Indian Mythology | San Carlos Apache Mythology

The Development of Apache Culture


1The Indians were living without anything. They were poor. They had neither rawhide nor dressed skins. They tied the tops of soap weeds on their feet to protect their soles when they traveled. They had no proper blankets, but used bark braided together for covering. They covered their children with these when they put them to bed. The women made themselves skirts of bark. They did this because they had no dressed skins, no rawhide, and no sinew.

The people were poor. They set fire to the material at the base of the sotol stalks and when the fire was burned down, hunted in the ashes for the singed mice that were left. They picked them up and ate them. They lived on these. They were poor.

The women went for mescal. They broke it off where it stands by pounding. They had no knives but trimmed it with flint. They carried the trimmed stump in burden baskets to a place where there was a hole. They brought wood there also. They put stones, well arranged on the wood, and applied fire and burned all the wood. The stones became very hot. They put the mescal on these hot stones and spread grass over them and covered the whole with earth. After two nights had passed, the women came to the place again. They took off the dirt with their hands. If the mescal was well cooked they took it out and spread it in various places. This was their food. Those who lived first on the world, did this way. This was their food. They lived on seeds and different kinds of grass. The people were very poor.

Then they found out about deer and where they lived. They used them for food. Wood-rats and jack-rabbits were living there and they used them also. They learned to use all these. Their arrows were made of reeds and their bows were of mulberry. They went where deer were living on the mountains and hunted for them. They killed the deer there and then they had sinew. They brought the deer to their camps. They took the skin from the lower legs where it was thick and by sewing made soles for their moccasins. They also took the skin from the sides of the deer's jaws because it was thick there and made moccasins of it. They worked the skins soft with their hands, and made the tops of the moccasins from the skin taken from the middle portion of the deer's legs. They sewed their moccasins with sinew.

Then they found out there were white men living somewhere. They also discovered that white people had something to live on. The Indians then began to live by stealing. They stole burros, horses, and cattle and brought them home.

After that they used the thick skin from the hips of burros and horses and made soles for their moccasins. Cowhide is also thick and they used that for the moccasin soles. They made the tops of soft dressed deerskin which they sewed on. In this way they came to have moccasins.

Before this they were poor but now they lived well. They had sinew and rawhide made from cow's skin. They were happy.

They said that stealing from those who lived on the earth was a grand way to live. They did not go around in this country but went to white people's houses. The white people would run away and the Indians would pick up their blankets. They lived by going to war. Then they would come back where their homes were.
They stole the blankets and property of the people who lived on the earth. Those who formerly were without shoes now had them. They said this was a good way to live. Their minds were turned in that direction; they thought stealing was the only way to live.

They traveled around stealing. White people had calico. They fought with them and robbed them of the cloth, bringing it home with them.

The women used not to have skirts except those they made of bark. Now they had good skirts. They got to thinking this way and concluded stealing was the only good way to live.

The Deer Woman2

Panther3 Boy was living in the east. He was married to the daughter of Gaowan.4 Because Panther Boy was a great hunter, the Gan gave him his daughter.5

He, intending to move his camp, went away by himself while his wife stayed behind. He went to select a camping place. When he came where he was going to build his house, he covered it, on the east, with black
bį bitcįn.6 On the south side he used white bį bitcįn, on the west, yellow bį bitcįn and on this side, the north, the covering was blue bį bitcįn.

He caused black deer horns to fall on his house when he was building it. Then he made a zigzag mark on the walls of his house, using the black blood from a deer's mouth. He made this mark four times. He made zigzag lines with white blood from a deer's mouth and under it with black, above the white was a line in yellow and on top was one of blue. He made a bed on the east side and put bacine7 for a pillow. There on the bacine, he caused two deer horns to alight. He made a pillow on the west side and caused yellow deer's ears to alight on it. Then he spread it over with deer hair.

In the east he made a mountain ridge. Where its head was, he placed deer horns. He made it to be the mountain of the deer with horns, the bucks. Crossing over midway the ridge, he made a trail of blood from the mouth of a deer. Under that mountain ridge with black deer's mouth blood he made a spring where deer's slobberings always boil out.

From the house which he had built he made tracks leading in four directions to these mountains. Right there where it was lying he made the first footprint, with black deer mouth blood. Beyond, where he was going to step, he made a footprint with white deer's mouth blood. Beyond that he made another of yellow and beyond that one of blue.

On this side (south) he made a mountain ridge of bailgaiye.8 He put pronged horns where he made the head of the ridge. He made a trail in the middle of it with white deer's mouth blood. Under the ridge he made a spring boil out with white deer's slobberings. When he walked out in that direction, he made only one footprint with white deer's mouth blood. Beyond that he made another with yellow deer's mouth blood and still further on he made one with blue.

In the west he made a mountain ridge of tseltcee.9 He caused yellow deer's horns to alight, one after the other, where the head of the ridge lay. He made a trail of yellow mouth blood crossing over the ridge midway. Under this ridge he caused a spring of yellow water to boil out with yellow deer's slobberings. Where he was going to walk toward it he made a footprint with black deer's mouth blood. Beyond that he made one with white, further on another with yellow, and beyond that one with blue.

At the north he made a mountain ridge of turquoise. Where the head of the ridge lay, he put one deer's horn standing up. Each way crossing over the middle of the ridge he made a trail of blue deer's mouth blood. Under the ridge he made a spring boil up with the blue slobberings of a deer. At the place where he would walk out toward this ridge, he made the footprint with the black mouth blood of the deer, beyond that he made another with white and then one with yellow and beyond that one with blue.

Here, to the east, he made a place where he was going to kill the buck deer. This way, south, he made a place to kill deer with pronged horns. West was the place where he was going to kill does, and north, he fixed a place where he was to kill deer having spikes. When he had finished, he went back to the place where his wife was staying and when he came to her he said, "Come along." She prepared cornmeal for food for a camping trip.

Then he sang a song saying, " Where there was no house a house now stands. There it stands."
They came nearly to the place and then they came there where he had made the house. When they came to it they went inside. He told his wife to be seated and then he went toward the east. He stepped where the footprints of mouth blood lay. Then he stepped on the footprint of white blood and beyond on the one of yellow and went on to the one of blue. Then from the east, the biggest buck deer was coming facing him. He made a ring of bacine and shot an arrow of bacine through it. He killed the deer  with the arrow. Just as the sun was rising, he carried the deer where his wife was staying.

He spent the night there and went the next morning this way, south. He stepped on all four of them. A deer with pronged horns was coming towards him. He made a ring of bailgaiye and shot through it with an arrow, killing the deer. When the sun was right here (a gesture) he killed the deer and carried it where his wife was sitting.

The next morning he went toward the west, stepping where the four footprints of mouth blood lay. When he came there a female deer came facing him. He made a ring of tsełtcee and shot through it an arrow of tsełtcee, killing the deer. He took it up and carried it where his wife was sitting.

He went here toward the north and stepped where the footprints of deer's mouth blood lay in four places. A deer with spiked horns came facing him. He made a ring of turquoise and shot through it an arrow of turquoise which killed the deer. He brought it where his wife was sitting in the house. Then he always killed just large deer like these.

Here, south, he came up the mountain, he went along. He killed only pronged horned deer. Then he went west where he killed does only. Then he went toward the north and killed spiked horned deer only.

Here, at the east he built a flat-topped shade on which he stored the big bucks which he killed. The meat was piled up. On the south side he built another flat-topped shade on which he stored the pronged horned deer he killed.

To the west he built another shade on which the deer he killed were stored. Toward the, north he built a shade for the spiked horned deer which he killed in that direction.

Those who had the deer for pets were angry because he killed so many, They lived here at the east where the sun rises. There were only male deer living at that place. The owners of the deer all discussed the large number he was killing. "We will go to see his wife," they agreed.

It was Turquoise Boy who went to visit her. He wore on his head the deer head which the Indians used to make long ago. He made it as they used to make them. The tongue was licking about all the time. It had eyes that were constantly winking. It's ears worked back and forth.10 He was very bashful because there were many where he was going.

He came up the ridge opposite the woman's house having the appearance of a deer. The woman saw him from her house as he came up looking like a deer. Her husband always brought his deer back just as the sun was rising. The sun was rising higher o and higher. She got up, thinking she would look for him, and wondering what had become of him because he was not accustomed to be so late. She was looking for her husband in the direction he had gone to hunt. While she was looking in vain, the deer walked down a second ridge toward her. As he came to the top of the ridge there was a canyon between him and the woman. He went down this canyon again close to the camp where the woman was. She was watching in vain for her husband when he walked along like a man. "It was a deer when he went down the hill but it is a man that is coming up," she said to herself. He came close to the house where the woman was sitting and seated himself. The deer's head which he had been wearing was hanging down on one side of the man. The woman was looking at it and felt strange when she saw the tongue constantly licking about, the eyes winking, and the ears flopping.

She dipped up the cornmeal mush into a basket and put it by the man where he sat. The man then spoke to her saying he did not eat that sort and directed her to take it away. Then she took some soft boiled deer meat from a pot and put it in a basket and brought it to the man. The man spoke again, saying he did not eat that either, and asked her to take it away. The woman said that these two were the only sorts of food she had and asked him what she should give him. The man said he ate the tips of tc'ildoł'ije, k'isndazi, and of ts'ije , that these were his food.11

The woman took a basket and going a short distance gathered the tips of tc'ildoł'ije which she put in her basket. Walking further she gathered the tips of k'isndazi and still further on the tips of ts'ije which, when she put them in her basket filled it. She brought them where the man was sitting and put them down. " These are my food," he said and began to eat them. She gave him a basket full and he ate them all up.

When he had eaten them he spoke to the woman. He lifted up the head he was wearing on one side and moved it around toward the woman. " What is the matter with it? I think it looks like a deer but the deer are afraid of it. When I try to slip up to the deer with it they are afraid and run away from me," the man said. As he said this he looked at the four flat-topped shades and the deer meat on them. He spoke to the woman again, asking her to try holding up the deer head. She refused to do this, saying she was not a man and did not wish to do anything wrong. The man replied saying, "You say you are not a man. This head looks like a deer yet the deer are afraid of it. That is why I said what I did." The woman refused again. The man then asked her simply to hold it up toward him without putting it on. She said, in vain, it was a bad thing to do, for the man was taking her mind away, he was making her crazy. He took her gait from her. Then she went where the man had the deer's head. When she came he told her to be seated. He held out the head toward her and she reached out and took hold of it. The man told her to take it by the right side. She did so and raised it up. Saying he could not see it well, the man asked her to step out to a designated place with it. She went there and held it up as he had directed her. Saying he saw it pretty well, he asked her to take another position. She went there also. "Let me make sure, hold it by your body," hold her. When she held it close he came up to her asking her this time J get on her knees and hold the skin over her body. While she was on her knees, he threw something on her. The woman made a noise like a deer " shoo." The man ran to the shade toward the east and took up a buck deer's skin which he threw at her.

He took up the lower legs and threw them at her. She turned into a deer and jumped four ways making a noise like a deer. He took her mind away and made her crazy. He put the gait of a deer on her so she jumped around as deer do. He came up to her singing and made her love him. She trotted off and he herded her along with his nose between her legs. They went around her house four times. The woman trotted along ahead of him like a deer. They went where he was standing and then they went up the trail to the east which crossed the gap in the ridge made of bacine. From there they went over the ridge of bailgaiye, of tsełtcee, and of turquoise. From there they went where the male deer were living. The deer had a good time with her chasing her about and mounting her.

The husband came back where the woman had been sitting and wondered what had become of her. He found the footprints of the man who had visited the woman where he had come up the ridge as a man. From there on the track was that of a deer. He had gone down the Canyon and had come up again as a deer. Then he had come up another ridge as a man. He was trailing the man who had his wife. Having followed the track thus far he went back where his house was. He saw where the woman had come to the place where the man had been sitting. She had stood there and then she had gone on four times. Here where her two footprints where she had stood like a human being and there she ,had jumped as a deer. He saw where she had jumped four times in four different directions. He trailed her where she and the man had encircled the house four times sunwise and then he found where they had started away.

He turned back and went to the place where people were living from which he had set out to hunt. He told the people there that he had come back because he did not know what had become of the woman. When he had been there four days, the tobacco tokens were made and sent out convening the men for a council.12 When they had discussed the matter, they agreed to go to the camp where her track was to be found. It was the Gans who were doing this. The one who is called Gąhnnłij'n lay down on his back with his legs crossed and his hand on his forehead. They tracked the man in vain where the woman's house had been. Then they told Gąhnnłij'n to get up, that from there they must rely on him. Asking why they said that, he got up and went where she had been sitting. Starting from there, he trailed her, holding his forked fingers above her trail. He followed where she had gone to four places. At one place she had gone like a deer and had encircled her camp four times. He followed where the man had gone around with her. They followed behind him as he trailed along with outspread fingers13 One of the company, Whirlwind, was not good in the condition he was. They sang for him and sent him back. After that they followed the trail without trouble. They came where the two had come up the gap in the ridge of bacine and beyond that the ridge of bailgaiye, and further on the ridge of tsełtcee and finally they went up the gap in the ridge of turquoise. Here they were overtaking them for they heard the celebration with the woman below. Nothing but songs came out of the canyon.

Then Gąhnnłij'n told them to watch his downy feathers which he said would find the woman in the herd of deer. They watched the feathers and they settled on one in middle of the herd. Then he made a cast with a rope called yanadeł, "hanging from the sky," and caught the one who had been a woman. He then shot four arrows in succession which, making a noise, frightened the deer further and further away. The first arrows were of bacine, the second of bailgaiye, the third of tsełtcee, and the fourth of turquoise. They didn't know where the deer had gone. The one who had been a woman ran in every direction where the deer had gone from her. Then they threw a ring of bacine on her and her head became like a person's. Next they threw a ring of bailgaiye on her and she was a person to her armpits. Then a ring of tsełtcee was thrown and she was a person as far as her belt. Last a ring of turquoise was thrown and down to the ground she took the form of a human being. The company came up to her, but she was wild. They started back and returned with her in a day.

They lived there together. All the food was ripe and they were gathering it. After the rains began the woman was camping with the others on a mountain where the deer were with their fawns. When they went hunting and came in bringing the deer, she went around looking at the fawns they had brought in. She told the people in the camp that if they found fawns like those they were bringing in with a white stripe between their hoofs not to try to kill them. " If you kill them it will bring hardship on you," she said. The reason she said this was that she had given birth to fawns like those she described. She also told them not to hunt on the black mountain which stood at the east. She said that because, while they were gathering seeds on that mountain, she had given birth to fawns. The people agreed not to hunt there. She continued her habit of looking at all the fawns which were brought in from the hunting. One man wondered why she had said this and went to the mountain she mentioned. He went up to the top of the mountain and walked around where the little canyons run together. He found some little fawns lying there. He came to them and, thinking they were the young of the deer, killed them. He tied them together with a line, put them on his back, and carried them home. The people were bringing in many of that sort. The woman went around the camp and looked at all the deer which had been brought in. At the very end of the camp was the house of the man who had hunted on the black mountains. She looked between their hoofs and on their backs which were spotted. The man had brought in the ones to which she had given birth. The, woman began to cry and reproved the man for going where she had told him not to go. She went back to her house and sat crying for her children.

She considered what she should do. For four days she did not speak, then when the four days were passed she sent for all the people to come together. She asked them what they thought should be done about what she had told them would happen. They in turn asked what she thought. She replied that she had considered it. She directed them to make twelve tobacco tokens which should be sent to notify people wherever they lived that they should come together. When they had come together, she announced that at night she would sing for them. She began to sing the deer songs. She was still singing when it began to dawn and sang until it was full daylight. She then told those with whom she was living, that she would sing for them only one more song. She began to sing it saying, "Prepare a smoke for her. Prepare a smoke for her with a pipe of bacine," she said.

She told them she was going far away from them toward the north which was the place she liked the best. " Where I lie down for the largest buck deer you must pray to me. When you see the track of a deer with long feet you will know I have gone along there," she said.

1 As told by Antonio in January 1910.
2 Told by Antonio in August, 1914. This is the myth of the deer ceremony.
3 Panther or mountain lion is the chief deer hunter in the Southwest. The Pueblo peoples have hunting fetishes of stone which represent the Panther. Compare the Jicarilla estimate of panther, Goddard, (a), 239.
4 The talking Gan. Compare the Navajodeity Hastéyalti (Xastceyalti), Matthews, 36, 68, 82, 104, 135,163, 224.
5 A special hunt for the benefit of the bride's family is undertaken by the bridegroom among the southern Athapascan.
6 The explanation of bi bitcin was that it was some kind of "dirt" from the surface of a deer hide, but not the hair.
7 Bacine is a hard black material, perhaps jet; it is the material associated with the east by the San Carlos.
8 Baiłgaiye is white shell.
9 tsełtcee is red stone, sometimes, at least, coral.
10 The Apache wore a deer's head with antlers in the condition of the season in which the hunt was made. They imitated the movements of the deer so as to approach within bow shot distance.
11 Shrubs on which deer feed.
12 Two sections of reed filled with tobacco and tied in the form of a cross are used as a summons to council.
13 The conventional way of trailing.

San Carlos Apache Mythology

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Myths And Tales From The San Carlos Apache, 1918



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