An Apache Life-Way: The Economic, Social, and Religious Institutions of the Chiricahua Indians

An Apache Life-Way: The Economic, Social, and Religious Institutions of the Chiricahua Indians

An Apache Life-Way: The Economic, Social, and Religious Institutions of the Chiricahua Indians

An Apache Life-Way: The Economic, Social, and Religious Institutions of the Chiricahua Indians

Synopsis

Originally published in 1941, An Apache Life-Way remains one of the most important and innovative studies of southwestern Native Americans, drawing upon a rich and invaluable body of data gathered by the ethnographer Morris Edward Opler during the 1930s. Blending the analysis of individual Apache lives with the analysis of their culture, this landmark study tells of the ceremonies, religious beliefs, social life, and economy of the Chiricahua Apache. Opler traces, in fascinating detail, how a person "becomes an Apache", beginning with conception, moving through puberty rites, marriage, and the various religious, domestic, and military duties and experiences of adulthood, and concluding with the rites and beliefs surrounding death.

Excerpt

Ancestors of the Chiricahua Apache left Siberia at least five thousand years ago after massive continental glaciers and a land bridge connecting Asia and North America had disappeared. Over several millennia, they moved into Alaska either by island hopping or on the iced-over Bering Sea and up the Yukon into Canada. It was a process of continual population growth, segmentation, and territorial expansion. Some seven to eight hundred years ago, several bands of caribou hunters in the upper Mackenzie drainage began migrating down the eastern edge of the Rockies and the adjacent Great Plains, adapting their lifestyle to the herds of bison there. In the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, while Europeans were establishing permanent footholds in the New World, they entered what in the United States is called the Southwest. It was here they acquired the name Apache (probably a Zuni term for any group of non-Pueblo people). This group in the Southwest became segmented into several distinct ethnolinguistic "Apaches": Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Navajo, and Western (White Mountain, Cibecue, Northern and Southern Tontos, San Carlos). Nearby on the Plains were the "Kiowa" Apaches.

By the end of the sixteenth century, the Apaches were spread in several clusters throughout the Rio Grande valley and much of the Colorado Plateau, changing their economic bases in various ways. One group, the Chiricahua, had adapted a specialized hunting and gathering economy and established permanent residence west of the Rio Grande in the southwest corner of what is now New Mexico, the southeast corner of Arizona, and adjacent portions of Sonora and Chihuahua. After more than a century, the various Apaches became involved in a series of bloody guerrilla wars; first with Mexicans, and shortly after that with Americans.

Each Apache group, including the Navajo, had a different experience in these conflicts, but for the Chiricahua it was exceptionally disastrous. With the final surrender in 1886 of a small band of last- ditch militant fugitives, all of the Chiricahua (about five hundred . . .

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