How many Apache sub-tribes were there and where were they located?


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How many Apache sub-tribes were there and where were they located?

~Submitted by Mindy D.


The original homelands of the Apache Indians were in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, western Oklahoma, Western Texas, and Northern Mexico. The Jicarilla also ranged into what is now Kansas. The Apache tribe consists of six subtribes: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan and Kiowa. Each subtribe is from a different geographial region.

Apaches belong to the Southern Athapascan linguistic family.

Apache Tribes Map

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 Athapaskan 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.

The Apache are composed of six regional groups:

Western Apache – Coyotero – Their territory covered 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.

Chiricahua – southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and adjacent Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora – The band was the informal political unit, consisting 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. The basic shelter of the Chiricahua was the domeshaped wickiup made of brush. Similar the Navajo, they also 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.

Mescalero – Faraon – live east of the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico, with the Pecos River as their eastern border.

Jicarilla – Tinde – southeastern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and northwest Texas – During their zenith in the SouthWest, two divisions of the Jicarilla Apache were known: the Llanero, or “plains people,” and the Hoyero, the “mountain people.” They roamed from central and eastern Colorado into western Oklahoma, and as far south as Estancia, New Mexico. As a result of their eastern contacts, the Jicarilla adopted certain cultural traits of the Plains Indians, as did the Mescalero who also ranged the eastern plains. From an estimated population of 800 Jicarilla in 1845, the tribe today numbers about 1,800.

The Jicarilla (little basketmakers) are of the Athabascan language group and anthropologists say that these people came from Canada down the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains about 1300-1500 AD.

All tribes deny the migration theories and say that they have always been there.

Though limited to using dogs as pack animals, the Jicarilla were the most successful raiders. When the Spaniards brought horses once again to North America (the previous horses had been eaten long before) the Jicarilla took full advantage.

They were not recognized as being distinctive from the other southern Athabascans: Chiricahuas, Navajos, Western Apaches, Mescaleros, Kiowa Apaches, and Lipans, until about 1700. Jicarilla are further identified as the plains people (Llaneros), and the mountain-valley people (Olleros) or Hoyero.

Though all of these are in New Mexico, the Jicarilla have been all through parts of southeastern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and adjoining areas of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Their contacts with the Spaniards began with Coronado in 1540 to 1542, perhaps as the Querechos, whom the later Spanish explorers called Vaqueros.

Hostilities began almost at first contact with the Spaniards, and though a Spanish mission was attempted near Taos in 1733, it was short-lived. The Spanish drive northward disrupted ancient Apache trade connections with neighboring tribes.

When New Mexico became a Spanish colony in 1598, hostilities increased between Spaniards and Apaches. An influx of Comanche into traditional Apache territory in the early 1700s forced the Lipan and other Apaches to move south of their main food source, the buffalo. These displaced Apaches began raiding for food.

Apache raids on settlers accompanied the American westward movement and the United States acquisition of New Mexico in 1848. The Native Americans and the United States military authorities engaged in fierce wars until all Apache tribes were eventually placed on reservations.

The Chiricahua, continued their attacks until 1872, when their chief, Cochise, signed a treaty with the U.S. government and moved with his band to an Apache reservation in Arizona.

The last band of Apaches, led by the chief Geronimo, was hunted down in 1886 and was confined in Florida, Alabama, and finally Oklahoma Territory.

There are thirteen different Apache tribes in the United States today: five in Arizona, five in New Mexico, and three in Oklahoma.


(Not recognized by the Federal Government)

(Petitions Pending)

  • Lipan Apache

The concept of “tribe” in Apachean cultures is very weakly developed, essentially being only a recognition of similar speech and culture. No leadership existed for all of the Apache tribes as a whole. In fact, not all Apaches recognize the existence of tribes within their cultures. The seven Apachean tribes had no political unity and often were enemies of each other. The Apache tribes are divided into many band divisions and further divided into clans or moieties which can cross multiple bands.

Local groups comprised loose confederations called bands. The bands were territorial units, not formal political groups. Nonetheless the bands had distinct names and leadership. The local groups consisted of several units of extended families occupying a given territory. The Chiricahua and Mescalero local groups had as many as 30 extended families. Among the Western Apaches the local groups were comprised of from two to six large, extended family units with three to eight nuclear families each and as many as 200 people. The Mescalero did not have bands.

There are two separate Apache clan systems: The Chiricahua and the Jicarilla. Apache clans are not totemic and they usually take their names from the natural features of localities, never from animals. Like clans of different Apache tribes recognize their affiliation. Clans can be closely related, related or distantly related. Closely related and related clan marriage is taboo.

The term Apaches, as used in our contemporary English language, generally includes 6 of the 7 major traditional Apachean speaking groups: Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipans, Mescalero, Plains Apache, and Western Apache. The seventh Apachean group, the Navajo, are now considered as a separate tribe.

Keeping the relationships of Apachean language divisions, apache tribes, bands, and clans (called moities in some groups) straight can be difficult. This is complicated further because anthropologists do not agree on how to classify these civilizations, and records from past centuries and various languages contain many spelling variations referring to the same peoples. Here is a little chart to help you sort it all out.

Chiricahua Apache
Apache Tribe Apache Band Apache Clans
Chiricahua, one of the 7 major Apachean divisions from southeastern Arizona. Known as Chíshí or Tchishi in Navajo, meaning “Chricahua” and “Southern Apache in general,” respectively. Chíshín in Jicarilla. Called Chishi´i´hi´i´in Lipan, meaning “Forest Lipan.” Mogollon Apaches were considered by Schroeder to be a separate pre-Rez Chiricahua band while Opler considered the Mogollon to be part of his Eastern Chiricahua band in New Mexico.


Mimbreños is an older name that refers to a section of Opler’s Eastern Chiricahua band and to Albert Schroeder’s Mimbres and Warm Springs Chiricahua bands (Oplers lists three Chircahua bands, while Schroeder lists five) in southwestern New Mexico. The Warm Springs group were called Chi-hen-ne in Apache, meaning “red paint people,” , according to Geronimo. They were called Ojo Caliente in Spanish, or Hot Springs Apache in English.

The Eastern Chiricahuas territory was roughly southwestern New Mexico west of the Rio Grande.

The Central Chiricahua band inhabited southeast Arizona, extreme southwestern New Mexico and a small range in Mexico. This group was also known as the Cochise Apaches, after their famous leader, or Cho-kon-en in the Apache language.

The Southern Chiricahua band ranged in Mexico and a small area in southwestern New Mexico. Geronimo was their best known leader. This band was called Be-don-ko-he in their language.

Warm Springs Apache were located on the upper reaches of Gila River, New Mexico. (see also Gilians and Mimbreños)

This group of clans belongs to the Chiricahua clan system.

Chokonni (Juniper Clan)

Chic clan

Jicarilla Apache
Apache Tribe Apache Band Apache Clans
Jicarilla means “little basket” in Spanish. Known as Tinde in their language, Be’-xai, or Pex’-ge in Navajo, Kinya-inde or Tashi’ne in Mescalero, Keop-tagui, meaning “mountain Apache” in the Kiowa language, Pi’-ke-e-wai-i-ne in Picuris, and Tu-sa-be’ in Tesuque. The Jicarilla Apache are one of the 7 major Apachean groups and currently live in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Also referenced as living in Texas Panhandle. These two bands have been referred to by some authors as moieties.

Olleros, meaning “potters,” in the west, (also known as Hoyero, the “mountain people,”)

Llaneros or “plains people,” (sometimes referred to as “sand people”),who ranged east of the Rio Grande. The name was historically used to refer to a number of different groups that hunted buffalo seasonally on the Plains, also referenced in eastern New Mexico and western Texas. (Also see Carlanas.)

This group belongs to the Jicarilla clan system. Each Jicarilla band had six clans.

Dachizhozhin: site of the present Jicarilla Reservation.

Golkahin: south of Taos Pueblo.

Ketsilind: south of Taos Pueblo.

Apatsiltlizhihi: Mora.

Saitinde: around what is now Espanola.

Lipan Apache
Apache Tribe Apache Band Apache Clans
Lipan Apache are one of the 7 major Apachean groups. Once in eastern New Mexico and Texas to the southeast to Gulf of Mexico, the relationships between these groups are not entirely clear to anthropologists. Most of the Lipan bands are now in Mexico. They were often known under the designation Cancy or Chanze, the French form of the Caddo collective name (Kä’ntsi) for the eastern Apache tribes. Natagés are a Lipan band in eastern New Mexico and western Texas.


Lipanes de Arriba

Lipanes de Abajo

19 bands in Mexico

Mescalero Apache
Apache Tribe Apache Band Apache Clans
The Mescalero Apache are one of the 7 major Apachean groups, generally living in what is now eastern New Mexico and western Texas. Faraones (also Paraonez, Pharaones, Taraones, Taracones, Apaches Faraone) is derived from Spanish Faraón meaning”Pharaoh”. Before 1700, the name was vague without a specific reference. Between 1720-1726, it referred to Apaches between the Rio Grande in the east, the Pecos River in the west, the area around Santa Fe in the north, and the Conchos River in the south. After 1726, Faraones only referred to the north and central parts of this region. The Faraones probably were, at least in part, part of the modern-day Mescaleros or had merged with the Mescaleros. After 1814, the term Faraones disappeared having been replaced by Mescalero. This group belongs to the Chiricahua clan system.
Plains Apache
Apache Tribe Apache Band Apache Clans
The Kiowa-Apache, also known as the Plains Apache, Naisha, or Na ishandine, are one of the 7 major Apachean groups. They currently live in OK among the Kiowa, which is a different tribe who speaks one of the Tanoan languages. Ná’iisha (also Ná’esha, Na´isha, Na’isha, Na’ishandine, Na-i-shan-dina, Na-ishi, Na-e-ca, Na’isha´, Nadeicha, Nardichia, Nadíisha-déna, Na’dí’i´sha´’, Nadí’iishaa, and Naisha are other names that refer to the Plains Apache. Querechos referred to by Coronado in 1541, possibly Plains Apaches, at times maybe Navajo. Other early Spanish might have also called them Vaquereo or Llanero. This group belongs to the Jicarilla clan system.
Western Apache
Apache Tribe Apache Band Apache Clans
The Western Apache are one of the 7 major Apachean groups. White Mountain Apache were the most eastern group of the Western Apache according to Goodwin. Formerly the Sierra Blanca Apache, a part of the Coyoteros, so called on account of their mountain home. The name is now applied to all the Apache under Ft Apache Agency, AZ, consisting of Arivaipa, Tsiltaden or Chilion, Chiricahua, Coyotero, Mimbrefio, and Mogollon.

Coyotero, a southern division of the pre-Rez White Mountain local group, but can also mean Apaches in general, Western Apaches or a band in the high plains of southern Colorado to Kansas.

The San Carlos Apache ranged closest to Tucson, according to Goodwin.

Cibecue, lived to the North of the Salt River between the Tontos and White Mountain groups according to Goodwin.

Tontos Apache are further divided into the Northern Tonto and Southern Tonto groups by Goodwin. They originally lived in the northern and western most areas of the Western Apache group according to Goodwin. This is north of Phoenix, north of the Verde River. Some have suggested that the Tonto are originally Yavapais, who were not true Apaches, but who assimilated Western Apache culture. Tonto is one of the major dialects of the Western Apache language. Tonto Apache speakers are traditionally bilingual in Western Apache and Yavapai.

This group belongs to the Chiricahua clan system. There are 62 Western Apache clans. These derive from three archaic clans, on which basis they are grouped into phratries. Clans are associated with the clan mother’s garden site. The clan name is related to this place of its origin.

Arivaipa, also known as Aravaipa. The Arivaipa are known as Tsézhiné, meaning “Black Rock” in the Western Apache language.

The Juniper Clan of the White Mountain Apache at San Carlos agency and Ft Apache, called by them Yogoyekayden, reappears as Chokonni among the Chiricahna and as Yagoyecayn among the final Coyoteros.

Destchin (Red Paint), which is correlated to the Chic clan of the Chiricahua and appears to have separated from the Satchin (Red Rock) clan, both being represented among the Navaho by the Dhestshini (Red Streak).

The Carrizo clan, Klokadakaydn, of San Carlos agency and Ft Apache is the Khugaducayn (Arrow Reed) of the Pinal Coyoteros.

Tutzose, (also spelled “Tutzone”) the Water clan of the Pinal Coyoteros, is found also among the White Mountain Apache

The White Mountain Apache Walnut clan, called Chiltneyadnaye, corresponds to the Pinal Coyotero Chisnedinadinave.

Natootzuzn (Point of Mountain), a clan at San Carlos agency, corresponds to Nagosugn, a Pinal Coyotero clan.

Tizsessinaye (Little Cottonwood Jungle of the former) seems to have divided into the clans Titsessinaye of the Pinal Coyotero, of the same signification, and Destchetinaye (Tree in a Spring of Water).

<iKayhatin (also spelled “Kaihatin”)is the name of the Willow clan among both the San Carlos and White Mountain, and the Navajo have one, called Kai.

Tzisequittzillan (Twin Peaks) of the White Mountain Apache, Tziltadin (Mountain Slope) of the Pinal Coyotero, and Navaho Dsilanothilni (Encircled Mountain), and Tsayiskidhni (Sagebrush Hill), are supposed by Bourke to have had a common origin.

Band or Clan?
Akonye Kaynaguntl
Gontiel Indelchidnti
Yachin Tziseketzillan

Extinct, Merged, or Unidentified Apache

The Carlanas were located in what is now Southeastern Colorado. Remenants of this Apache group merged with the Lipan bands. They were once considered to be Eastern Apache.

Gileño (also known as Apaches de Gila, Apaches de Xila, Apaches de la Sierra de Gila, Xileños, Gilenas, Gilans, Gilanians, Gila Apache, Gilleños) was used to refer to several different Apachean and non-Apachean groups at different times. Gila refers to either the Gila River or the Gila Mountains. Some of the Gila Apaches were probably later known as the Mogollon Apaches, a subdivision of the Chiricahua, while others probably evolved into the Chiricahua proper. However, since the term was used indiscriminately for all Apachean groups west of the Rio Grande (i.e. in southeast Arizona and western New Mexico), the reference is often unclear. After 1722, Spanish documents start to distinguish between these different groups, in which case Apaches de Gila refers to Western Apaches living along the Gila River (and thus synonymous with Coyotero). American writers first used the term to refer to the Mimbres (another subdivision of the Chiricahua), while later the term was confusingly used to refer to Coyoteros, Mogollones, Tontos, Mimbreños, Pinaleños, Chiricahuas, as well as the non-Apachean Yavapai (then also known as Garroteros or Yabipais Gileños). Another Spanish usage (along with Pimas Gileños and Pimas Cileños) referred to the non-Apachean Pima living on the Gila River.

Lipiyánes ???

Pinaleños ???

Tchikun ???