The Crafts & Tools of the Apache Indians

The buffalo was a plentiful resource for the Apache Indians.

The Apache Indians are one of North America's best known Native American tribes. Originating around the 16th century, they lived primarily throughout the southwest portion of what are now the U.S. states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The Apaches were nomadic and fierce, living off of their conquests of wild animals. They were very resourceful in creating tools and crafts from their natural surroundings and traded items.

1 Basket Crafts

Woven baskets are among the best known crafts created by the tribes of the Apache Indians. The Apache were masterful weavers and from the mid 19th century they used branches from willow trees to slice into strips and braid together. They then coiled the braids into baskets. In addition to willows, they used plants such as dark brown martynia and red yucca root to weave colorful designs into the baskets. Apache baskets came in three basic forms: the shallow tray baskets, taller olla baskets that were shaped like vases, and burden baskets, which have handles and can be worn on your back and used to carry items.

2 Beaded Crafts

Beginning in the mid 1800s, Apaches used glass beads that they acquired through trade with Europeans to decorate bags and clothing made from animal hides as well to make intricate jewelry designs. Apache tribal members had long made shirts and tunic-style dresses from buffalo hides and they used the beads to add colorful designs onto special occasion clothing for weddings and ceremonies. They sewed beads into patterns on bags and eventually began braiding strands of beads on threads into jewelry such as necklaces and earrings.

3 Bone Tools

The nomadic Apache tribes followed herds of buffalo as they roamed throughout the southwest so that they were never far from the very useful animal. Apaches used nearly every part of the buffalo in creative ways beyond eating the meat and using the hide for clothing and shelter. They also used the bones of buffalo to make strong tools that sharpened and cut easily. Apaches made tools such as knives and drills from buffalo bone and attached the sharpened tools to wooden handles.

4 Stone and Wood Tools

Stone was one of the earliest and most diverse materials that the Apaches used to fashion a wide variety of tools. They made arrowheads from stone and used them to bring down the mighty buffalo. They also used stone to make household items such as a mortar and pestle used to grind corn and grain. They used large, heavy stones attached to stretched buffalo hides to make the walls of their shelters. They attached wood to stone to make hammers and arrows, and used soft, pliable wood such as willow to make bows to hold and shoot their arrows.