#35 Apache War Customs
     (M.E. Opler, 1936)

There are a number of other war customs which deserve mention. When older male captives were taken, they were tied to posts and slain by women with lances. Usually these were women who had lost relatives in battle and were taking this means of retaliation. If we are to believe numerous tales and descriptions, the Plains Indians and Jicarilla tried to infuriate each other by the capture or mutilation of children. Jicarilla war songs threatened that the enemy’s children should be captives. Jicarilla mothers were specifically ordered to cut the throats of their children rather than allow them to fall into enemy hands. Jicarilla chiefs, when they faced the line of the enemy before conflict, would taunt and be taunted in turn about the impending captivity of their children. Though the Jicarilla took only scalps of enemy men and women, they also took the thumbs and ears of slain enemy children. When very young children were taken captive, however, they were treated quite decently. Their lot, in terms of manual labor, was sometimes more difficult than that of others, but ordinarily they were accepted into Apache life. If they married within the tribe, there was no discrimination whatever against their offspring.

If an enemy woman were taken captive, she could not be molested until she had been brought back and a ceremony had been performed over her. Captive women were not considered fit wives; they were sexually used and sent from camp to camp to do the heavy work. Their children by Apache men, however, were recognized as Jicarilla.

If a Jicarilla had been made captive by the enemy, though only for a day, he was considered unclean, and at his escape or recapture, a ceremony had to be performed over him to “bring him back” to his people. When scalps of slain Jicarilla were recovered, they were brought back to the encampments and there were wailed over.

When a warrior, because of grief or desperation, resolved to sacrifice his life, he divested himself of all clothing, tearing off even his loin-cloth, to signify that he had broken completely with all the ordinary conventions of life. He then threw himself into the thick of the fight and exposed himself until he received a fatal wound.

[#35] Jicarilla Apache: “Apache War Customs” from M. E. Opler, “A Summary of Jicarilla Apache Culture,” American Anthropologist 38 (1936), p. 213.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Americas, Indigenous Cultures, North American Native Cultures

Leave a Reply