Native American Class Website
Navajos and Apaches

Navajos and Apaches

By: Aaron Gurayah




The Navajos

Geography and Environment

  • The Ancient Navajos were one of the last groups to arrive in the Southwest

  • They arrived from Canada about 1000 A.D. They settled in the area of the Southwest known as Four Corners





  • A significant number of the Navajos also live in towns bordering the main reservation
  • Including Flagstaff, Winslow, and Holbrook in Arizona and Farmington and Gallup in New Mexico
  •  Many Navajos reside in the metropolitan areas of Phoenix, Albuquerque, Tucson, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Los Angeles as well



  •   It has six or eight sides and made of logs, brush and mud
  • The door faces east towards the rising sun
  • While many navajos live in modern houses some still live in hogans and say its nice to be together instead of in separate rooms
  • Hogans are used for family ceremonies


  •   Corn was the most important kind of food
  • Indian corn comes in many color and could be eaten fresh or dried and ground
  • Today many raise sheep for mear and wool


  • The navajo make their clothes from deerskin
  • The men wore breechcloths and leggings and the women wore deerskin dresses
  • After the 1880's the Navajos men borowed the style of the Mexicans
  • They decorated the seams if their pants with silver buttons
  • The women wore woolen dresses made with two blankets stitched together at their shoulders


Religion or Social Customs

  • The Navajos believed in gods they called the Holy People
  • The Navajos believed they needed to praise the Holy People or the gods would use their powers against them
  • The sun god could make the crops dry up
  • They believed the Earth Mother was kind
  • The shaman was the religious leader and healer of the Navajos
  • He performed ceremonies and asked the gods for special favors for the Navajos
  • Shamans often used sand painting in their ceremonies
  • The Navajos developed over time an elaborate ceremonial system
  • Those conducting the ceremonies attempted to restore balance and harmony to the world of the individual or individuals for whom the rituals were conducted
  • Some of the ceremonies lasted for as long as nine days and had to be conducted in just the right way for the proper effects to be realized

  • Traditional Navajo government was based upon regional communities and extended family leaders who worked together by consunus

Tools, Art, and Trade Products

  • By 1880 Navajo silversmiths were creating handmade jewelry
  • Turquoise had been used with jewelry by the Navajo for hundreds of years, but they did not use turquoise inlay



The Apaches

Geography- Environment

  • The Apache tribe consists of six subtribes: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa
  • Each subtribe is from a different geographial region
  • They are composed of six regional groups: Western Apache - Coyotero - most of eastern Arizona which include the White Mountain, Cibuecue, San Carlos, and Northern and Southern Tonto bands


  • The Apache people (including the Navajo) came from the Far North to settle the Plains and Southwest around A.D. 850
  •   They settled in three desert regions, the Great Basin , the Sonoran, and the Chihuachuan


  • Shelter

  • ·   All people in the Apache tribe lived in one of three types of houses
  • ·     The first of which is the  teepee for those who lived in the plains
  • ·   Another type of housing is the wickiup, an eight-foot tall frame of wood held together with yucca fibers and covered in brush usually in the Apache groups in the highlands
  • ·   If a family member lived in a wickiup and they died, the wickiup would be burned
  • The final housing is the hogan , an earthen structure in the desert area that was good for keeping cool in the hot weather of northern Mexico


  • Apachean people obtained food from four main sources:
  • hunting wild animals,
  • gathering wild plants,
  • growing domesticated plants, and
  • interaction with neighboring peoples for livestock and agricultural products (through raiding or trading).
  • The Western Apache diet consisted of 35-40% meat and 60-65% plant foods.



  • Originally, Apache women wore buckskin dresses and the men wore leather war shirts and breechcloths
  • In the 1800's, many Apache men began to wear white cotton tunics and pants, and many Apache women wore calico skirts and dresses
  • The Apaches wore moccasins or high moccasin boots on their feet
  • An Apache lady's dress or warrior's shirt was often fringed and beaded for decoration
  • The Apaches did not traditionally wear feather war bonnets, but the Plains Apaches adopted these headdresses from their Kiowa allies
  • Women usually wore their hair long and loose or gathered into a bun Apache men often cut their hair to shoulder length (except in the Plains Apache tribe)
  • Both genders liked to wear shell jewelry, especially choker-style necklaces the Apaches also painted their faces for special occasions

Religion and Social Customs

  • Apache shared a rich oral history of myths and legends and a legacy of intense religious devotion that touched virtually every aspect of their lives
  • Medicine Men presided over religious ceremonies believed in many spirit beings. 
  • Usen, the Giver of Life, the most powerful of them all.  The Gans, or Mountain Spirits, were especially important in Apache ceremonies.
  • Males garbed themselves in elaborate costumes to impersonate the Gans in ritual dance, wearing kilts, black masks, tall wooden-slat headdresses, and body paint carrying wooden sword

  • These ceremonies are known by medicine men (shamans) or can be acquired by direct revelation to the individual (see also mysticism).

  • Important standardized ceremonies include the puberty ceremony (sunrise dance) of young women.

  • The Apaches participate in many spiritual dances including the rain dance, a harvest and crop dance, and a spirit dance. These dances were mostly for enriching their food resources




  • In the past, each Apache band was led by its own chief, who was chosen by a tribal council.
  • Most important decisions were made by the council, and all the Apache councilmember's had to agree before an action could be taken.
  • An Apache chief was more like a tribal chairman than a president. Most of his job was mediating between other Apaches. Most Apache tribes still use tribal councils for their government today.

Tools, Art, and Trade Products

  • Apache hunters used bows and arrows.  In war, Apache men fired their bows or fought with long spears and buffalo-hide shields
  • Although not distinguished by Europeans or Euro-Americans, all Apachean tribes made clear distinctions between raiding (for profit) and war
  • Raiding was done with small parties with a specific economic target. Warfare was waged with large parties (often using clan members) with the sole purpose of retribution
  • They exchanged buffalo hides, tallow and meat, bones that could be worked into needles and scrapers for hides, and salt from the desert with the Pueblos for pottery, cotton, blankets, turquoise, corn and other goods.