The Beliefs of the Apache Native Americans

Nature is a focus of Apache spiritual practice.
... Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images

The Apache Indians originated in northern Canada but later settled in the Plains states and the American Southwest. They call themselves Inde or Nide, meaning "the people." Their lives are rooted in deep spiritual practice and they use song and dance to communicate with the creator. The Apache believe their god created them and all parts of the natural environment.

1 Spiritual Forces

The Apache believe that their ancestors are guiding forces and are living among them as part of nature, such as rocks, trees, wind or mountains. They treat nature with dignity and respect out of reverence for their ancestors. Dances are used to communicate with the spirits. Purposes of the dances include healing, requesting rain and celebrating the puberty of young girls. Water is a powerful force in traditional Apache beliefs. Traditional teachings indicate frequent bathing was used to wash away evil spirits.

2 Women Are Leaders

Women have a central role in the Apache community and serve as family leaders. The Apache believe that women become more powerful at the onset of puberty. A special ceremony called the sunrise dance is used to celebrate puberty and get a girl ready for motherhood and adult life. Once a four-day ritual, it is now more commonly held in two days. The Apache believe that for four days following the ceremony, girls have significant power that can promote healing or incite rainfall.

3 The Power Of The People

Apaches believe they live among supernatural powers. These powers can be bestowed upon a tribal member or they can seek it on their own. The Apache believe supernatural powers can be used to provide aid and comfort to others or to do something positive for the community. Some tribal members are given healing powers and are considered medicine men or shamans. These special religious leaders may use ceremony or special plants and herbs to help heal ailing tribal members.

4 Connecting With The Creator

The Apache people believe in a Creator called Ussen. They use their voices and drums to call to the Creator for help and guidance. Apache spiritual teachings reflect the Creator as the life-giver that created all parts of the Earth in four days. Four is considered a sacred number and is reflected in the four cardinal directions, song, dance and the beat of the spiritual drum. The Apache call their main god Ussen but they also recognize spirits that inhabit the mountains, moon, sun and Earth.

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years. She has numerous publications with Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.