Apaches Before 1886

The Creator, White Painted Woman, and her children, Child of the Water and Killer of Enemies, were present at the beginning. When Child of the Water made the world safe, The People appeared. The Creator gave Apaches their land, language, and way of life. While traveling, Apaches encountered Mountain Spirits who blessed them with health and well-being.

The Chiricahua Apache homeland is in southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, northern Sonora, and northern Chihuahua, Mexico.

Historically, there were four subgroups of Chiricahuas: Chihende, Bidankaande, Ch’uk’anende, and Ndendaande. These people hunted, gathered, and traded. They traveled widely, living in mountains and along rivers.


Apache leaders were men of stellar character — capable, respectful,and generous individuals who worked hard and spoke well for the people. Cochise, Victorio, Nana, Chihuahua, and Naiche were such men.

Apache leaders are “… men of noticeable brain power, physically perfect, and mentally acute – just the individuals to lead a forlorn hope in the face of every obstacle.” (Captain John Gregory Bourke, Third U.S. Calvary, Staff Member, General George Crook, Commander, Department of Arizona, An Apache Campaign in the Sierra Madre, 1886:113-115. Quoted in Porter 1986:163.)


Chiricahua Apaches usually resided in small groups of related families. They united as one people through ties of kinship, marriage, land, language, and culture.