The Apache culture


The Apache were located in the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas). Ten sub-tribes made up the Apache nation. They were the Aravaipa Apache, Chiricahua Apache, Cibecue Apache, Jicarilla Apache, Kiowa Apache, Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, Tonto Apache, Western Apache and White Mountain Apache. Their native language is Athapascan.

The Apache are part of the larger Athabascan people and started in the north. Because of their small social units and their reliance on hunting and fishing, with limited farming, they were able to move into the Southwest unimpeded. This is where we see, for the first time, the divergence from a single Athabascan nation to the formation of the Navaho nation and the Apache nation in the Southwest.

Interestingly, the Apache people actually called themselves the Dine meaning the People, but by other nations they were called the Apache, which is Zuni for “enemy”. They became fierce fighters; they traveled in small bands and became great hunters of buffalo, deer, lizards, and just about any other plains and desert animals.

The late fifteen hundreds was to be both a pivotal time and a turning point in Apache history. New intruders, with new technology and new fighting tactics were going to push their way North into Apache territories. These intruders would take the form of the Spanish. The presence of the Spanish would serve to increase their ferocity as warriors and became a factor in the Apache displacement from their main living and food sources.

With the Spanish, came the horse, increasing the Apaches ability to roam for food. They also had increased ability to raid settlements and defend their territory in a swift and unsuspecting manner. The arrival of the Spanish also signified the beginning of a continuous state of war and displacement for almost 300 years. First by the Spanish, then buy the U.S. Government who assumed sovereignty over New Mexico in 1848. In 1872 (after increased pressure from both the Mexican and U.S. military to suppress the Apaches) Apache chief, Cochise, signed a treaty with the U.S. Government. This treaty would place the Apaches on an Arizona reservation leaving only small bands of Apache raiders to defend their territory. The Apache raiders were led by Chief Geronimo, who was considered the last great chief of the Apache nation. He and his raiders, terrorized the Southwest until they were finally captured in 1886. Geronimo’s capture signified the end of the Apache people as a viable warrior culture. The Apache people were moved three more times to Florida, Alabama, and the Oklahoma territory. They are fittingly recognized as the last Indian nation to be placed on a reservation.

The Apache culture is similar to the Navaho Nation due to their shared family line. The center of their culture is self-importance. Because of this self-importance, raiding was not only encouraged but was enjoyed. Each band of Apaches had a headman who led by reason, prestige and good example. They also had a head woman that counseled in the ways of living. She would also organize gathering parties among the women. Apaches typically lived in wood huts or adobe structures that may or may not have been built by Pueblo Indians. There was basic day to day things to do like cooking and cleaning, pottery was manufactured and deer hide would have been tanned for clothing. The men would have predominantly been on the move, although some would stay with the group. Apaches lived in small bands so travel for news, goods and defense was a must. Apache males would have run in small groups scouting the edges of their territories. They also would have made raids and trading runs with other Apache bands, Navaho and the Pueblo. Pueblo and Navahos may have been seen in or around Apache encampments for trade and commerce purposes. With just about every aspect of life, the Apaches recognized Yusn or Ussen, the Giver-of –life, as the omnipotent deity, which is the source of all supernatural power. The Giver-of-life was prayed to for power in almost every part of an Apaches life.


Dutton, Bertha. Indians of the American Southwest. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975.

Terell, John. Apache Chronicle, The Story of the People. New York: The World Publishing Company. 1972.

Encyclopedia Encarta 99. CD ROM. Microsoft, 1999

Author: Jason Hamond