About Apache Tribal Traditions

Written by leigh kelley
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About Apache Tribal Traditions
(Apache Headdress Courtesy of Brad Hyman)

The Apache tribes have a variety of traditions or rituals. The Apache Indians have rituals to mark certain events, such as a coming-of-age ceremony. The Apaches also perform spiritual rituals on a regular basis. These are done to thank the spirits for something, such as a good harvest. They are also done to ask the spirits for something, such as rain. All of the rituals are highly stylised.

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History of

The traditions of the Apache Indians have been handed down from generation to generation since before Columbus discovered America. Many of these traditions have changed very little. Most of the changes are because of tribal relocation. In some tribes, the leaders have come to appreciate some of the American ways. In these tribes, you will usually see members wearing American clothing except for during certain rituals.

Type

The Apache Indians have some very stylised traditions and rituals. Many of these are the same today as they always have been. There are two types of Apache traditions, formal and informal. Formal traditions are referred to as rituals or dances. Informal traditions are called ceremonies. Both formal and informal rituals are meant to communicate with the spirits. In rite-of-passage ceremonies, such as the Sundown Ritual for women, Apache dancers, including the person who was being honoured, dance for five days, almost completely non-stop. In ceremonies, such as asking the spirits for rain or thanking them for a good harvest, members of the tribe would dance from sundown until the moon was at its highest point, which was midnight.

Identification

Apache dancers are a major part of any ritual. These dancers wear ankle wraps with bells when they are performing the traditional rituals. These wraps are made of leather. Sometimes, in addition to ankle wraps, the dancer will wear wrist, elbow and knee wraps. The jingling of the bells is said to awaken the spirits and prepare them for communications. Many of the tribal leaders wear ornate headdresses during traditional ceremonies. Although the majority of rituals were performed around a fire, many rituals could be performed anywhere that two or more tribal members were together.

Significance

The Apache tribes don't have an organised form of religion. Their only form of worship is through rituals. During these rituals, the Apaches worship the spirits of Apaches who have passed away. These spirits are said to still be wandering the tribal lands. The rituals usually don't use many words. Often, members of the tribe will simply chant. This is thought to bring peace to the tribe, which is said to please the spirits.

Misconceptions

Many people think that the Apache tradition calls for the tribal members to be serious all the time. This is not true. Apache Indians played a variety of games. Some of these games taught lessons and others were simply for fun. One popular night-time game is Kah. During this game, two teams play a game that is sort of like hide and seek. While one team is singing, the other team hides a bone in a moccasin that is partially buried in the ground. If the singing team guesses which moccasin the bone is in, the team wins a point and gets to sing and search again. When the singing team guesses incorrectly, the hiding team gets to take their turn to sing and search. After four or five hours, the team with the most points, counted using sticks, wins the game.

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