Apache Nations


Last Updated: 5 years

They call themselves Inde, or Nide “the people”.

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 northwestern Canada.

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”.

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 in former lives. 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 fiber.

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.

Apache Nations: