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Apache facts for kids

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Quick facts for kids
Total population
111,810 alone and in combination
Regions with significant populations
Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas
Apache, Jicarilla, Plains Apache, Lipan Apache, Mescalero-Chiricahua, Western Apache, English, and Spanish
Native American Church, Christianity, traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
Navajo, Dene, Tarahumara
Group of Apaches
Group of Apaches

Apache are a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan (Apachean) language, which is similar to the Athabaskan languages of Alaska and western Canada.

Apachean peoples formerly ranged over eastern Arizona, northern Mexico, New Mexico, west and southwest Texas, and southern Colorado. This area consisted of high mountains, sheltered and watered valleys, deep canyons, deserts, and the southern Great Plains.

The Apachean tribes were strong and skillful warriors. They fought away the Spanish and Mexican peoples for centuries. They also fought the U.S. Army in the 19th century. However, they spoke seven different languages, and their cultures were not united.

The Apache way of life has changed since European settlers claimed their land. Some Apage groups now live in Oklahoma and Texas and on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Some Apacheans have moved to large cities. Others work in migrant farm labor and have moved to Southern California. The current division of Apachean groups includes the Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Plains Apache (formerly Kiowa-Apache).

Social organization and Government

Apache bride
Apache bride

All Apachean peoples lived in extended family units (or family clusters). As children of a couple married, they would join the bride's family in a home built nearby. In this way, large family units were formed.

Several extended families worked together as a "local group," which was headed by a chief. The chief was the closest position to a leader in Apachean cultures. He was chosen based on his character qualities.


Chiricahua medicine man
Chiricahua medicine man in wickiup with family
Ribs of Apache wickiup
Frame of Apache wickiup

All people in the Apache tribe lived in one of three types of houses:

  • The teepee was for those who lived in the plains.
  • The wickiup was a 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) frame of wood that was held together with yucca fibers and covered in brush. Wigwams were usually used by Apache groups in the highlands.
  • The hogan was an earthen structure in the desert area that helped keep Apache cool in the hot weather of northern Mexico.


Apache-still-life restored-2
Various Apache containers: baskets, bowls and jars. The women-made baskets could hold heavy loads and were made mainly from yucca or willow leaves or juniper bark.

Apache people obtained food from four main sources:

  • hunting wild animals,
  • gathering wild plants,
  • growing plants, and
  • trading with or attacking neighboring tribes for food.

The Western Apache diet consisted of 35–40% meat and 60–65% plant foods.

As the different Apachean tribes lived in different environments, the particular types of foods eaten differed according to their separate environment.


Hunting was done mostly by men, although there were sometimes exceptions depending on animals and culture. For example, Lipan women could help in hunting rabbits, and Chiricahua boys were also allowed to hunt rabbits.

Apache jug (UBC-2011)
Apache jug

Hunting often had detailed preparations, such as fasting and religious rituals performed by medicine men, before and after the hunt. Many Apache shared as much as one-half of their kill with a fellow hunter and with needy people back at the camp.

Before the Europeans brought guns to America, the most common hunting weapon was the bow. Depending on the prey and the land, hunters would hunt differently. Animal disguises, whistles and other sounds, and chasing prey were some of the strategies they used.

Most Apachean tribes hunted deer. Other animals that were hunted depended upon where the tribe lived. They include pronghorns, cottontail rabbits, opossums, squirrels, wapiti (elk), wild cattle, wood rats, bighorn sheep, buffalo (for those living closer to the plains), wild steer, fish, mountain lions, mourning doves, prairie dogs, quail, turkeys, and turtles. Skunks were eaten only in emergencies.

Different cultures were not allowed to eat certain animals. Some examples of forbidden meats are bears, peccaries, turkeys, fish, snakes, insects, owls, and coyotes.

Undomesticated plants and other food sources

Apache girl with basket
Apache girl with basket, 1902

Women mainly did the gathering of plants and other foods. However, in certain activities, such as gathering heavy agave crowns, men helped. Many plants were used for more than just their nutritional use. They were also used for medicine and religious ceremonies.

Agave and yucca are plants that most Western Apache used. Like with animals, the Apache used as much of the plants they found as they could for different purposes. Several plants in the cactus family grow in the southwest United States. Some of them include saguaro, prickly pear, and cane cholla.

Despite the dry climate, many fruits and berries grow where they Apache lived: cholla fruits, Texas persimmons, wild grapes, hawthorne fruit, dragonfruit, juniper berries, agarita (or algerita) berries, chokecherries, currants, mulberries, raspberries, strawberries, sumac berries, elderberries, gooseberries, hackberries, blackberries, and wild cherries.

Apachean cultures made use of the nuts, seeds, roots, and grasses that grow in the area. They harvested acorns, pinyon nuts, walnuts, pecans, seed grasses (used for flour), sunflower seeds, unicorn plant seeds, tule (used for flour), whitestar potatoes, prairie turnips, wild potatoes, and oxalis.

The Apache gathered vegetables and herbs as well. Some of these include chili peppers, greens (of various varieties), Lamb's-quarters leaves, New Mexican locust blossoms and pods, maize (used for flour, decoration, and tiswin), onions, purslane leaves, and sage.

Hops, horsemint, pennyroyal, wild celery were used as condiments. Western yellow pine inner bark, aspen inner bark, and box elder inner bark and sap were used as sweeteners. Oak leaves and bark , shepherd's purse leaves, and lip ferns were used for tea.

Other items include salt obtained from caves, amole (used for soap), and honey.

Crop cultivation

Of all Apache tribes, the Navajo practiced the most crop cultivation. Some tribes did not grow crops.


When the Apache hunted, they used as much of the animal as they could, including the hide for clothing and shoes. Influenced by the Plains Indians, Western Apaches decorated their clothing with seed beads. They used narrow bands of glass seed beads, placed in lines and diagonal stripes of alternating colors. They made buckskin shirts, ponchos, skirts, and moccasins and decorated them with colorful beadwork.

Trading, raiding, and war

Some interactions between the Apache and European-descended explorers and settlers were based on trading. The Apache found they could use European and American goods.

Unlike Europeans or American settlers, all Apachean tribes made clear distinctions between raiding (for profit) and war. Raiding was done with small parties with a specific target (horses, for instance). The Apache waged war with large parties (often using clan members), as payback for wrongs that had been done to them.

Though raiding had been a traditional way of life for the Apache, Mexican settlers did not like their stock being stolen.

Interesting facts about the Apache

  • Before European settlers came to America, most Apache were nomads.
  • The name Apache came from an enemy tribe, the Zuni. It means "enemy."
  • Apache children played like most children do; however, they started doing chores and riding horses at a young age.
  • The Apache had many religious ceremonies that involved singing, chanting, and dancing.
  • Apache men were trained for combat and war beginning when they were children.
  • Many Apache did not cut their hair because they thought it would bring bad luck.
  • Storytelling is extremely important to the Apache culture.
  • Basket weaving is one of the Apache's oldest known forms of art.
  • Some Apache groups played a fiddle made out of agave stalks.
  • In the late 1800s, the Apache fought battles against the United States government.
  • Cochise and Geronimo are two famous Apache leaders.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Apache para niños

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