Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Encyclopedia Homepage
Search all Volumes
Disclaimer and Usage
© Copyright 2003

Table of Contents Search All Entries Home


The region now known as the state of Oklahoma has been home to numerous Apache groups. These have included the Lipan Apache, the Fort Sill Apache (a part of the Chiricahua Apache, or Western Apache, imprisoned in Indian Territory at Fort Sill in the 1880s), and the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma (sometimes called Plains Apache and often erroneously described as Kiowa-Apache). Shortly after Spanish explorers arrived in North America, the Apache of the plains, nomadic bison hunters, began using the Great Plains environment as a resource base. Their presence in the Oklahoma region began circa 1800. They were confined to reservation lands in western Oklahoma from 1867 until the time of allotment in 1901. After the demise of the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation, many Apaches remained in the former reservation area, concentrating in locations around Cache Creek and the Washita River. Income came mainly from leasing their land and raising livestock.


Over the past half-century a number of scholars have studied their history and language, their migration southward through North America, and their lifeways. Considerable controversy surrounds the precise nature of the Apaches' cultural origins and of their associations with the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and other tribes over several centuries. The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma consider themselves as having always been a distinct linguistic and cultural group, and published historical and ethnological studies, often contradictory, are not entirely enlightening but generally support their view. One of the first scholars to conduct field work was James Mooney in the 1890s for the Bureau of American Ethnology. He interviewed and collected artifacts among the Kiowa and affiliated Apache. Muriel Wright's Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (1951), offered an Oklahoma-oriented version of the Apache Tribe's story. In 1933 34 J. Gilbert McAllister, in preparing a dissertation titled "Kiowa-Apache Social Organization" for his doctorate at the University of Texas, conducted field work in Oklahoma, extensively interviewed tribal elders, and attempted to reconstruct the culture as it was before the Columbian invasion, as retold in oral history. A summary of his conclusions was published as a chapter in Fred Eggan, ed., Social Organization of North American Tribes (1937). The most thorough and cogently argued treatment of the Apache of Oklahoma appears in Morris Foster's "Plains Apache" article in the Handbook of North American Indians (2000). He indicates that language retention provides firm evidence of the tribe's "persistence as a distinct social community in the midst of numerous contacts and alliances with other Plains tribes."

The historic Apache presence in Oklahoma has continued into the twenty-first century. The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma is federally recognized and has had a formal governmental structure, embodied in a business committee, since 1966. The tribal complex is located in Anadarko. Cultural preservation activities include the Apache Blackfeet Society, a language retention program, and an annual Apache Youth Culture Camp. The official enrollment stood at 1,802 in the year 2000.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Apache Tribe Sets Youth Culture Camp," Lawton (Oklahoma) Constitution, 12 June 1998. Michael G. Davis, "Apache Tribe of Oklahoma," in Magill's Ready Reference: American Indians, ed. Harvey Markowitz (Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 1995). Michael G. Davis, "Plains Apache," in Native America in the Twentieth Century, ed. Mary B. Davis (New York: Garland Publishing, 1994). Steven Lasko, "A Strong and Humble People: An Ethnicity Study of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma" (Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 1997). Kim McConnell, "Apache Tribe Works to Preserve Language," Lawton (Oklahoma) Constitution, 5 November 1994. Ron McCoy, "Miniature Shields: James Mooney's Fieldwork among the Kiowa and Kiowa-Apache," American Indian Art 20 (No. 3, 1995). Michael Melody, The Apache: A Critical Bibliography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977). Michelle Stokeley, "My Father's Name was Zahtah: Constructing the Life History of Alfred Chalepah, Sr." (Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 2003). Muriel Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).

Dianna Everett

© Oklahoma Historical Society

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site