The Apache Indians are native to Arizona and northern Mexico, but today the American Indian Heritage Foundation reports that 5,000 to 6,000 Apache tribal members live on reservations in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. The tribe's name derives from a Zuni word meaning enemy -- the Apache people were known for being fierce in battle, but they have also been characterized as gentle toward their family members. Your family can learn more about Apache culture by exploring its crafts, games and stories.
Many Apache Indians are known for their beadwork. Beading was originally used to decorate ceremonial costumes, but is now used on items including belts, blankets and headbands, and for making jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets. If you would like to try creating your own Apache-inspired beaded items, the book "Native American Beadwork: Projects and Techniques from the Southwest" provides instructions for the traditional Apache weave technique and patterns for beaded items, including a medicine bag and a feather ornament.
Apache children traditionally played games in order to keep healthy and fit and to prepare boys for their future as hunters and warriors. One game they played, which you can easily teach your kids at home, was called Foot Toss Ball -- you balance a small stone on your toe, and try to toss it as high and far as you can. Another Apache game was Toe Toss Stick. To play this game, balance a stick on your toe, then toss it while aiming for a mark on the ground.
The Apache Indians have several types of dances in order to mark special celebrations. The sunrise dance is a coming-of-age rite for girls in the tribe, and the crown dance, mountain spirit dance and fire dance are used to honor tribal spirits. If you live close to a reservation, you might be able to take your family to watch one of those dances, and certain groups such as the Southwest Native Dancers and the Apache Crown Dancers perform Apache dances at powwows across the United States.
The Apache have many folktales and legends that have been passed down through the years and used to entertain and teach the children of the tribe. Many of these tales feature characters such as Coyote, who is fond of playing pranks, and Big Owl, who is a frightening, bogeyman-like creature. You can find tales of these characters and links to other Apache stories such as the one about how buffalo came to be, or why the bat hangs upside-down, on the website Native Languages of the Americas.
- The American Indian Heritage Foundation: Apache Indian
- Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America; D.L. Birchfield
- The North American Indian Volume 1: The Apache, the Jicarillas, the Navaho; Edward S. Curtis
- Culture and Customs of the Apache Indians; Veronica E. Velarde Tiller
- Native American Beadwork: Projects and Techniques from the Southwest; Theresa Flores Geary
- Mr. Donn's Social Studies Site: Southwest Apache Indians Games and Myths
- Southwest Native Dancers
- Native Stars Talent Agency: Joe Tohonnie, Jr. and Apache Crown Dancers
- Native Languages of the Americas: Apache Legends and Myths
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images