Collection Description

Culture Name

Eastern Apache

Culture Description

The Chiricahua are an Athapaskan-speaking Native American group whose traditional homeland was located in present-day southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southwestern Texas, and northern Mexico. Originally nomadic, the Chiricahua subsistence pattern was based on hunting and the gathering of wild food plants, with only a minor amount of agriculture being practiced. During the second half of the nineteenth century the Chiricahua were forced onto reservations and other restricted sites on the Arizona-New Mexico border, then in Florida and Alabama, and finally in Oklahoma and south-central New Mexico. The Chiricahua were traditionally divided into from three to five bands, each made up of ten to thirty extended families.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Southwest and Basin



United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Culture collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The NT08 Chiricahua collection describes primarily the traditional culture of the Chiricahua Apache as it existed during the late nineteenth century, based in large part on the memories of informants. One of the major studies in this collection is that of Opler (1941., no. 1). This work covers a wide range of ethnographic coverage, based in large part on the memory ethnographies of his informants. The document emphasizes socialization processes and life sequences from childhood to death and the afterlife. Castetter and Opler (1936, no. 2) supplements the ethnographic data found in Opler (1941, no. 1), and in addition provides information on plants used by the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache for food, drink, medicine, and narcotic purposes. An alphabetical listing of common, Apache, and scientific names of plants to which reference has been made in the text will be found at the end of this section. A brief summary of Chiricahua ethnology, dating from approximately 1540 to 1970 will be found in Opler (1983, no. 5). This article describes tribal territory and subdivisions, culture history, demography, political and social organization, subsistence, division of labor, the life cycle, and religion. A useful synonymy appears at the end of this document. The monograph by Stockel (c.1991, no. 6) is a study of four Apache women, and is basically autobiographical in nature. Comparisons and contrasts are made between the life-styles of twentieth century Apache women and those of the past. Ragsdale (2006), no. 7) discusses the Chiricahua Apaches and the assimilation movement between 1865 and 1886. This work examines the impact of assimilation on the tribe’s homeland, and deals specifically with early attempts at reservation, confinement and economic transformation. It also discusses the harsh, repressive measures employed in the attempts at reeducating and remolding the captive people, their precipitous decline in health and spirit and their revival in Oklahoma.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

Attendant in the girl’s puberty ceremony Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Diyin –the shaman– Use SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS ( 756)

Gah’e –mountain spirits– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Go.ta –the extended family– Use EXTENDED FAMILIES ( 596)

Local groups and camps Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621)

Polite form in speaking to relatives Use SOCIOLINGUISTICS ( 195)

Relations with the U. S government after the establishment of reservations Use PUBLIC WELFARE ( 657)

Ritual use of corn pollen Use RITUAL ( 788)

Singer in the girl’s puberty ceremony Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Territorial band leadership Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622) with TRIBE AND NATION ( 619)

Territorial bands and tribe Use TRIBE AND NATION ( 619)

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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