Many of the historical names of Apache groups that were recorded by non-Apache are difficult to match to modern-day tribes or their subgroups. Over the centuries, many Spanish, French and/or English-speaking authors did not differentiate between Apache and other seminomadic non-Apache peoples who might pass through the same area. Most commonly, Europeans learned to identify the tribes by translating their exonym, what another group whom the Europeans encountered first called the Apachean peoples. Europeans often did not learn what the peoples called themselves, referred to as their autonyms.
While anthropologists agree on some traditional major subgrouping of Apaches, they have often used different criteria to name finer divisions, and these do not always match modern Apache groupings. Some scholars do not consider groups residing in what is now Mexico to be Apache. In addition, an Apache individual has different ways of identification with a group, such as a band or clan, as well as the larger tribe or language grouping, which can add to the difficulties in an outsider comprehending the distinctions.
In 1900, the U.S. government classified the members of the Apache tribe in the United States as Pinal Coyotero, Jicarilla, Mescalero, San Carlos, Tonto, and White Mountain Apache. The different groups were located in Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
In the 1930s, the anthropologist Grenville Goodwin classified the Western Apache into five groups (based on his informants’ views of dialect and cultural differences): White Mountain, Cibecue, San Carlos, North Tonto, and South Tonto. Since then, other anthropologists (e.g. Albert Schroeder) consider Goodwin’s classification inconsistent with pre-reservation cultural divisions. Willem de Reuse finds linguistic evidence supporting only three major groupings: White Mountain, San Carlos, and Dilzhe’e (Tonto). He believes San Carlos is the most divergent dialect, and that Dilzhe’e is a remnant, intermediate member of a dialect continuum that previously spanned from the Western Apache language to the Navajo.
John Upton Terrell classifies the Apache into western and eastern groups. In the western group, he includes Toboso, Cholome, Jocome, Sibolo or Cibola, Pelone, Manso, and Kiva or Kofa. He includes Chicame (the earlier term for Hispanized Chicano or New Mexicans of Spanish/Hispanic and Apache descent) among them as having definite Apache connections or names which the Spanish associated with the Apache.
In a detailed study of New Mexico Catholic Church records, David M. Brugge identifies 15 tribal names which the Spanish used to refer to the Apache. These were drawn from records of about 1000 baptisms from 1704 to 1862.
- Apache, current usage generally includes six of the seven major, traditional, Apachean-speaking groups: Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Plains Apache, and Western Apache. Historically, the term has also been used for Comanches, Mohaves, Hualapais, and Yavapais.
- Arivaipa (also Aravaipa) is a band of the San Carlos local group of the Western Apache. Schroeder believes the Arivaipa were a separate people in pre-reservation times. Arivaipa is a borrowing (via Spanish) from the O’odham language. The Arivaipa are known as Tsézhiné (“Black Rock”) in the Western Apache language.
- Carlana (also Carlanes) is an Apache group in southeastern Colorado on Raton Mesa. In 1726, they had joined with the Cuartelejo and Paloma, and by the 1730s, they were living with the Jicarilla. It has been suggested that either the Llanero band of the modern Jicarilla or James Mooney’s Dáchizh-ó-zhn Jicarilla division are descendants of the Carlana, Cuartelejo, and Paloma. The Carlana as a whole were also called Sierra Blanca; parts of the group were called Lipiyanes or Llaneros. Otherwise, in 1812, the term was used synonymously with Jicarilla. The Flechas de Palo might have been a part of or absorbed by the Carlana (or Cuartelejo).
- Chiricahuaare one of the seven major Apachean groups, ranging in southeastern Arizona.
- Chíshí (also Tchishi) is a Navajo word meaning “Chiricahua, southern Apaches in general”.
- Ch’úúkʾanén (also Č’ók’ánéń, Č’ó·k’anén, Chokonni, Cho-kon-nen, Cho Kŭnĕ́, Chokonen) refers to the Eastern Chiricahua band identified by Morris Opler. The name is an autonym from the Chiricahua language.
- Cibecue is one of Goodwin’s Western Apache groups, living to the north of the Salt River between the Tonto and White Mountain groups, consisting of Ceder Creek, Carrizo, and Cibecue (proper) bands.
- Coyotero usually refers to a southern division of the pre-reservation White Mountain local group of the Western Apache. But, the name has also been used more widely to refer to the Apache in general, Western Apache, or an Apachean band in the high plains of southern Colorado to Kansas.
- Faraones (also Paraonez, Pharaones, Taraones, Taracones, Apaches Faraone) is derived from Spanish Faraón “Pharaoh”. Before 1700, the name was vague without a specific referent. Between 1720 and 1726, it referred to the Apache 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 was used only to refer to the peoples of the north and central parts of this region. The Faraones were probably part of the modern-day Mescalero or had merged with the Mescalero. After 1814, the term Faraones disappeared and was replaced by Mescalero.
- Gileño (also 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 coalesced into the Chiricahua proper. But, 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 in historical documents is often unclear. After 1722, Spanish documents start to distinguish between these different groups, in which case Apaches de Gila refers to the Western Apache living along the Gila River (and thus synonymous with Coyotero). United States writers first used the term to refer to the Mimbres (another subdivision of the Chiricahua). Later they used the term to refer to the Coyotero, Mogollon, Tonto, Mimbreño, Pinaleño, and Chiricahua, as well as the non-Apachean Yavapai (then also known as Garroteros or Yabipais Gileños). The Spanish also used Apaches de Gila to refer to the non-Apachean Pima living on the Gila River (whom they sometimes called Pimas Gileños and Pimas Cileños).
- Jicarilla (from Spanish meaning “little gourd”). One of the 7 major Apachean groups, the Jicarilla Apache live in northern New Mexico, southern Colorado, and the Texas Panhandle.
- Kiowa-Apache. See Plains Apache.
- Llanero is a borrowing from Spanish meaning “plains dweller”. The name was historically used to refer to several different groups who hunted buffalo seasonally on the Great Plains, also referenced in eastern New Mexico and western Texas. (See also Carlanas.)
- Lipiyánes (also Lipiyán, Lipillanes). A coalition of splinter groups of Nadahéndé (Natagés), Guhlkahéndé and Lipan of the 18th century under the leadership of Picax-Ande-Ins-Tinsle (Strong Arm), who fought and withstood the Comanche on the Plains. This term is not to be confused with Lipan.
- Lipan (also Ypandis, Ypandes, Ipandes, Ipandi, Lipanes, Lipanos, Lipaines, Lapane, Lipanis, etc.). One of the 7 major Apachean peoples. They once travelled from the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico to the upper Colorado River, San Saba River and Llano River of central Texas across the Edwards Plateau southeast to the Gulf of Mexico, were close allies of the Natagés, therefore it seems certain that they were the Plains Lipan division (Golgahį́į́, Kó’l kukä’ⁿ– “Prairie Men”), not to be confused with Lipiyánes or Le Panis (French for the Pawnee). They were first mentioned in 1718 records as being near the newly established town of San Antonio, Texas.)
- Mescalero. The Mescalero are one of the 7 major Apachean groups, generally living in what is now eastern New Mexico and western Texas.
- 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 in southwestern New Mexico.
- Mogollon was considered by Schroeder to be a separate pre-reservation Chiricahua band, while Opler considered the Mogollon to be part of his Eastern Chiricahua band in New Mexico.
- Ná’įįsha (also Ná’ęsha, Na’isha, Na’ishandine, Na-i-shan-dina, Na-ishi, Na-e-ca, Ną’ishą́, Nadeicha, Nardichia, Nadíisha-déna, Na’dí’į́shą́ʼ, Nądí’įįshąą, Naisha) all refer to the Plains Apache (see Kiowa).
- Natagés (also Natagees, Apaches del Natafé, Natagêes, Yabipais Natagé, Natageses, Natajes). Term used 1726–1820 to refer to the Faraón, Sierra Blanca, and Siete Ríos Apaches of southeastern New Mexico. In 1745, the Natagé are reported to have consisted of the Mescalero (around El Paso and the Organ Mountains) and the Salinero (around Rio Salado), but these were probably the same group, were oft called by the Spanish and Apaches themselves true Apaches, had had a considerable influence on the decision making of some bands of the Western Lipan in the 18th century. After 1749, the term was used synonymously with Mescalero, which eventually replaced it.
- Navajo. The most numerous of the 7 major Apachean-speaking groups. General modern usage separates the Navajo people culturally from the Apache.
- Pelones (Bald Ones, lived far from San Antonio and far to the northeast of the Ypandes in the Red River of the South country of north central Texas, although able to field 800 warriors, more than the Ypandes and Natagés together, they were described as less warlike because they had fewer horses than the Plains Lipan, their population were estimated between 1,600 to 2,400 persons, were the Forest Lipan division (Chishį́į́hį́į́, Tcici, Tcicihi – “People of the Forest”, after 1760 the name Pelones was never used by the Spanish for any Texas Apache group, the Pelones had fled for the Comanche south and southwest, but never mixed up with the Plains Lipan division – retaining their distinct identity, so that Morris Opler was told by his Lipan informants in 1935 that their tribal name was “People of the Forest”)
- Pinal (also Pinaleños). One of the bands of the Goodwin’s San Carlos group of Western Apache. Also used along with Coyotero to refer more generally to one of two major Western Apache divisions. Some Pinaleño were referred to as the Gila Apache.
- Plains Apache. The Plains Apache (also called Kiowa-Apache, Naisha, Naʼishandine) are one of the 7 major Apachean groups, generally living in what is now Oklahoma. In historic times, they were found living among the (unrelated) Kiowa. The term has also been used to refer to any supposed Apachean tribe found on or associated (usually culturally) with the North American Plains.
- Ramah. A group of Navajos currently living in the Ramah Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico. (The Navajo name for Ramah, New Mexico is Tłʼohchiní meaning “wild onion place”).
- 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.
- San Carlos. A Western Apache group that ranged closest to Tucson according to Goodwin. This group consisted of the Apache Peaks, Arivaipa, Pinal, San Carlos (proper) bands.
- Tonto. Goodwin divided into Northern Tonto and Southern Tonto groups, living in the north and west areas of the Western Apache groups according to Goodwin. This is north of Phoenix, north of the Verde River. Schroeder has suggested that the Tonto are originally Yavapais 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. Goodwin’s Northern Tonto consisted of Bald Mountain, Fossil Creek, Mormon Lake, and Oak Creek bands; Southern Tonto consisted of the Mazatzal band and unidentified “semi-bands”.
- Warm Springs were located on upper reaches of Gila River, New Mexico. (See also Gileño and Mimbreños.)
- Western Apache. In the most common sense, includes Northern Tonto, Southern Tonto, Cibecue, White Mountain and San Carlos groups. While these subgroups spoke the same language and had kinship ties, Western Apaches considered themselves as separate from each other, according to Goodwin. Other writers have used this term to refer to all non-Navajo Apachean peoples living west of the Rio Grande (thus failing to distinguish the Chiricahua from the other Apacheans). Goodwin’s formulation: “all those Apache peoples who have lived within the present boundaries of the state of Arizona during historic times with the exception of the Chiricahua, Warm Springs, and allied Apache, and a small band of Apaches known as the Apache Mansos, who lived in the vicinity of Tucson.”
- White Mountain. The easternmost group of the Western Apache according to Goodwin. Consisted of Eastern White Mountain and Western White Mountain.