Encyclopedia Article


The Apache are Native American peoples who historically lived in the Great Basin, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In popular culture they are remembered as being fierce warrior people and their name, Apache, is an Anglicization of the Zuñi word, ápachu, meaning “enemy.” The Apache were nomadic, meaning they traveled around seasonally following game. Women gathered vegetables, fruits, and grasses, while men hunted deer, hare, and antelope. Clothes included skirts for women and for men breechcloths of buckskin, and both wore hide high moccasins with pointed toes. They lived in ephemeral structures which included tipis and, most often, wickiups, a temporary cone-shaped hut. In addition to being great hunters, the Apache were known for being strong warriors. They had a raiding economy, which involved taking weapons, supplies, and occasionally captives.

In the 1500’s the Apache first made contact with Coronado and his troops during their exploration of the Southwest. This began a new era for the Southwest and the Apache. When the Spanish settled in the Southwest the Apache both traded with and raided their settlements. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, much of the northern holdings of the United Mexican States was ceded to the United States, who then considered themselves the rulers over much of the Apache historic territory. This led to a long bloody conflict known as the Apache Wars (approximately 1860-1886). Apache leaders during this long conflict included: Cochise, Victorio, Geronimo, and Mangas Coloradas. The last Apache resistance fighters, led by Geronimo, participated in the last Native American uprising in the United States. Eventually, the U.S. Army was able to force the Apache onto various reservations throughout the American Southwest and Oklahoma.

Photo Credit: 

"Apache camp scene, San Carlos River, Arizona," photograph by Ben Wittick, Ben Wittick Photo Collection (015873), Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe.

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