Language and Communication

The word "Apache" comes from the Yuma word for "fighting-men". It also comes from a Zuni word meaning "enemy". The Zuni name for Navajo was called "Apachis de Nabaju" by the earliest Spaniards exploring New Mexico. Their name for themselves is N'de, Inde or Tinde ("the people"). The Apaches are well-known for their superior skills in warfare strategy and inexhaustible endurance. Continuous wars among other tribes and invaders from Mexico followed the Apaches' growing reputation of warlike character. When they confronted Coronado in 1540, they lived in eastern New Mexico, and reached Arizona in the 1600s. The Apache are described as a gentle people; faithful in their friendship.

Apache spoke the language Athapaskan.  Athapaskan is the widely used language among Native Americans.  In the old days the Apaches and the Navajos spoke Athapaskan. Athapaskan was one of the three major language families among Native Americans.  Seven tribes spoke Athapaskan including the Apache. 

Apache is a language closely related to Navajo. It is spoken in the United States, unusual because most Athabaskan languages are spoken in the northwest of Canada and Alaska. Like most Athabaskan languages, Apache shows various levels of animacy in its grammar, with certain nouns taking different verb forms from others according to their rank in this animacy hierarchy. Apache's phonology is very similar to that of Navajo. It has four vowels a, e, i and o, and these may all be nasalised, long, high in tone or combinations of the three.

Athapaskan was used in stories.  Apache told animal stories.  The wolf  is the main character. In one of the stories, the wolf brought fire to people.  The wolf was very smart.  The firefly village is where the wolf fire.  The wolf got chased from the firefly village after he tricked the fireflies.  Storytelling is a way Apache communicated

    Apache communicated different ways.  Apache used smoke signals for long distance.  They have symbols, pictures, and poems.   Sign-language was used while they traded.  Apache used a calendar stick to keep track of days and what happened those days. 

Kiowa - Native North Americans, whose language is thought to form a branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock. The Kiowa, a nomadic people of the Plains area, had several distinctive traits, including a pictographic calendar and the worship of a stone image, the taimay.   The Kiowa Apache, a small group of North American Native Americans traditionally associated with the Kiowa from the earliest times, now live with them on their reservation. The Kiowa Apache retain their own language.

Some dialects of Apache include Jicarilla, Lipan, Kiowa-Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero and Western Apache. Lipan and Kiowa-Apache are nearly extinct. Western Apache has a number of subdialects: Cibeque, Northern and Southern Tonto, San Carlos and White Mountain.  Today, the Chiricahua Apache speak English as well as Apache.

Indian languages are losing to English, however. The language is gradually disappearing. There are very few people my age who are fluent. As tribes become more sophisticated, fewer need to speak the native language.

An Apache dictionary (Western Apache-English Dictionary: A Community-Generated Bilingual Dictionary) was recently published by Dorothy Bray and the White Mountain Apache Tribe in 1998. Some of the classification and pronunciation information has been challenged, but this remains the best reference available at present.

Apache Pronunciation

Apache - English Dictionary

Daniel A. Campos, a GS-12 civilian project manager with the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, worries that fewer native people speak the old dialects. A three-quarter Apache and Nauhau and part Portugese on his father's side, Campos was born on a Texas ranch but spent summers as a boy on an Arizona reservation. Campos himself speaks little Apache.

"We are not going to let our language go away," he says determinedly. "Up till now we have watched our languages fade as each generation produces fewer and fewer fluent speakers." He supports various cultural movements that promote native language study. "Language is deep down at the roots level," he says. "Before, we needed English," he says, but for natives to preserve a core part of themselves "we have to preserve our language."

A native heritage activist who belongs to a gourd society of native veterans, Campos predicts greater interest in native languages as more American Indians succeed in the mainstream and want to know more about their origins. Many tribes, among them the Apaches, Pimas and Crows, often with the assistance of missionaries, have translated their languages into phonetic primers.

"This is our country and these are our languages," Campos said. "Our prophesies foretold that we would undergo sorrowful times, but that we would survive through it all and become strong again as a people."

Campos says he also is a main-streamer. He left the reservation 15 years ago, but says, "I can't forget who I am. Society won't let me forget who I am. I have a lot of pride in that."

Other Apaches in the Military

In their own language, the Fort Sill Apache identify themselves as members of one of the four divisions of the nation anthropologists call the Chiricahua Apache tribe. The Chiricahua sometimes used the term Ndé, meaning 'people' to refer to themselves. The Fort Sill designation comes from the reservation where they were held as US prisoners of war.

The Lipan, or Lipan-Apache, (Tindi)  were among the more important subgroups of Apaches in Texas. They ranged the furthest eastward and had the most contact with the early Texas settlements. The Lipan fought the Texans fiercely, but on some occasions in the nineteenth century they were allies.

The Castro Family History of the LIPAN APACHE Band of Texas The word Apache means, "People of the Mountains," the word Lipan means, "Warriors of the Mountains." However, to the Lipan Apache Band of Texas, they called themselves the "Tindi," which means the above mentioned in their Native language.

Jicarilla Apache tribal member Lorene Willis said the Apache Cultural Center in Dulce, N.M. where she works stresses the importance of Native American elders and the need to keep the language alive. Willis said that 20 percent of 3,000 people are fluent in the Apache language.