" Apache "
They call themselves
Inde, or Nide "the people".
It is with Great Respect
That I honor the First Americans,
The American Indian.
Da go Te'....Apache Greeting
.... To ....
History of the Apache
.... Easy Reading for the Student ....
|The word Apache is believed to be derived from a Zuni word meaning "enemy".
The Apache Indians are divided into six sub-tribes
Chihenne....Chi-hen-ne, (Ojo Caliente), (Hot Springs) Apaches
Chokonen....Cho-kon-en, Chiricahua Apache
White Mountain Apache
The Apache people (including the Navajo) came from the Far North to settle the
Plains and Southwest around A.D. 850.
They settled in three desert regions, the Great Basin, the Sonoran, and the Chihuachuan.
The Navajo are not part of the Apache nation. They are their own honored nation.
They only share the Athabscan language with the Apache.
The Apache speak the Athabscan language,
which originated in their former homeland of
These distinct groups can be organized by dialects:
The Western Apache (Coyotero) traditionally occupied most of eastern Arizona
and included the White Mountain, Cibuecue, San Carlos, and Northern and Southern
Tonto bands. San Carlos, Aravaipa, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, Southern Tonto,
and Cibecue in Arizona, Chiricahua and Mimbreno in Arizona and New Mexico, Mescalero
(Faraon) in New Mexico and Mexico, Jicarilla (Tinde) in New Mexico and Colorado,
Kiowa-Apache (Gataka) in Oklahoma, and Lipan in Texas and Mexico. Western Apache
(Coyotero), Eastern Arizona.
They exchanged buffalo hides, tallow and meat, bones that could be worked into
needles and scrapers for hides, and salt from the desert with the Pueblos for
pottery, cotton, blankets, turquoise, corn and other goods. But at times they
simply saw what they wanted and took it. They became known among the Pueblo villages
by another name, Apachu, "the enemy".
|The Apache's guerrilla war tactics came naturally and were unsurpassed. The name
Apache struck fear into the hearts of Pueblo tribes, and in later years the Spanish,
Mexican, and Anglo-American settlers, which they raided for food, and livestock.
The Apache and the Pueblos managed to maintain generally peaceful relations.
But the arrival of the Spaniards changed everything. A source of friction was
the activity of Spanish slave traders, who hunted down captives to serve as labor
in the silver mines of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The Apache, in turn, raided
Spanish settlements to seize cattle, horses, firearms, and captives of their own.
The prowess of the Apache in battle became legend. It was said that an Apache
warrior could run 50 miles without stopping and travel more swiftly than a troop
of mounted soldiers.
|In the late 1800's, one U.S. Army general who had fought them meant it as a grudging
compliment when he described the Apache as "tigers of the human species."
The Apache saw themselves differently, they faced constant struggle to survive.
When they raided a village, they did so from pure necessity, to provide corn for
their families when game was scarce. Most of the time they went their own way,
moving from camp to camp in pursuit of deer and buffalo, collecting roots and
berries, sometimes planting seeds that they later returned to harvest.
They set up their camps on the outskirts of the pueblos. They dressed in animal
skins, used dogs as pack animals, and pitched tent like dwellings made of brush
or hide, called wikiups. The wickiup was the most common shelter of the Apache.
The dome shaped lodge was constructed of wood poles covered with brush, grass,
or reed mats. It contained a fire pit and a smoke hole for a chimney. The Jicarillas
and Kiowa-Apaches, which roamed the Plains, used buffalo hide tepees. The basic
shelter of the Chiricahua was the domeshaped wickiup made of brush.
|The Apache regarded coyotes, insects, and birds as having been human beings.
The human race, then, but following in the tracks of those who have gone before.
The Apache lived in extended family groups, all loosely related through the female
line. (Matriarcial).... Each group operated independently under a respected family
leader....settling its own disputes, answering to no higher human authority.
The main exception to this occurred during wartime, when neighboring groups banded
together to fight a common enemy. Unlike ordinary raiding, where the main object
was to acquire food and possessions,war meant lethal business. An act of vengeance
for the deaths of band members in earlier raids or battles.
Leaders of the local family groups would meet in council to elect a war chief,
who led the campaign. But if any one group preferred to follow its own war chief,
it was free to do so.
Apache bands that roamed the same area admitted to a loose cultural kinship.
The Jicarilla of northeastern New Mexico hunted buffalo in the plains, planted
corn in the mountains. The Mescalero to the south were hunter-gatherers who developed
an appetite for the roasted heads of wild mescal plants. The Chiricahua, fiercest
of all tribal groups, raided along the Mexican border. The more peaceble Western
Apache of Arizona spent part of each year farming. Two other tribal divisions,
the Lipan and Kiowa-Apache, lived as plainsmen in western Kansas and Texas.
A strict code of conduct governed Apache life, based on strong family loyalties.
Each Apache group was composed of extended families or clans. Basic social, economic,
and political units based on female inherited leadership. The most important bond
led from an Apache mother to her children and on to her children. Marriage within
one's own clan is forbidden. When the son married his obligations from then on
were to his mother-in-law's family.
|Beyond this code of propriety and family obligations, the Apache shared a rich
oral history of myths and legends and a legacy of intense religious devotion that
touched virtually every aspect of their lives.
Medicine Men presided over religious ceremonies. They believed in many spirit
beings. Usen, the Giver of Life, the most powerful of them all. The Gans, or Mountain
Spirits, were especially important in Apache ceremonies. Males garbed themselves
in elaborate costumes to impersonate the Gans in ritual dance, wearing kilts,
black masks, tall wooden-slat head-dresses, and body paint carrying wooden swords.
The Mescalero band consisted of followers and a headman. They had no formal leader
such as a tribal chief, or council, nor a decision making process. The core of
the band was a "relative group", predominantly, but not necessarily, kinsmen.
Named by the Spanish for the mescal cactus the Apaches used for food, drink, and
One author's characterization of the Mescalero Apache people of the past is as
follows: They moved freely, wintering on the Rio Grande or farther south, ranging
the buffalo plains in the summer, always following the sun and the food supply.
They owned nothing and everything. They did as they pleased and bowed to no man.
Their women were chaste. Their leaders kept their promises. They were mighty warriors
who depended on success in raiding for wealth and honor. To their families they
were kind and gentle, but they could be unbelievably cruel to their enemies--fierce
and revengeful when they felt that they had been betrayed. (Sonnichsen 1958:4)
The Apaches were nomadic hunter-gatherers. They chased any wild game located
within their territory, especially deer and rabbits. When necessary, they lived
off the land by gathering wild berries, roots, cactus fruit and seeds of the mesquite
tree. They planted some corn, beans, and squash as crops. They were extremely
hardy prior to the arrival of European diseases, and could live practically naked
in zero temperature.
Many Apache bands were so influenced by the tribes they came into contact that
they took on many of their customs and practices. Western Apaches living near
the Pueblo Indians became farmers. Jicarilla Apaches pursued the great buffalo
herds like other Plains Indians, mounted on horses they acquired through raids
on the Spanish and Pueblos in the late 1600's. Kiowa-Apaches became more like
the Kiowa, a Plains tribe, than their own Apache kin. The Lopans raised dogs for
meat as many Mexican tribes to their south.
In 1871 , the original White Mountain Reservation was established. It contained
today's Fort Apache and San Carlos reservations. In 1897, the land was divided
into two independent reservations.
|Today several of the Apache reservations have lead in commercial development
of reservation resources. The White Mountain Apache of Arizona manage the popular
Sunrise Park Ski Resort and Fort Apache Timber Company.
If you are using this for a class report or school project....
I suggest....Ride to....Apache Everyday Life next.
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Photo by A. R. Royo
Last Updated on October 27, 2008 by Who Else....PurpleHawk