Apache Indians are North American Indians who occupied the mountains and plains of southern Arizona and Mexico. The word Apache comes from the Zuni word meaning "enemy." They fought with Americans in battles where they failed. Apache use many traditional symbols, each having its own meaning and purpose, in a variety of ceremonies. Many of them have very sacred and divine meaning.
Sacred hoop is the chief symbol of Apache that maintains its sanctity. Circle is the most sacred of all symbols for Apache. They use this symbol in the sacred hoop. Apache hoop is known as "Dee" or "Ndee." Because of its special powers, Apache use it in a variety of ceremonies. The sacred colours for Apache are black, green, yellow and white. The sacred hoop has any of these colours. The Apache divide the hoop into four sections by the knotting of an eagle feather. This represents directions and four seasons. Apache connect a hoop with healing and protection.
White Buffalo is a sacred symbol for Apache Indians. It is associated with healing from the Great Spirit and also as God's Eye. God's Eye represents four elements: earth, fire, water and wind. It realistically equates with medicine and honour.
Eagle is a sacred bird for Apache. They believe that its feathers have special powers. Thus Apache don't allow anyone to keep these feathers in any drawers. All should treat it with proper honour. That is why eagle feather is used in their chief symbol, sacred hoop, for knotting its sections. As eagle is the highest flyer; it is connected with the perspective of the Creator who watches everything from above. Thus it is a symbol of divine spirit. They also believe that eagle carries the prayers of men from the physical world to the spiritual world.
Thunder Bird is a another sacred symbol for Apache. They believe it has supernatural powers. The Apache name it per their belief that thunder occurs when this bird waves its wings. Apache consider it a servant of the Great Spirit that only flies when they need to pass messages among spirits. They keep this bird in high reverence and esteem.
The Basket and Lightning
In the Apache tribe, the basket is believed to be a sacred symbol as it represents the realm of existence. All the designs symbolise the one's dwelling place (i.e. the plains) while the centre of the basket symbolises one's coming into this world. Lightning is one of the sacred symbols common in jewellery and it is also seen on the Apache Crown Dancers who have been called to heal others by mysterious spirits from the mountains.