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. They called themselves Inde, or Nide "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 gentel people; faithful in their friendship.

Apaches belong to the Southern Athapascan linguistic family.

They are composed of six regional groups:

1.  Western Apache - Coyotero - most of eastern Arizona which include the White Mountain, Cibuecue, San Carlos, and Northern and Southern Tonto bands.

2.  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 nessarily, 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.

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

4.  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.

5. Lipan - occupy territory directly to the east of the Jicarilla

6. Kiowa - Gataka - long associated with the KIOWA, a Plains people, range over the southern plains of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas.


Early Apache inhabitants of the southwestern United States were a nomadic people; some groups roamed as far south as Mexico. They were primarily hunters of buffalo but they also practiced limited farming. For centuriesthey were fierce warriors, adept in desert survival, who carried out raids on those who encroached on their territory.

The primitive Apache was a true nomad, a wandering child of Nature, whose birthright was a craving for the warpath with courage and endurance probably exceeded by no other people and with cunning beyond reckoning. Although his character is a strong mixture of courage and ferocity, the Apache is gentle and affectionate toward those with his own flesh and blood, particularly his children.

The Apache people (including the Navajo) came from the Far North to settle the Plains and Southwest around A.D. 850. They settled in three desert regions, the Great Basin, the Sonoran, and the Chihuachuan.

They were always known as 'wild" Indians, and indeed their early warfare with all neighboring tribes as well as their recent persistent hostility toward our Government, which precipitated a "war of extermination," bear out the appropriateness of the designation.

The first intruders were the Spanish, who penetrated Apache territory in the late 1500s. 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.

Most of the tribes were subdued by 1868, except for the Chiricahua, who 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 Apache raiders, led by the chief Geronimo, was hunted down in 1886 and was confined in Florida, Alabama, and finally Oklahoma Territory.

Despite the turbulence associated with his last days as a warrior, his early life was tranquil. To his birthplace Geronimo gave the apache name of No-doyon Canyon and located it near the headwaters of the Gila River in what is now southeastern Arizona, then a part of Mexico. Born in the mid 1820's, he was given the name Goyahkla, with the generally accepted meaning "One Who Yawns". It was as an adult he became known by the Mexicans as Geronimo. His father was Taklishim "The Gray One", the son of Chief Mahko of the Bedonkohe Apache tribe. His mother, although a full blooded Apache, had the Spanish name Juana. He was the grandson of Chief Mahko of the Nedni Apache.

Shaman - Chief Geronimo

Born 1829....Died February 17, 1909

Cochise was a tall man, six feet, with broad shoulders and a commanding appearance. He never met a man his equal with a lance, and, like Crazy Horse, was never photographed. They both were buried in secret locations on their homeland.

Cochise angered by the murder of his Father-in-law, Mangas Coloradas went of a war spree.

The Cochise Stronghold, nestled in the Dragoon's canyons, was their impregnable fortress for many years. Cochise eventually signed the Broken Arrow Peace Treaty at a prominent area landmark, Council Rock. His son Naiche signaled the signing with a white flag from atop Treaty Hill.

Cochise died in 1874 of natural causes. His body was dress in his best war garments. He was decorated in war paint, and head feathers. His body was then wrapped in a brillant red blanket, and place on his horse. The horse was guided to a remote place in the Dragoons. The horse was shot and lowered into the chasm along with Cochise's gun and other arms. Lastly Cochise was lowered into the rocky cavern by lariots. The location of this burial site remains a mystery to this day.


The primitive dress of the men was deerskin shirt, leggings, and moccasins. They were never without a loin-cloth. A deerskin cap with attractive symbolic ornamentation was worn. The women wore short deerskin skirts and high boot top moccasins.


The Apache dwellings consisted of a dome shaped frame of cottonwood or other poles, thatched with grass. The house itself was termed, "Kowa" and the grass thatch, "Pi".

They pitched tentlike dwellings made of brush or hide, called 'wikiups'. The wickiup was the most common shelter of the Apache. The dome shaped lodge was constructed of wood poles covered with brush, grass, or reed mats. It contained a fire pit and a smoke hole for a chimney. The Jicarillas and Kiowa-Apaches, which roamed the Plains, used buffalo hide tepees. The basic shelter of the Chiricahua was the domeshaped wickiup made of brush.


The ceremonies are called "dances. Among these are the 'rain dance', a 'puberty right', a 'harvest' and 'good crop' dance, and a 'spirit dance'. The Apache are devoutly religious and pray on many occasions and in various ways. Recreated in the human form, Apache spirits are supposed to dwell in a land of peace and plenty, where there is neither disease or death.

To celebrate each noted event a feast and dance is given. The music for our dance is sung by the warriors, and accompanied by beating the esadadedne (buck-skin-on-a-hoop). No words are sung - only the tones. When the feasting and dancing are over they have horse races, foot races, wrestling, jumping, and all sorts of games (gambling),

There are no formal churches, no religious organizations, no sabbath day, no holidays, and yet they worship. Sometimes the whole tribe assembles to sing and pray; sometimes a smaller number, perhaps only two or three. The songs have a few words, but are not formal. The singer will occasionally put in such words as he wished instead of the usual tone sound. Sometimes they prayed in silence; sometimes each one prays aloud; sometimes an aged person prays for all of us. At other times they rise and speak to us of our duties to each other and to Usen. The services are short.

When disease or pestilence abound we assemble and are questioned by our leaders to ascertain what evil we had done, and how Usen - a god - could be satisfied. Sometimes sacrifice is deemed necessary. Sometimes the offending one is punished.

If an Apache has allowed his aged parents to suffer for food or shelter, if he has neglected or abused the sick, if he has profaned our religion, or has been unfaithful, he can be banished from the tribe.

The Apaches have no prisons as white men have. Instead of sending their criminals into prison they send them out of their tribe. These faithless, cruel, lazy, or cowardly members of the tribe are excluded in such a manner that they cannot join any other tribe. Neither can they have any protection from our unwritten tribal laws.

Frequently these outlaw Indians band together and commit depredations which were charged against the regular tribe. However, the life of an outlaw Indian is a hard lot, and their bands never become very large; besides, these bands frequently provoke the wrath of the tribe and secured their own destruction.


All Apache rely primarily on hunting of wild game and gathering of cactus fruits and other wild plant foods.

Hunting is a part of daily life - for food, clothing, shelter, blankets. Apache hunted deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, buffalo, bears, mountain lions. There was no fishing. Eagles were hunted for their feathers.

They exchanged buffalo hides, tallow and meat, bones that could be worked into needles and scrapers for hides, and salt from the desert with the Pueblos for pottery, cotton, blankets, turquoise, corn and other goods. But at times they simply saw what they wanted and took it. They became known among the Pueblo villages by another name, Apachu, "the enemy".

The Apache's gorilla war tactics came naturally and were unsurpassed. The name Apache struck fear into the hearts of Pueblo tribes, and in later years the Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American settlers, which they raided for food, and livestock.

The Apache and the Pueblos managed to maintain generally peaceful relations. But the arrival of the Spaniards changed everything. A source of friction was the activity of Spanish 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.

The prowess of the Apache in battle became legend. It was said that an Apache warrior could run 50 miles without stopping and travel more swiftly than a troop of mounted soldiers.


The Apache 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.

The Apache lived in extended family groups, all loosely related through the female line. (Matriarcial).... Each group operated independently under a respected family leader....settling its own disputes, answering to no higher human authority.

The main exception to this occurred during wartime, when neighboring groups banded together to fight a common enemy. Unlike ordinary raiding, where the main object was to acquire food and possessions,war meant lethal business. An act of vengeance for the deaths of band members in earlier raids or battles.

Leaders of the local family groups would meet in council to elect a war chief, who led the campaign. But if any one group preferred to follow its own war chief, it was free to do so.

Apache bands that roamed the same area admitted to a loose cultural kinship. The Jicarilla of northeastern New Mexico hunted buffalo in the plains, planted corn in the mountains. The Mescalero to the south were hunter-gatherers who developed an appetite for the roasted heads of wild mescal plants. The Chiricahua, fiercest of all tribal groups, raided along the Mexican border. The more peaceble Western Apache of Arizona spent part of each year farming. Two other tribal divisions, the Lipan and Kiowa-Apache, lived as plainsmen in western Kansas and Texas.

A strict code of conduct governed Apache life, based on strong family loyalties. Each Apache group was composed of extended families or clans. Basic social, economic, and political units based on female inherited leadership. The most important bond led from an Apache mother to her children and on to her children.

Marriage within one's own clan is forbidden. When the son married his obligations from then on were to his mother-in-law's family.

Beyond this code of propriety and family obligations, the Apache shared a rich oral history of myths and legends and a legacy of intense religious devotion that touched virtually every aspect of their lives.

Medicine Men presided over religious ceremonies. They believed in many supernatural beings including Usen, the Giver of Life, to be the most powerful of them all. The Gans, or Mountain Spirits, were especially important in Apache ceremonies. Males garbed themselves in elaborate costumes to impersonate the Gans in ritual dance, wearing kilts, black masks, tall wooden-slat head-dresses, and body paint carrying wooden swords.

The Mescalero band consisted 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.

One author's characterization of the Mescalero Apache people of the past is as follows: They moved freely, wintering on the Rio Grande or farther south, ranging the buffalo plains in the summer, always following the sun and the food supply. They owned nothing and everything. They did as they pleased and bowed to no man. Their women were chaste. Their leaders kept their promises. They were mighty warriors who depended on success in raiding for wealth and honor. To their families they were kind and gentle, but they could be unbelievably cruel to their enemies - fierce and revengeful when they felt that they had been betrayed.

The Apaches were nomadic hunter-gatherers. They chased any wild game located within their territory, especially deer and rabbits. When necessary, they lived off the land by gathering wild berries, roots, cactus fruit and seeds of the mesquite tree. They planted some corn, beans, and squash as crops. They were extremely hardy prior to the arrival of European diseases, and could live practically naked in zero temperature.

Many Apache bands were so influenced by the tribes they came into contact that they took on many of their customs and practices. Western Apaches living near the Pueblo Indians became farmers. Jicarilla Apaches pursued the great buffalo herds like other Plains Indians, mounted on horses they acquired through raids on the Spanish and Pueblos in the late 1600's. Kiowa-Apaches became more like the Kiowa, a Plains tribe, than their own Apache kin. The Lopans raised dogs for meat as many Mexican tribes to their south.

In 1871 , the original White Mountain Reservation was established. It contained today's Fort Apache and San Carlos reservations. In 1897, the land was divided into two independent reservations.

Today several of the Apache reservations have lead in commercial development of reservation resources. The White Mountain Apache of Arizona manage the popular Sunrise Park Ski Resort and Fort Apache Timber Company.