Plains Apache

The Plains Apache are a small Southern Athabaskan group who traditionally live on the Southern Plains of North America, in close association with the linguistically unrelated Kiowa nation, and today are centered in Southwestern Oklahoma and Northern Texas. The tribe is federally recognized as the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma.

Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings
Vanessa Jennings, a Plains Apache-Kiowa-Gila River Pima artist and traditionalist
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States United States (Oklahoma Oklahoma)
English, formerly Plains Apache language
traditional tribal religion, Native American Church, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Apache peoples, Navajo people, and other Athabascans.


The Plains Apache are also known as the Kiowa Apache, Naʼisha, or Na i sha Tindé, meaning "Thieves" as the old meaning. However, in more recent times the negative meaning(thief) is trying to be replaced by just "Apache" for Na i sha."[2] They also used the term Kalth Tindé or γát dìndé meaning "Cedar People" or Bá-ca-yé meaning "Whetstone People". To their close allies, the much larger Kiowa tribe, who speak a completely unrelated language, they were known as Semat meaning "Stealers." At major tribal events, the Kiowa Apache formed part of the Kiowa tribal 'hoop' (ring of tipis). This may explain why the Kiowa named the Kiowa-Apache Taugui meaning "Sitting Outside."


Today the tribe is headquartered in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Their tribal jurisdictional area covers parts of Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Grady, Jefferson, Kiowa, and Stephens Counties in Oklahoma. Their current tribal chairperson is Bobby Komardley.[1]

Tribal members must have a minimum blood quantum of 1/8 Plains Apache descent and at least 1/4 total Indian blood to enroll in the tribe.[1]

Economic development

The Apache Tribe currently operates a casino. They also issue their own tribal license plates.[3][4][5]


Kiowa Apache Essa-queta
Essa-queta, Plains Apache chief
Wohngebiet Kiowa-Apachen

In the early 18th century, the Plains Apache were living in the area of the upper Missouri River, already a band within the Kiowa nation, only differentiated by language and ethnicity. It is believed that the Plains Apache entered this alliance with the Kiowa for mutual protection against hostile tribes.

It is recorded that many Kiowa Apache did not learn the Kiowa language, preferring to communicate with their allies using the sophisticated Plains Indian Sign Language, at which the Kiowa were past masters (having probably devised much of the system).

Even before contact with Europeans, their numbers were never large, and in 1780 their population was estimated at 400.[2]

The Kiowa Apache and Kiowa had migrated into the southern plains sometime in the early 19th century. By the Treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 the Kiowa and Kiowa Apache settled in Western Oklahoma and Kansas. They were forced to move south of the Washita River to the Red River and Western Oklahoma with the Comanche and the Kiowa. The reservation period lasted from 1868 to 1906. The transition from the free life of Plains people to a restricted life of the reservation was more difficult for some families than others.[6] The 1890 Census showed 1,598 Comanche at the Fort Sill reservation, which they shared with 1,140 Kiowa and 326 Kiowa Apache.[7]

Some groups of Plains Apache refused to settle on reservations and were involved in Kiowa and Comanche uprisings, most notably the First Battle of Adobe Walls which was the largest battle of the Indian Wars. It would be the last battle in which the natives repelled the US Army in the southern plains and marked the beginning of a decade long downfall for the southern plains tribes.

Social Organization

The Kiowa Apache social organisation was split into numerous extended families (kustcrae), who camped together (for hunting, gathering) as local groups (gonka). The next level was the division or band, a grouping of a number of gonkas (who would come together, for mutual protection, especially in time of war).

In pre-reservation times there were at least four local groups or gonkas who frequently joined together for warring neighbouring tribes and settlements.

Dismal River culture

The Apache are linked to the Dismal River culture of the western Plains,[8] generally attributed to the Paloma and Quartelejo (also Cuartelejo) Apaches. Jicarilla Apache pottery has also been found in some of the Dismal River complex sites.[9] Some of the people of the Dismal River culture joined the Kiowa Apache in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Due to pressure from the Comanche from the west and Pawnee and French from the east, the Kiowa and remaining people of Dismal River culture migrated south where they later joined the Lipan Apache and Jicarilla Apache nations.[9]


Richard aitson kiowa
Richard Aitson, poet and award-winning beadworker, is both Kiowa and Kiowa Apache

The Kiowa Apache language is a member of the Southern Athabaskan language family, a division of the Na-Dene languages. The Plains Apache language, also referred to as Kiowa Apache, was the most divergent member of the subfamily. While three people spoke the language in 2006,[10] the last fluent speaker died in 2008.

Historical Chiefs

  • Gonkon (Gonkan - "Stays in Tipi" or "Defends His Tipi", also known as "Apache John"). A shortened form of his full name Gon-kon-chey-has-tay-yah (Man Over His Camp).
  • Tsayaditl-ti (Ta-Ka-I-Tai-Di or Da-Kana-Dit-Ta-I - "White Man", ca. *1830 - ca. †1900)
  • Koon-Ka-Zachey (Kootz-Zah). A shortened form of his full name Gon-kon-chey-has-tay-yah (Man Over His Camp).
  • Essa-queta (better known as Pacer or Peso, derived from Pay-Sus, ca. *? - † 1875, Pacer was the leader of the Kiowa Apace tribe. Actually, Pacer was part of the peace faction and kept the main group of Kiowa Apaches on the reservation during the Red River War of 1874-75)[11]
  • Si-tah-le ("Poor Wolf")
  • Oh-ah-te-kah ("Poor Bear")
  • Ah-zaah ("Prairie Wolf")

See also


  1. ^ a b c 2011 Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory. Archived 2012-05-12 at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2011: 5. Retrieved 2 Jan 2012.
  2. ^ a b Pritzker, 295
  3. ^ "Pocket Pictorial." Archived 2010-04-06 at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2010: 8. (retrieved 10 June 2010)
  4. ^ "Senate Indian panel to discuss racial concerns." Enid News and Eagle. 5 May 2011 (retrieved 14 June 2011)
  5. ^ "Oklahoma's Tribal Nations." Archived 2010-03-28 at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2010 (retrieved 11 April 2010)
  6. ^ Swift, Dick 1972
  7. ^ Texas Beyond History - The Passing of the Indian Era
  8. ^ Cassells, E. Steve. (1997). The Archeology of Colorado, Revised Edition. Boulder, Colorado: Johnson Books. pp. 236. ISBN 1-55566-193-9.
  9. ^ a b Gibbon, Guy E.; Ames, Kenneth M. (1998) Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: An Encyclopedia. p. 213. ISBN 0-8153-0725-X.
  10. ^ Anderton, Alice, PhD. "Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma." Intertribal Wordpath Society. 2009 (retrieved 11 April 2010)
  11. ^ Famous Chiefs, Cabin #5 Archived 2012-08-29 at the Wayback Machine


  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.


  • Beatty, John. 1974. Kiowa-Apache Music and Dance. Occasional Publications in Anthropology: Ethnology Series. Number 31. Greeley, CO: Northern Colorado UP.
  • Bittle, William. 1954. “The Peyote Ritual of the Kiowa Apache.” Oklahoma Anthropological Society. 2: 69-79.
  • ______. 1962. “The Manatidie: A Focus for Kiowa Apache Tribal Identity.” Plains Anthropologist. 7(17): 152-163.
  • ______. 1963. “Kiowa-Apache.” In Studies in the Athapaskan Languages. (Ed. Hoijer, Harry). University of California Studies in Linguistics vol. 29. Berkeley: California UP. 76-101.
  • ______. 1964. “Six Kiowa Apache Tales.” Oklahoma Papers in Anthropology. 5:8-12.
  • ______. 1971. “A Brief History of the Kiowa Apache.” Oklahoma Papers in Anthropology. 12(1): 1-34.
  • ______. 1979. “Kiowa Apache Raiding Behavior.” Oklahoma Papers in Anthropology. 20(2): 33-47.
  • Brant, Charles S. 1949. “The cultural position of the Kiowa-Apache.” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology. 5(1): 56-61.
  • Brant, Charles S. 1950. “Peyotism among the Kiowa-Apache and Neighboring Tribes.” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology. 6(2): 212-222.
  • Brant, Charles S. 1953. “Kiowa-Apache Culture History: Some Further Observations.” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology. 9(2): 195-202.
  • Brant, Charles S. 1969. Jim Whitewolf: The Life of a Kiowa Apache. New York: Dover Publications.
  • Jordan, Julia A. 2008 Plains Apache Ethnobotany. University of Oklahoma Press.
  • McAllister, J. Gilbert. 1937. “Kiowa-Apache Social Organization.” In Social Anthropology of North American Tribes. (ed. Eggan, Fred). Chicago: Chicago UP.99-169.
  • _______.1949. “Kiowa Apache Tales.” In The Sky is My Tipi. (ed. Boatright, Mody). Dallas: SMU Press. 1-141.
  • _______.1970. Dävéko: Kiowa-Apache Medicine Man. Austin: Bulletin of the Texas Memorial Museum, No. 17.
  • Meadows, William C. 1999. Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche Military Societies. University of Texas Press, Austin.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1969). Western Apache and Kiowa Apache materials relating to ceremonial payment. Ethnology, 8 (1), 122-124.
  • Opler, Morris E; & Bittle, William E. (1961). The death practices and eschatology of the Kiowa Apache. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 17 (4), 383-394.
  • Schweinfurth, Kay Parker. (2002). Prayer on top of the earth: The spiritual universe of the Plains Apaches. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.

External links


The Apache () are a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States, which include the Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Salinero, Plains and Western Apache. Distant cousins of the Apache are the Navajo, with which they share the Southern Athabaskan languages. There are Apache communities in Oklahoma, Texas, and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Apache people have moved throughout the United States and elsewhere, including urban centers. The Apache Nations are politically autonomous, speak several different languages and have distinct cultures.

Historically, the Apache homelands have consisted of high mountains, sheltered and watered valleys, deep canyons, deserts, and the southern Great Plains, including areas in what is now Eastern Arizona, Northern Mexico (Sonora and Chihuahua) and New Mexico, West Texas, and Southern Colorado. These areas are collectively known as Apacheria. The Apache tribes fought the invading Spanish and Mexican peoples for centuries. The first Apache raids on Sonora appear to have taken place during the late 17th century. In 19th-century confrontations during the American-Indian wars, the U.S. Army found the Apache to be fierce warriors and skillful strategists.

Apache Wars

The Apache Wars were a series of armed conflicts between the United States Army and various Apache nations fought in the southwest between 1849 and 1886, though minor hostilities continued until as late as 1924. The United States inherited conflicts between American invaders and Apache groups when Mexico ceded territory after the Mexican–American War in 1846. These conflicts were not continued as new United States citizens came into traditional Apache lands to raise livestock, crops and to mine minerals.The United States Army established forts to control the Apache bands. Several reservations were created, some on and some out of the traditional areas occupied by the bands. In 1886 the US Army put over 5,000 men in the field to wear down and finally accept the surrender of Geronimo and 30 of his followers. This is generally considered the end of the Apache Wars, although conflicts continued between citizens and Apaches. The Confederate Army briefly participated in the wars during the early 1860s in Texas, before being diverted to action in the American Civil War in New Mexico and Arizona.

Arabic language in the United States

The Arabic language is the fastest-growing foreign language taught at U.S. colleges and universities, a trend mirrored at the University of Iowa.Arabic in 2006 became the 10th most-studied language in the United States.In 2013, Arabic was ranked the 8th place on the list of enrollments in higher education in the USA.

Dismal River culture

The Dismal River culture refers to a set of cultural attributes first seen in the Dismal River area of Nebraska in the 1930s by archaeologists William Duncan Strong, Waldo Rudolph Wedel and A. T. Hill. Also known as Dismal River aspect and Dismal River complex, dated between 1650-1750 A.D., is different from other prehistoric Central Plains and Woodland traditions of the western Plains. The Dismal River people are believed to have spoken an Athabascan language and to have been part of the people later known to Europeans as Apaches.

First Battle of Adobe Walls

The First Battle of Adobe Walls was a battle between the United States Army and American Indians. The Kiowa, Comanche and Plains Apache (Kiowa Apache) tribes drove from the battlefield a United States Expeditionary Force that was reacting to attacks on white settlers moving into the Southwest. The battle, on November 25, 1864, resulted in light casualties on both sides but was one of the largest engagements fought on the Great Plains.

Gokana language

Gokana (Gòkánà) is an Ogoni language spoken by some 130,000 people in Rivers State, Nigeria.

Humphrey Archeological Site

The Humphrey Archeological Site, near Mullen in Hooker County, Nebraska, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

It was the site of a prehistoric village or camp. The archeological site is designated by Smithsonian trinomial of 25 HO 21.

It is a village site which is one of only two known in the Sandhills to show evidence of corn cultivation.It was named for archeologist Humphrey.

Indian Territory

As general terms, Indian Territory, the Indian Territories, or Indian country describe an evolving land area set aside by the United States Government for the relocation of Native Americans who held aboriginal title to their land. In general, the tribes ceded land they occupied in exchange for land grants in 1803. The concept of an Indian Territory was an outcome of the 18th- and 19th-century policy of Indian removal. After the Civil War (1861–1865), the policy of the government was one of assimilation.

The term Indian Reserve describes lands the British government set aside for indigenous tribes between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River in the time before the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

Indian Territory later came to refer to an unorganized territory whose general borders were initially set by the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834, and was the successor to the remainder of the Missouri Territory after Missouri received statehood. The borders of Indian Territory were reduced in size as various Organic Acts were passed by Congress to create incorporated territories of the United States. The 1907 Oklahoma Enabling Act created the single state of Oklahoma by combining Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, ending the existence of an Indian Territory.

Keresan Sign Language

Keresan Sign Language, also known as Keresan Pueblo Indian Sign Language (KPISL) or Keresign, is a village sign language spoken by many of the inhabitants of a Keresan pueblo with a relatively high incidence of congenital deafness (the pueblo is not identified in sources, but the cited population suggests it is Zia Pueblo).

Keresan Sign Language developed locally, and is unrelated to the trade language Plains Indian Sign Language.

List of Native American tribes in Oklahoma

This is a list of federally recognized Native American Tribes in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma has the third largest numbers of tribes, behind Alaska and California.

Little Arkansas Treaty

The Little Arkansas Treaty was a set of treaties signed between the United States of America and the Kiowa, Comanche, Plains Apache, Southern Cheyenne, and Southern Arapaho at Little Arkansas River, Kansas in October 1865. On October 14 and 18, 1865 the United States and all of the major Plains Indians Tribes signed a treaty on the Little Arkansas River, which became known as the Little Arkansas Treaty. It is notable in that it lasted less than two years, the reservations it created for the Plains Indians were never created at all, and were reduced by 90% eighteen months later in the Medicine Lodge Treaty.

The full treaty can be found online.

Little Raven (Arapaho leader)

Little Raven, also known as Hosa (Young Crow), (born ca. 1810 — died 1889) was from about 1855 until his death in 1889 a principal chief of the Southern Arapaho Indians. He negotiated peace between the Southern Arapaho and Cheyenne and the Comanche, Kiowa, and Plains Apache. He also secured rights to the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation in Indian Territory.

Medicine Lodge Treaty

The Medicine Lodge Treaty is the overall name for three treaties signed between the Federal government of the United States and southern Plains Indian tribes in October 1867, intended to bring peace to the area by relocating the Native Americans to reservations in Indian Territory and away from European-American settlement. The treaty was negotiated after investigation by the Indian Peace Commission, which in its final report in 1868 concluded that the wars had been preventable. They determined that the United States government and its representatives, including the United States Congress, had contributed to the warfare on the Great Plains by failing to fulfill their legal obligations and to treat the Native Americans with honesty.

The U.S. government and tribal chiefs met at a place traditional for Native American ceremonies, at their request. The first treaty was signed October 21, 1867, with the Kiowa and Comanche tribes. The second, with the Kiowa-Apache, was signed the same day. The third treaty was signed with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho on October 28.Under the Medicine Lodge Treaty, the tribes were assigned reservations of diminished size compared to territories defined in an 1865 treaty. The treaty tribes never ratified the treaty by vote of adult males, as it required. In addition, by changing allotment policy under the Dawes Act and authorizing sales under the Agreement with the Cheyenne and Arapaho (1890) and the Agreement with the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache (1892) signed with the Cherokee Commission, the Congress effectively further reduced their reservation territory. The Kiowa chief Lone Wolf filed suit against the government for fraud on behalf of the tribes in Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock. In 1903 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the tribes, determining that the Congress had "plenary power" and the political right to make such decisions. In the aftermath of that case, Congress acted unilaterally on land decisions related to other reservations as well.

Because of the outstanding issues with the treaty and subsequent government actions, in the mid-20th century, the Kiowa, Arapaho and Comanche filed several suits for claims against the U.S. government. Over decades, they won substantial settlements of monetary compensation in the amount of tens of millions of dollars, although it took years for the cases to be resolved.

Mexican Indian Wars

The Mexican Indian Wars were a series of conflicts fought between Spanish, and later Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Salvadoran and Belizean forces against Amerindians in what is now called Mexico and surrounding areas such as Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Southern/Western United States. The period begins with Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1519 and continued until the end of the Caste War of Yucatán in 1933.

Plains Apache language

The Plains Apache language (or Kiowa Apache) is a Southern Athabaskan language spoken by the Plains Apache peoples living primarily in central Oklahoma.

Plains Apache is most closely related to other Southern Athabaskan languages like Navajo, Chiricahua Apache, Mescalero Apache, Lipan Apache, Western Apache, and Jicarilla Apache. Plains Apache is the most divergent member of the subfamily. The language is extremely endangered with perhaps only one or two native speaking elders. Alfred Chalepah, Jr., who might have been the last native speaker, died in 2008.

Plains Indians

Plains Indians, Interior Plains Indians or Indigenous people of the Great Plains and Canadian Prairies are the Native American tribes and First Nation band governments who have traditionally lived on the greater Interior Plains (i.e. the Great Plains and the Canadian Prairies) in North America. Their historic nomadic culture and development of equestrian culture and resistance to domination by the government and military forces of Canada and the United States have made the Plains Indian culture groups an archetype in literature and art for American Indians everywhere.

Plains Indians are usually divided into two broad classifications which overlap to some degree. The first group became a fully nomadic horse culture during the 18th and 19th centuries, following the vast herds of buffalo, although some tribes occasionally engaged in agriculture. These include the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lakota, Lipan, Plains Apache (or Kiowa Apache), Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwe, Sarsi, Nakoda (Stoney), and Tonkawa. The second group of Plains Indians were semi-sedentary, and, in addition to hunting buffalo, they lived in villages, raised crops, and actively traded with other tribes. These include the Arikara, Hidatsa, Iowa, Kaw (or Kansa), Kitsai, Mandan, Missouria, Omaha, Osage, Otoe, Pawnee, Ponca, Quapaw, Wichita, and the Santee Dakota, Yanktonai and Yankton Dakota.

Sandy River Valley Sign Language

Sandy River Valley Sign Language was a village sign language of the 19th-century Sandy River Valley in Maine. Together with the more famous Martha's Vineyard Sign Language and Henniker Sign Language, it was one of three local languages which formed the basis of American Sign Language.

The deaf communities in the valley developed in some of the 30 villages founded by settlers from Martha's Vineyard. However, it is not clear whether MVSL itself was transmitted, or if the chain was broken and a new sign language was created once a substantial deaf population was established.

Southern Athabaskan languages

Southern Athabaskan (also Apachean) is a subfamily of Athabaskan languages spoken primarily in the Southwestern United States (including Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah) with two outliers in Oklahoma and Texas. The language is spoken to a much lesser degree in the northern Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, and Nuevo León. Those languages are spoken by various groups of Apache and Navajo peoples. Elsewhere, Athabaskan is spoken by many indigenous groups of peoples in Alaska, Canada, Oregon and northern California.

Self-designations for Western Apache and Navajo are Nnee biyáti’ or Ndee biyáti’, and Diné bizaad or Naabeehó bizaad, respectively.

There are several well-known historical people whose first language was Southern Athabaskan. Geronimo (Goyaałé) who spoke Chiricahua was a famous raider and war leader. Manuelito spoke Navajo and is famous for his leadership during and after the Long Walk of the Navajo.

Western Apache language

The Western Apache language is a Southern Athabaskan language spoken among the 14,000 Western Apaches living primarily in east central Arizona as well as Texas and New Mexico. There are approximately 6,000 speakers living on the San Carlos Reservation and 7,000 living on the Ft. Apache Reservation. Goodwin (1938) claims that Western Apache can be divided into five dialect groupings:


Northern Tonto

Southern Tonto

San Carlos

White MountainOther researchers do not find any linguistic evidence for five groups but rather three main varieties with several subgroupings:

San Carlos

White Mountain

TontoWestern Apache is most closely related to other Southern Athabaskan languages like Navajo, Chiricahua Apache, Mescalero Apache, Lipan Apache, Plains Apache, and Jicarilla Apache.

In 2011, the San Carlos Apache Tribe’s Language Preservation Program in Peridot, Arizona, began its outreach to the "14,000 tribal members residing within the districts of Bylas, Gilson Wash, Peridot and Seven Mile Wash," only 20% of whom still speak the language fluently.

Tribal languages
(still spoken)

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