On December 14, 1872, President U.S. Grant established the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The government gave various religious groups responsibility for managing the new reservations, and the Dutch Reformed Church was in charge of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. The church chose John Clum, who turned down the position twice before accepting the commission as Indian Agent for the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in the Arizona Territory on February 16, 1874.
The U.S. Army showed both animosity toward the Indians and disdain for the civilian Indian Agents. Soldiers and their commanding officers sometimes brutally tortured or killed the Indians for sport while politicians in Washington, D.C., knew little about differences in tribal cultures, customs, and language. Politicians also ignored political differences and military alliances and tried to apply a “one-size-fits-all" strategy to deal with the “Indian problem”. As a result, tribal friends and foes were forced to live in close proximity to one another. Meanwhile, the Apaches were supposed to be fed and housed by their caretakers, but they rarely saw the federal money and suffered as a result.
Clum arrived at the reservation on August 4, 1874. During his tenure at San Carlos, he struck a lifelong friendship with Eskiminzin, an Aravaipa Apache chief, and persuaded many of the White Mountain people to move south to San Carlos. Clum won the Indians' confidence and the Apaches responded by turning in their weapons. The Apaches formed a tribal court to try minor infractions and joined the Tribal Police organized under Clum's command, which helped to form a system of limited Indian self-rule. The agent soon attracted 4,200 Apache and Yavapai Indians to the semi-arid reservation. The Army bristled at Clum's actions because they prevented them from taking part of the funds that passed through the reservation.
On April 21, 1877, Clum, along with 100 of his best Apache Police, captured Geronimo at the Ojo Caliente Reservation in the New Mexico Territory. The U.S. Army, which had mounted intense efforts to track down and capture Geronimo, was seriously embarrassed by Clum's success. Indian Bureau administrators and U.S. Army commanders disliked Clum's methods and continually frustrated his efforts. Clum finally resigned, and the reservation's new administrators released Geronimo, resulting in more than 15 years of conflict across the American southwest.
In March 1875, the government closed the Yavapai-Apache Camp Verde Reservation and marched the residents 180 miles (290 km) to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. More than 100 Yavapai died during the winter trek.