Monday, November 16, 2015
I thought I would share about the Lives of Apache Women in Texas, in the 1800s
According to David M. Brudde, in the Handbook of North American Indian: Southwest, Texas, in the 1800s,
was predominately populated with Apache tribes (1). Lives of women in those Apache tribes, in the 1800s, in
Texas were vastly different from the lives of American women, today. For example, Morris E. Opler, in
American Anthropologist, describes the Apache tribes as living clustered in extended family units. The home,
or wiki-up, would be built by women. It was a circular, dome shaped, hut made out of brush, grass, and plants.
The floor was dirt, covered with brush, grass, and animal skins, except for a fire pit in the center.
In the small wiki up, lived a husband, wive, and their children. When a daughter married, another wiki up was
built next to her family home for the couple. Sons who married would leave home and move in , next to their
wife's family. Sons in law avoided their in laws. They hunted and provided food for their wife's family, but did not
have much contact with them.
Grenville Goodwin states that, “traditionally, it was the women and girls who instructed children, gathered
plants for food, cooked, cleaned, and made clothing. Older boys were trained to hunt by the men of the tribe”
When an Apache girl hit puberty, marked by the onset of her first period, a special ceremony was held. The
ceremony was huge. Guests were invited, feasts of food were prepared, There was music and dancing. The
party lasted for four days. Towards the end of this ceremony, the girl's family would usually arrange a marriage
for her. Typically, the husband chosen would be older and would gift the girl's family with horses, food, and
animal skins. Sometimes men would compete for a girl, usually the one who offered the most gifts, got the girl.
When a husband was chosen, a home would be erected for the couple. The girl's mother, sisters, aunts,
and female cousins would often help to build it. Then, without further ceremony, the couple would move in
Divorce was not uncommon among the Apache. If the girl thought her husband was not treating her
properly, she returned to her parents home. If an Apache male wanted a divorce, he just left and moved back in
with his family or with another wife. Apache males were allowed more than one wife. Each wife and her
children lived in a separate home (4).
Childbirth was vastly different from what we experience, today. When a pregnant woman went into labor,
she was tied to a tree, standing up, with her legs spread and her hands above her head. When the baby came
out, another woman took it, cleaned it, wrapped it, and placed it on a cradle board. The mother was untied,
washed, and returned to her home to nurse the baby. Often, the mother was expected to return to her work
right away (5).
Lives of Apache women, in Texas, during the 1800s, were marked by hard, physical labor, little medical
care, and childbirth at young ages. If a woman lived into her forties, she was, often, the oldest woman in the tribe
1. Brugge, David M. (1983). "Navajo prehistory and history to 1850", in A. Ortiz (Ed.), Handbook of North
American Indians: Southwest (Vol. 10, pp. 489–501). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
2. Ogler, Morris E. (1936b). "The kinship systems of the Southern Athapaskan-speaking tribes",American
Anthropologist, 38 (4), 620–633.
3. Goodwin, Grenville (1969) . The Social Organization of the Western Apache. Tucson, Arizona:
University of Arizona Press. LC 76-75453.
4. Schroeder, Albert H. (1974a). "A study of the Apache Indian: Parts 1–3", in American Indian ethnology:
Indians of the Southwest. New York: Garland.
5. Hodge, F. W. (Ed.). (1907). Handbook of American Indians. Washington.