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Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about the Apache tribe.

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Apache Tribe

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The word "Apache" comes from the Yuma word for "Fighting Men" and from the Zuni word meaning "Enemy." The Apache tribe consists of six sub tribes: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan and Kiowa. Each sub tribe is from a different geographical region. They are composed of six regional groups: Western Apache - Coyote - most of eastern Arizona which include the White Mountain, Cibuecue, San Carlos, and Northern and Southern Tonto bands. It is possible, due to their nomadic nature that several names were used to identify the same tribe. The Anglo theory is the Apache Indian migrated to the Southwest from Northern Canada in the 1500's. The Apache Indian history says it was the other way around, that most of the Athabaskan speaking people migrated to the North and a few stayed in their homeland. In any event, it is generally agreed that about 5,000 Apaches lived in the Southwest at the end of the 1600's.

Apaches belong to the Southern Athabaskan linguistic family, a Native American people inhabiting the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Various Apache tribes offered strong resistance to encroachment on their territory in the latter half of the 19th century. Present-day Apache populations are located in Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Apache is the collective name given to several culturally related tribes of Native Americans, aboriginal inhabitants of North America, who speak a Southern Athabaskan language. The modern term excludes the related Navajo people. The Apache peoples migrated from the Northern Plains into the Southwest relatively recently. Noted leaders have included Cochise, Mangas Coloradoans, and Geronimo. The U.S. Army found them to be fierce warriors and skillful strategists.


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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.

Apache Groups

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The major Apache groups include the Jicarilla and Mescalero of New Mexico, the Chiricahua of the Arizona-New Mexico border area, and the Western Apache of Arizona. Other groups were the Lipan Apache of southwestern Texas and the Plains Apache of Oklahoma. The White Mountain Apache Tribe is located in the east central region of Arizona, 194 miles northeast of Phoenix. The Chiricahua Apaches were removed from their reservation in 1876 and sent to prison in 1886. Subsequently, some Chiricahua relocated to Oklahoma and some joined the Mescalero Apaches. The Apache lifestyle left little room for religious ritual. This nonagricultural society had no reason to celebrate seasonal periods and rarely celebrated any type of annual gathering.

All time and energy was spent on survival. Two illustrations of this point lie in the fact that the Apache lacked formal ceremonies for both marriage and death; two events that traditionally involve elaborate ceremonies in most civilizations. According to the historians, marriage among the Apache "was less the founding of a new social unit that it was the absorption of the couple into an on-going extended family." Death was considered to be "the ultimate foe and its triumph was not to be celebrated." Sickness and death were formidable problems for a society that needed every individual's efforts for survival. More importantly, however, was the fact that the Apache lacked an organized belief in an afterlife.


Books on the Apache

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Links to other sites on the Apache

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Apache Tribal Nation http://www.greatdreams.com/apache/apache-tribe.htm
American Indian Art http://www.curtis-collection.com
Indian Congress of 1898 http://www.omaha.lib.ne.us/transmiss/
Kiowa Apache Tribe History http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/
Yavapai-Apache http://www.yavapai-apache.org/
Native American Art http://www.american-native-art.com/publication/apache/apache.html
Lipan Apache (Tindi) http://www.indians.org/welker/lipanap.htm

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