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Native American LegendsNATIVE AMERICAN LEGENDS

Apache - The Fiercest Warriors in the Southwest

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Apache is a collective name given to several culturally related tribes that speak variations of the Athapascan language and are of the Southwest cultural area. The Apache separated from the Athapascan in western Canada centuries ago, migrating to the southwestern United States. Although there is some evidence Southern Athapascan peoples may have visited the Southwest as early as the 13th century AD, most scientists believe they arrived permanently only a few decades before the Spanish.

 

The Zuni, a Pueblo people, gave them the name Apachu, meaning "enemy.” In their dialects, the Apache call themselves Tinneh, Tinde, Dini, or one of several other variations, all meaning "the people.”

 

Apache Before the Storm.

Apache Before the Storm. This image available for photographic prints  & commercial downloads HERE!

 

 

 

Early Apache were a nomadic people, ranging over a wide area of the United States, with the Mescalero Apache roaming as far south as Mexico. They were primarily hunter-gatherers, with some bands hunting buffalo and some practicing limited farming.

 

Men participated in hunting and raiding activities, while women gathered food, wood, and water. Western Apache tribes were matrilineal, tracing descent through the mother; other groups traced their descent through both parents. Polygamy was practiced when economic circumstances permitted and marriage could be terminated easily by either party. Their dwellings were shelters of brush called wickiups, which were easily erected by the women and were well adapted to their arid environment and constant shifting of the tribes. Some families lived in buffalo-hide teepees, especially among the Kiowa-Apache and Jicarilla. The Apache made little pottery, and were known instead for their fine basketwork. In traditional Apache culture, each band was made up of extended families with a headman chosen for leadership abilities and exploits in war.  For centuries they were fierce warriors, adept in wilderness survival, who carried out raids on those who encroached on their territory.

 

Religion was a fundamental part of Apache life. Their pantheon of supernatural beings included Ussen (or Yusn), the Giver of Life, and the ga’ns, or mountain spirits, who were represented in religious rites such as healing and puberty ceremonies. Men dressed elaborately to impersonate the ga’ns, wearing kilts, black masks, tall wooden-slat headdresses, and body paint, and carrying wooden swords.

 

Trade was established between the long established Pueblo peoples and the Southern Athabaskans by the mid 16th century, exchanging maize and woven goods for bison meat, hides and material for stone tools.

The Apache and the Pueblos managed to maintain generally peaceful relations; however this changed with the appearance of the Spaniards. Arriving in the mid 1500s, the first Spanish intruders drove northward into Apache territory disrupting the Apache trade connections with neighboring tribes.

 

In April 1541, while traveling on the plains east of the Pueblo region, Francisco Coronado wrote:

 

After seventeen days of travel, I came upon a rancheria of the Indians who follow these cattle [bison.] These natives are called Querechos. They do not cultivate the land, but eat raw meat and drink the blood of the cattle they kill. They dress in the skins of the cattle, with which all the people in this land clothe themselves, and they have very well-constructed tents, made with tanned and greased cowhides, in which they live and which they take along as they follow the cattle. They have dogs which they load to carry their tents, poles, and belongings.

 

When New Mexico became a Spanish colony in 1598, hostilities increased between Spaniards and Apache. One source of the friction with the Spaniards was with the slave traders, who hunted down captives to serve as labor in the silver mines of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The Apache, in turn, raided Spanish settlements to seize cattle, horses, firearms, and captives of their own.  Before long, the prowess of the Apache in battle became legend. The Apache were not so numerous at the beginning of the 17th century; however, their numbers were increased by captives from other tribes, particularly the Pueblo, Pima, Papago, and other peaceful Indians, as well as white and Spanish peoples. Extending their depredations as far southward as Jalisco, Mexico, the Apache quickly became known for their warlike disposition.

 

Continued Next Page

 

Apache Squaw and Basket Work

Apache women have long been noted for their beautiful woven baskets, 1908. This image available for photographic prints  & commercial downloads HERE!

 

Apache Ceremony

Apache Ceremony

 

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