Back To CourseAP US History: Homework Help Resource
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The Apache tribe lived in a large region called the Gran Apacheria, which covered territory from Western Arizona to Eastern Texas, and from Northern Colorado to Mexico in the South. Since the region was so large, the Apaches naturally divided into two main groups, the Eastern and Western tribes, and the Rio Grande River served as a natural dividing line. Today, the Apache are mainly located in reservations in Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
The name 'Apache' is a word the Spanish used to describe them, and it means 'enemy.' The Apache had many other names for themselves, including 'Inde,' which means 'the people.' They also were made up of many independent tribes, and each tribe had their own name for their specific tribe. Some tribes were the Lipan, Limita, Conejero, and Trementina.
Historians believe that the Apaches came to Southwest America sometime between 1000 and 1400 C.E. The Apache tribe was broken up into many smaller tribes. The basic unit for the Apache was extended family. These family groups acted completely independent of one another. Extended families stayed together in a group and were led by the most important member of their family. That leader was the chief advisor and took care of the entire group's affairs. Many groups of extended families lived near each other so that they could unite for social, religious, and military purposes. They would decide on a band leader for the combined group whenever they met up.
The Apache was never a unified political union. The very loose-knit organization of the Apache tribe caused many problems for them throughout history. It was very difficult for them to have good relations with the Spanish, Mexicans, Americans, or other Indian tribes. This was because one Apache band might make peace with a nation or tribe, but another Apache band would remain at war with that same nation or tribe. This caused confusion among the Spanish, Mexicans, Americans, and other Indian tribes, and they would often retaliate against the wrong Apache band.
The Apache tribe was a nomadic group, and their lives revolved around the buffalo. They wore buffalo skins, slept in buffalo-hide tents, and ate buffalo for their sustenance. They were one of the first Indian tribes to learn to ride horses, and they quickly began using horses in order to hunt the buffalo. They also foraged for some berries and plants for additional food. They did not, however, eat fish or bear, because these were both considered unclean for eating.
In Apache society, both men and women were important to the tribe. Only men were chosen as band leaders, but women held important roles in the tribe as well. Apache society was matrilineal. After a marriage took place, the groom moved in with the bride's family, and from that moment on, he hunted and worked with his in-laws' family members. Even if his wife died, the husband stayed with her family, and her family would help him find a new bride. Men were allowed to marry more than one woman, but only wealthy leaders did this. If he did remarry, it was usually a sister or cousin of his wife.
Until the Spanish arrived in their territory, the Apache and Pueblo Indians had a peaceful and economic relationship with each other. The Pueblo tribe traded the agricultural products from their farms and also their pottery in exchange for buffalo meat and hides. This meant that the Apache did not have to focus on growing their own produce or making cultural products and instead could focus all of their energy on buffalo hunting. After the arrival of the Spanish, the peaceful trade network between the Pueblo and Apache was disrupted. The Spanish wanted to trade with the Apache and did everything in their power to diminish the Pueblo trading abilities; they were successful in this endeavor.
The Apache had many ceremonies that they celebrated throughout the year. These ceremonies often focused on certain dances. For example, they celebrated a girl's entrance into womanhood with the Sunrise Dance. The Apache believed that when a girl performed the Sunrise Dance, she was given special blessings to help her in life. Another dance was the Crown Dance, also known as the Mountain Spirit Dance. This dance was a masked dance, and the dancers would impersonate mountain spirits.
The Apaches have had many economic, social, and political setbacks when dealing with contact with other nations. First, they dealt with the Spanish, then the Comanche tribe, and later the United States. The Apaches first had contact with the Spanish in 1541. Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado and his men were searching for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold and came across many Indian tribes during the search, including the Apache. This was, however, a brief visit, so the Apache did not have to seriously adjust to contact with the Europeans until 1598. In 1598, Spanish explorer Juan de Onate came into the Apache and Pueblo territories and built a permanent settlement in the area.
By 1610, the town of Santa Fe was firmly established, and the Apache finally understood that the Spanish intended on staying in the area. From 1656 to 1675, the Spanish settlers had to deal with constant raids from various Apache tribes. These raids, along with drought and other problems with the Pueblo Indians, pushed the Spanish out of the region by 1680. The Spanish tried to reconquer the area in 1692, but by then, the Apaches were very powerful and did what was necessary to keep the Spanish out.
The Apaches were only powerful for a very short time. By 1700, a very powerful tribe called the Comanches began infiltrating Apache lands. The Comanches had better weapons due to trading with the French, and they quickly became a dominant tribe in the Apache territories. The Apaches responded by moving southwest of their original lands. The migration meant that the Apaches were no longer getting their produce from the Pueblos, so they soon started tending their own fields as well as partially being nomadic. This ended up being a poor decision, however, since the Comanches knew where to find the Apaches during the planting and harvesting seasons, and the Comanches launched raid after raid on the Apaches during these times. The surviving Apaches fled into Western Arizona as well as Northern Mexico.
By moving into Mexico and Western Arizona, the Apaches again came across the Spanish. The Spanish tried to make peace with the Apaches, but due to the Apaches being made up of completely independent groups, peace negotiations were difficult to attain. During the 1730s and 1740s, various Apache groups were either at peace or constantly warring with the Spanish.
However, by 1749, the remaining Apaches who survived both Comanche and Spanish attacks were willing to have peace as well as protection by the Spanish against the Comanches. Until the end of Spanish colonial rule, the Apaches and the Spanish mainly were at peace with each other.
After the Mexican War of Independence in 1811, the Spanish rule was over. The Mexicans and the Apaches signed peace treaties, and although the Apaches occasionally raided Mexican towns, for the most part, the two sides got along because both were against the Comanches. However, peace was short-lived, because the Mexican War began in 1846. This war was between the Mexicans and the United States, and in the end, the United States had moved into the Southwest and into much of Apache territory.
The Americans did not understand or know much about Apache society. They immediately tried to subjugate the Apaches with the use of the U.S. Army. The Apaches were constantly put on reservations and would often refuse to live there and would fight back. However, once surrounded by the formidable U.S. Army, they would surrender, agree to peace, and then as soon as they were put back on the reservations, they would break their promises and start the cycle over again.
The United States also had to deal with the fact that each independent Apache group had different opinions: one group might call for peace with the U.S., while another Apache group might still be interested in war. This confusion and complexity often resulted in the U.S. Army being extra brutal towards the Apaches because of the frustration with the whole complicated matter.
The most famous Apache leader during this time was Geronimo. He fought hard against U.S. expansion into Apache tribal lands for many years. He was the most famous war chief of the Apaches during what was later called the Apache Wars, which was the series of conflicts between the United States and the Apache tribe. The United States finally won with the surrender of Geronimo in 1886.
Starting in 1887 under the General Allotment Act, reservations were made for Apaches in Oklahoma, and, later, a few were started in Arizona and New Mexico. During the early 1900s, the Apaches suffered greatly from malnutrition, poverty, and disease. Between 1900 and 1920, one-fourth of their population died. The Apaches, among other tribes, were granted U.S. citizenship because of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.
Since the 1950s, the U.S. government has been assisting various Indian tribes, including the Apaches, in order to help them continue to both survive and continue to have a tribal identity. The Apaches gained some aspects of sovereignty after the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968. From various court cases and laws, they have been awarded money for compensation for the lands that were taken away, though they have not been given back any of the lands. The Apaches have continued to increase in number throughout the years.
The Apaches were a nomadic group that originally lived in a very large territory in Southwestern America. They were made up of individual extended family groups that were each independent; this made their history with other peoples very complicated. When the Spanish came into their territory, some Apaches raided them and other Apaches wanted peace. However, when the Comanche tribe pushed into their territories, the Apaches fled their traditional lands and sought protection from the Spanish and, later, the Mexicans.
Things got worse for the Apache when the United States took over their lands. The Apache Wars began, with the Apaches led by their famous leader Geronimo; however, the United States eventually won, and the Apaches were put on reservations. Although they dealt with many hardships on these reservations, when the United States government started helping them in the late 20th century, the Apaches started slowly making a comeback, which continues to this day.
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Back To CourseAP US History: Homework Help Resource
29 chapters | 332 lessons
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