Apache Lore

Blog Post
Now that the White Wolf Mine is in escrow and the White Wolf Lumber and Mining Company is in the process of being restored to its former glory, it’s time to think about some of the people (White Mountain Apache) who lived up on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

Before I go further, though, it’s important to note each of the different Apache tribes listed below (I listed those tribes recognized by the USGOV – Within each tribe there were bands, which operated semi-autonomously from their particular affiliated Apache tribe. For example, Geronimo was a member of the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache). Some such as the White Mountain Apache lived in ponderosa pine forests. Others lived in deserts or on the plains.

In our present day, long after the fact, you see photos of Apaches wearing elaborate face paint to ‘recreate’ the past, but the truth is that most Apache wore more symbolic spiritual markings such as the warrior (left) and Geronimo, dressed as a medicine man rather than as a raider. (above right).


Not all Apache tribes painted their faces elaborately but many warriors wore caps when they went on the war path of the sort illustrated (below).

When a young man felt ready, he would begin the novice warrior complex of his first four raids, which were permeated with religious beliefs and rituals. Having been accepted as a member of his first raid, the young man was instructed by a war shaman. The shaman would give the young man a drinking tube, a scratcher, and a special war cap, which unlike those of the mature warrior did not bestow spiritual power. The apprentice warrior was sacred and was identified with their cultural hero called Child of the Water.

The young Apache used the ceremonial warpath language, which replaced words for common objects during the raid. The scratcher was used to scratch him and the drinking tube to ensure water did not touch the lips. When eating, the young Apache would eat only when the food was cold in order to bring the raiders good luck. He was also subservient to the other warriors and would fetch their water and wood. If he did well on the first raid, he would be invited back for another raid. Upon completing four successful raids without deviations in his conduct, the young Apache received the coveted reward of recognition as an Apache warrior. Often, the shaman would show him the pattern of paint that he should wear and presented him with a medicine cap. 

Warriors wore a shirt, breechclout, and moccasins normally reaching above the knee; he carried a rope, blanket, water jar, fire drill, rations of mescal, pemican or jerky, and his weapons. The Apache might employ a shield, bow, arrows, lance, club, tomahawk, knife, and during the Apache Wars, a rifle and cartridge belt. They frequently blackened their weapons to camouflage them.

For any of you who served in the military or hunted, you will know that a flash from glasses, a bright face or reflective object will mark your position many miles from the observer.

The Apaches did not adapt a horse culture, as their terrain and lifestyle did not lend itself to the adoption of the horse in the same way as did that of the Plains Indians. Horses were used in large raids, but an Apache warrior was equally likely to travel on foot, allowing him to use the terrain to conceal his movement. Horses could be heard for miles and were easily tracked. An Apache warrior could run as many as 70 miles a day, and Apache women thought nothing of trotting 60 miles to present treats to their children when they had been placed in boarding schools in later years.
Concealment was a hallmark of the Apaches. In one historical instance, Quick Killer told a soldier to turn his back and in an instant had disappeared. In a spot just a few feet away, he emerged after completely burying himself under thick grass.

34 thoughts on “Apache Lore

  1. The Clintons have also been able to do just that. Turn your back and in an instant their names have disappeared from an indictment.

    BTW – Great article LL, really enjoyed it.

  2. Interesting, do you know who did the last painting? Is that a chief's symbol on his very cool cap? Great elk tooth earrings.

  3. I don't know who did the painting, but I believe that there was no "chief's symbol". The warrior's medicine was reflected in his cap. That the man with that medicine became chief or a "shot caller" was incidental to his personal magic.

    There is a magic in the land and in all that live "in" it. We lose that when we congregate in big cities and are subjugated to the will of the machine.

  4. I spent a lot of time in Navaho country, on the other side of Four Corners, but I LOVE Apache lore. These posts are priceless, LL. Thanks!

  5. The difference was in numbers. 1,000 Zulu to one British soldier vs 50 US Troopers to one Apache.

  6. "It is said that their knife skills were such that they are taught to the Navy SEALS and British SAS to this day."
    "Western Apache Warrior" Oil by David Yorke
    30"x24" $7,900

  7. The Apache were famous for creating chaos on the frontier when on the warpath, with absurdly few warriors. That technique ought to be taught at military colleges.

  8. It is interesting how other cultures develop their rites and rituals. Where did the originate, how, why, etc. Personally, I like the American ritual of bestowing manhood on a young lad by getting him laid for the first time. On the other hand, now days, that virgin would be an ugly 5th grader.

  9. The SEALS and the Army Delta types can do that if they're allowed. The problem is that it's not allowed. Actually Apache lore is studied as a military system and as a component of a successful guerrilla campaign. The US Army put 5,000 soldiers in the field to capture Geronimo and a dozen renegades and found themselves out foxed at every turn. At the time, 5,000 soldiers was well over half of those in the US Army.

  10. Actually, no, the CQB isn't "Apache", but if you're an Apache, you can claim that it is.

    CQB=Close Quarters Battle

  11. Interesting pieces of history there. Thanks for the lesson! And it sounds like the move is on!!! 🙂

  12. I have to build the cabin first, but I have an architect and what I think of at the moment as a clear path forward. There is always the problem of execution when it comes to building a new home, and the location is remote.

  13. I would build it for you, but it would take me 5 years, I'd need to be paid in gold and the whiskey charges, alone, would bankrupt the project. Oh, and there would need to be dancing girls on site. That's always in the contract.

  14. I may be out of touch with Apache history, but I'm thinking that the Apache probably didn't have social issues over which bathroom to use or if boys and girls were interchangeable species. For that lack of ambiguity, the Apache are to be admired.

  15. By the way, the wife nannies some boys whose mom is Apache and whose dad is Belgian. It's an interesting mix.

  16. It was a "quote on knife skills" from someone else. I figured you could clarify. Thanks for the correction. Really enjoying these posts.

  17. A young lady I went to high school with, and was my very first date, was Apache.

    And she was gorgeous. Made me wonder why she bothered with me….

  18. She had an eye for a real man. Apaches have that talent.

    I dated a girl named Rebecca Panther. French/Blood Indian mix from Canada with stunning blue eyes. A real looker as well. Naturally she was known for her good taste in men.

  19. "Safe Space" meant a different thing to an Apache than it does to a college student, concerned with micro-aggression.

  20. Yes, the whiskey, gold coin and dancing girls would keep you on-project all right. It makes me wonder how the old sourdough 49ers got anything done.

  21. Well, the only bona fide 49er descendant I know is from Silverton grocer stock – not miner. I don't think the miner 49ers left behind many children. Or wealth, really. But they did manage to dig some big holes and process a lot of other men's ore.

  22. Is that from the New Mexico Belgian Nation? I've heard that's a very small tribe, but they make really good Xocolatl.

  23. I guess for the double entendre to work, it needs to be plural: "other men's 'ores."

  24. Yours have razor blades sewed into the peaks of their caps… but same attitude — same folks that you'd meet at the pub.

  25. Very Manchester, Grunt and very much like T'pub down road. You may now refer to me as Apache, LL.

  26. An Apache woman is usually referred to as a squaw, but your warrior spirit precludes that designation. The Apache of the 1870's would think of you as Wild Spirit Woman or something like that. If you showed up wearing the Emergency Clown Nose, they would take you for a god and likely make kachina dolls of your visage for their sweat lodges.

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