The primitive dress of the men was deerskin shirt, leggings, and moccasins. They were never without a loincloth. A deerskin cap with attractive symbolic ornamentation was worn. The women wore short deerskin skirts and high boot top moccasins. All Apache rely primarily on hunting of wild animals and gathering of cactus fruits and other wild plant foods. Hunting is a part of daily life for food, clothing, shelter, and blankets. Apache hunted deer, wild turkeys, jackrabbits, coyote, javelin, fox, beavers, buffalo, bears, and mountain lions. There was no fishing. Eagles were hunted for their feathers. Two or three feathers were plucked from a bald eagle instead of being hunted for food.
Apache, Native North Americans of the Southwest composed of six culturally related groups. They speak a language that has various dialects and belongs to the Athabaskan branch of the Nadene linguistic stock (see Native American languages), and their ancestors entered the area about 1100. The Navajo, who also speak an Athabaskan language, were once part of the Western Apache; other groups E of the Rio Grande along the mountains were the Jicarilla, the Lipan, and the Mescalero groups. In W New Mexico and Arizona were the Western Apache, including the Chiricahua, the Coyote, and the White Mountain Apache. The Kiowa Apache in the early southward migration attached themselves to the Kiowa, whose history they have since shared. Subsistence in historic times consisted of hunting wild animals, cactus fruits, seeds of wild shrubs and grass, livestock, grains plundered from settlements, and a small amount of horticulture. The social organization involved matrilocal residence, a rigorous mother-in-law avoidance pattern, and the husband is working for the wife's relatives.
Historically the Apache are known principally for their fierce fighting qualities. They successfully resisted the advance of Spanish colonization, but the acquisition of horses and new weapons, taken from the Spanish, led to increased intertribal warfare. Today the Apache, numbering some 50,000 in 1990, live mainly on reservations totaling over 3 million acres in Arizona and New Mexico and retain many tribal customs. Cattle, timber, tourism, and the development of mineral resources provide income. In 1982, the Apaches won a major Supreme Court test of their right to tax resources extracted from their lands. The Apache and Navajo (Diné) tribal groups of the American Southwest speak related languages of the language family referred to as Athabaskan.