Chiricahua Apache

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Chiricahua (/ˌtʃɪrɨˈkɑːwə/ US dict: chĭr′•ĭ•kâ′•wə) is a group of Apache Native Americans who live in the Southwest United States. At the time of European encounter, they were living in 15 million acres (61,000 km2) of territory in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona in the United States, and in northern Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico. Today, only two tribes of the Chiricahua Apache located in the United States are federally recognized: the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, located near Apache, Oklahoma; and the Chiricahua tribe located on the Mescalero Apache reservation near Ruidoso, New Mexico.

The Chiricahua Apache are also known as the Chiricagui, Apaches de Chiricahui, Chiricahues, Chilicague, Chilecagez, and Chiricagua. The White Mountain Apache, including the Cibecue and Bylas groups of the Western Apache, called them Ha'i'ą́há (meaning 'Eastern Sunrise"). The San Carlos Apache called them Hák'ą́yé. The Navajo, a group distinct from the Western Apache although related in language, call the Chiricahua Chíshí.

This group was once led by the chiefs Cochise (whose name was derived from the Apache word Cheis, meaning "having the quality of oak"); Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, Nana, Juh. Later they were led by Goyaałé (known to the Americans as Geronimo) and Cochise's son Naiche. His Apache group was the last to continue to resist U.S. government control of the American Southwest.

Several loosely affiliated bands of Apache came to be known as the Chiricahua. These included the Chokonen, Chihenne, Nednai and the Bedonkohe. Today, all are commonly referred to as Chiricahua, but they were not historically a single band.
Many other bands and groups of Apachean language-speakers ranged over eastern Arizona and the American Southwest. The bands that are grouped under the Chiricahua term today had much history together: they intermarried and lived alongside each other, and they also occasionally fought with each other. They formed short-term as well as longer alliances that have caused scholars to classify them as one people.

The Apachean groups and the Navajo peoples were part of the Athabaskan migration into the North American continent from Asia, across the Bering Strait from Siberia. As the people moved south and east into North America, groups splintered off and became differentiated by language and culture over time. Some anthropologists believe that the Apache and the Navajo were pushed south and west into what is now New Mexico and Arizona by pressure from other Great Plains Indians, such as the Comanche and Kiowa. Among the last of such splits were those that resulted in the formation of the different Apachean bands whom the later Europeans encountered: the southwestern Apache groups and the Navajo. Although both speaking forms of Southern Athabaskan, the Navajo and Apache have become culturally distinct.