Feature Apache Warriors

Learn more about the Apache Tribe.

Apache Warriors

More from Tukufu on the rise and fall of the warrior Apache

For the most part, our images of Apache Indians continue to be based on portrayals from dime novels and traveling shows of the old west: fierce, feathered and painted warriors.

But what is the real story behind the tribe of western Native Americans?

The name Apache – which probably comes from the Zuni Indian word for enemy – refers to several nomadic tribes who roamed the southwestern United States over a thousand years ago.

Apache Indians followed the seasons, covering millions of acres gathering food and hunting buffalo.

Winter survival sometimes occasioned a raid on other tribes. But for the most part, the Apache existed peaceably with their neighbors and traded with more settled agricultural peoples.

In fact, they had a history of trading with the Pueblo Indians who lived in stone dwellings in northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona.

The Apache sometimes even wintered near Pueblo sites.

In the early 1600s, Spanish settlers introduced the horse to the Pueblo Indians, who in turn traded it with the Apache. But as the Spanish became more involved in governing Pueblo affairs, they forbade horse trade.

The Apaches, who’d become powerful riders, turned to raiding Pueblo villages for horses and supplies, and formerly peaceful relations deteriorated.

By 1692, the Apache were a powerful nation of mounted Indians who raided wherever and whenever they liked.

But they were soon under assault by neighboring Comanche, Wichita, and Tejas Indians who were receiving a steady supply of firearms from French traders.

Under assault, groups of Apache moved westward into New Mexico and Arizona.

Others fled south to central Texas and Mexico.

The Apache became more settled over the next century and a half.

But by 1850, they were at war with Mexican and American soldiers who were defending white settlers and hunters streaming into the Apache’s shrinking territory.

The 1870s finally saw the Apache herded onto reservations.

And though warriors like Geronimo fought valiantly to remain free, their homelands were never to be recovered.

Image: Apache and Jicarilla Indians of Arizona and New Mexico c1903-c1907. Curtis, Edward S. Source: Library of Congress