The Apache Indians

Published on February 19, 2012 by Amy

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Chiricahua Apache Indians
Chiricahua Apache Indians

The Apache Indians lived in what is now New Mexico and Arizona. They were a nomadic group of people and would at times travel as far south as Mexico.

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Because the Apache was a wandering group they spent their time in two homes, one in the mountains and one in the desert. They lived in one place for only short periods of time then moved. The women built their homes called wickiups. The wickiup was a smalldome-shaped hut. It was not sturdy. A mother and daughter could build the wickiup in a few hours. First they found a level spot. They drew a circle about eight feet across on the spot. Next the women dug a small trench beside the circle. Then thin poles of oak orwillow trees were placed in an upright position in the trench to make the frame for the wickiup. The tops of the poles were pulled together and tied with strands of yucca. The top of the wickiup was only five or six feet high in the center. In cold weather an openingwas left at the top of the hut so smoke could escape from the fires. Outside the wickiupwas covered with bundles of grass and branches.


In the early years of the Apache they made their clothing from deer hide. They soaked the hide in water then stretched and rubbed it to make it soft. The men wore breechcloths and moccasins in warm weather. In cold weather they wore shirts that came almost to their knees. The moccasins reached to their knees or above with the soles covered with rough, untreated animal skin. The men wore a simple headband of deerskin. Later the Apache men wore vests like the Mexicans and Americans. The women wore skirts in the warm weather and simple dresses in the cold weather. The edges of the dresses were fringed and sometimes decorated with dried porcupine quills. They wore their hair straight instead of the more common braided style of many Native Americans. Later they began wearing Mexican clothing made of colorful cotton.


The Apache did not farm. They lived on a variety of wild plants. The women gathered the plants. Favorites were the yucca and mescal plants. The women harvested the yucca plant in the spring and they gathered the mescal plant in late spring. The mescal plant was a large leafed plant that grew in the shape of a cabbage head and tasted like squash. The women steamed many plants in a deep pit that was filled with stone. A fire was built in a pit lined with stones. Then when extremely hot the fire was allowed to burn down. Next yucca and mescal plants were piled on the hot stones then covered with wet grass. The plants were left for much of the day. Some to the steamed food was dried for the cold season. The Apachealso ate arrowhead, wild onions, and berries. The berries were pounded into small cakes and dried in the sun. The Apache gathered many kinds of nuts. A favorite nut was the pinion. The Apache buried their food for the winter. The men spent most of their time hunting deer, antelope, elk, and sometimes buffalo. They also ate prairie dogs, squirrels, and rabbits. The Apache would not touch fish or any animal that lived in the water. Before horses in the 1700’s the men hunted on foot.


Apaches believed that everything in nature had special power. Some animals were possessed by evil spirits or ghosts. Those animals were bears, owls, and coyotes. The crow was a sign of good luck. They believed in the Great Spirit. Legends say the Great Spirit was sent mountain spirits to show the Apache how to live a good life. The mountain spirits called Ganhs taught the Apaches many ceremonies and chants to overcome disease. After the Apaches ignored the Ganhs’ teachings they became upset and disappeared into the mountains. Apaches acted out the Gahns and performed ceremonial dances to bring them back. The Apaches believed the dancers could absorb illnesses in a wand and blow it away with the wind as the dancers moved.


The women packed all their possession each time they traveled to a new home in baskets. The baskets could hold heavy loads. They hung the baskets across their backs and shoulders. The baskets were made from different plants, reeds, and herbs. The Apache mainly used yucca leaves, willow reeds, or juniper bark. Flowers from plants was used to make dyes for painting designs on the baskets. They Apaches used the coiling and twining technique.

Source: mce.k12tn Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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