Cliff Dweller - Photo by E.S. Curtis 1925


The Apache did not farm. They lived on a variety of wild plants. The women gathered the plants. Favorites were the yucca and mescal plants. The women harvested the yucca plant in the spring and they gathered the mescal plant in late spring. The mescal plant was a large leafed plant that grew in the shape of a cabbage head and tasted like squash. The women steamed many plants in a deep pit that was filled with stone. A fire was built in a pit lined with stones. Then when extremely hot the fire was allowed to burn down. Next yucca and mescal plants were piled on the hot stones then covered with wet grass. The plants were left for much of the day. Some of the steamed food was dried for the cold season. The Apache also ate arrowhead, wild onions, and berries. The berries were pounded into small cakes and dried in the sun. The Apache gathered many kinds of nuts. A favorite nut was the pinion. The Apache buried their food for the winter. The men spent most of their time hunting deer, antelope, elk, and sometimes buffalo. They also ate prairie dogs, squirrels, and rabbits. The Apache would not touch fish or any animal that lived in the water. Before horses in the 1700’s the men hunted on foot. 


Apaches believed that everything in nature had special power. Some animals were possessed by evil spirits or ghosts. Those animals were bears, owls, and coyotes. The crow was a sign of good luck. They believed in the Great Spirit. Legends say the Great Spirit was sent mountain spirits to show the Apache how to live a good life. The mountain spirits called Ganhs taught the Apaches many ceremonies and chants to overcome disease. After the Apaches ignored the Ganhs’ teachings they became upset and disappeared into the mountains. Apaches acted out the Gahns and performed ceremonial dances to bring them back. The Apaches believed the dancers could absorb illnesses in a wand and blow it away with the wind as the dancers moved.




The women packed all their possessions each time they traveled to a new home in baskets. The baskets could hold heavy loads. They hung the baskets across their backs and shoulders. The baskets were made from different plants, reeds, and herbs. The Apache mainly used yucca leaves, willow reeds, or juniper bark. Flowers from plants were used to make dyes for painting designs on the baskets. The Apaches used the coiling and twining technique. 


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