began a series of military operations in order to either capture or neutralize the Chiricahua, but they received stiff resistance from Cochise and the Apache who were implacable foes. Mexican troops were largely unsuccessful in their attempts and were often fought to a standstill by the Apache. As part of their attempts at controlling the Chiricahua, Mexican forces, often with the help of American and Native American mercenaries, began to kill Apache civilians, including Cochise's father. This hardened Cochise's resolve and gave the Chiricahua more reason for vengeance. Mexican forces were finally able to capture Cochise in 1848 during an Apache raid on Fronteras, Sonora, but they exchanged him for nearly a dozen Mexican prisoners.
The region inhabited by the Apache had experienced increased tension between the Apache and European settlers from about 1831 until the greater part of the area was annexed by the United States in 1850. Cochise worked as a woodcutter at the stagecoach station in Apache Pass for the Butterfield Overland Mail line.