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The Mescalero Apache
The Mescalero Apache derive their name from the food, mescal, the agave or
century plant and an important part of their diet. Apache comes from the Zuni
word meaning enemy while Apaches call themselves the People. The Mescalero
Apache originally live east from the Rio Grande to the Pecos and west to the
Texas Plains, but today their reservation is in southeastern New Mexico near
Alamogordo. Before the presence of non-natives, there was about 3,000 Mescaleros,
but today of the 25,000 other Apaches, 3,500 live on the Mescalero Reservation.
The Mescalero Apaches originated from the Athapaskans, who immigrated from
Asia and the headed to the Southwestern United States. Once the Apaches were
exposed to the Spanish trading and then raiding interchanged. Then the Comanches
forced the Apaches into the mountains causing semi-poverty. When the Apaches
side with the United States during the Mexican War, the U.S. took the Apache
land because of their alliance. When many Mescaleros rejected the taking of
land, they revolted causing the Apaches to be put on a reservation. The
Mescalero Apaches faced some hardships while on their reservation, but finally
The Apaches valued women very much and were matrilineal because the women
owned the house and that is how descendants traced their origin. They respected
the elderly and valued honesty. Women had special tasked they attended to like
cooking, building the house, caring for children, weaving baskets, and gathering
fuel. Men also had tasks that included hunting, raiding, and waging war.
Marriage rituals were non-existent although pre marriage practices were done in
preparation. All Apaches avoided death and ghosts although they believed the
afterlife was a paradise. The Mescalero Apache language was southern Athapaskan
or Apachean dialect. For dress, men wore buckskin shirts, breechclouts,
leggings, and moccasins. They braided and wrapped their hair. Women also wore
buckskin, braided their hair, and plucked their eyebrows.
Art included fine basketry, pottery, and tanned hides. The Apache religion is
comprised of many deities usually representing natural forces. Supernatural
power is used a lot in Apache ceremonies called shamans in order to gain power
for war or long-life. Other long-life rites included Female puberty rituals and
Male puberty rituals.
The Mescalero Apache diet consisted of hunted animals such as buffalo, deer,
and elk and gathered food such as agave shoots, nuts, berries, and potatoes.
Baking the agave base resulted in a sweet nutritious food. The Mescaleros also
practiced agriculture by growing corn, and gained food by raiding the nearby
The Mescalero Apaches endured many hardships throughout their long existence
mainly due to their vicious mentality through raiding and war. However, they
were able to prosper and therefore are still in existence today. While many
Native American tribes tried to live in harmony with their neighbors, the
Apaches preferred to steal from their, but many time they paid the price. When
the United States took over the southwest after the Mexican War, the Apaches
resisted and were sent to a concentration with the Navajos. However, they were
able to escape and develop into a civilized civilization on their reservation.
Despite hardship, the Mescalero Apaches endured making them a present-day
Pritzker, Barry M., Native Americans: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture,
and Peoples. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, California. 1998.
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Native American tribes in Arizona, Mescalero, Apache, Southern Athabaskan languages, Navajo, Comanche, Chiricahua, Lipan Apache people
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