Thayer Watkins

History of the Apaches

Linguistic evidence indicates that the Apache and Navajo languages are part of the Athabascan language family of northwestern Canada and central and eastern Alaska. The historical evidence indicates that the Apache migrated southward over a period of centuries and arrived between 1000 and 1500 A.D. in the area which they occupied at the time of European contact; i.e., what is now Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. The Apache lived by hunting and gathering with some farming. The eastern tribes shifted from the traditional sedentary life to nomadic hunting of bison as a result of the acquisition of horses. The western tribes kept to the more settled life based upon farming. Raiding was a part of the life of both the eastern and western tribes.

Apaches raided Spanish missions and a chronic state of war persisted for decades between the Apaches and the Spanish and later Mexicans. When Americans made contact with the Apaches a peace treaty was negotiated but the peace lasted only about three years. War broke out between the Apaches and American in 1861 which lasted off and on until the surrender of Geronimo in 1886. During this time some Apaches accepted settement in reservations while others fought a guerrila style warfare against Americans. When the warring Apaches were captured they were held captive in Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma. In 1913 the Apaches in Oklahoma were given the option of remaining or going to the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Two thirds chose to go to New Mexico.

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