Prayer on Top of the Earth: The Spiritual Universe of the Plains Apaches

Prayer on Top of the Earth: The Spiritual Universe of the Plains Apaches

Prayer on Top of the Earth: The Spiritual Universe of the Plains Apaches

Prayer on Top of the Earth: The Spiritual Universe of the Plains Apaches

Synopsis

The Plains Apaches' mystical kinship with the land and the natural environment that the tribes perceived and nurtured is embodied in their four sacred medicine bundles -- the nÒ·bÌkágsèlí· (prayer on top of the earth). In PRAYER ON TOP OF THE EARTH, we are introduced to the fascinating world of Apache bird, animal, and human spirits, a world enlivened by the antics of the beloved Coyote. Intrigued by the world of the medicine man, we follow the Apaches' vibrant ever-evolving religious community from the US government's banning of native religions to the arrival of evangelistic Christianity to the birth of the peyote religion. And finally, we share in the Apaches' frustration with the lack of cultural sensitivity displayed by Anglo America. PRAYER ON TOP OF THE EARTH presents and preserves important ethnographic information on the Plains Apaches for the first time in a single source.

Excerpt

The Apache Indians, long identified as Kiowa Apaches because of their historical, although somewhat tenuous, association with the Kiowas, will in this book be predominantly referred to as Apaches or Plains Apaches. The tribe dropped the Kiowa designation in the 1930s to officially become the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, thus imparting an identity more truly reflective of its Apachean cultural and linguistic heritage. The people today uniformly reject the appellation Kiowa Apaches and wish to be known simply as Apaches.

As Ray Blackbear pointedly stated, “We don’t like to be called Kiowa Apache. If we are called [Kiowa] Apache, it kind of makes us feel like a part of them, which we are not. The white man just calls us Kiowa Apache, and we don’t like it. Apache is what we call ourselves.”

Using the term Apache is somewhat problematic in that it is also a collective designation for the linguistic family of Apache tribes located in the Southwest and the Plains. Recognizing that this may be a possible source of confusion, I nevertheless defer to the tribe’s wishes and use the name Apaches . . .

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