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Chiricahua Apache Enduring Power

Naiche's Puberty Ceremony Paintings

Written by Trudy Griffin-Pierce, with foreword by J. Jefferson Reid and Stephani

Publication Year: 2006

A gripping story of the cultural resilience of the descendants of Geronimo and Cochise.
This book reveals the conflicting meanings of power held by the federal government and the Chiricahua Apaches throughout their history of
interaction. When Geronimo and Naiche, son of Cochise, surrendered in 1886, their wartime exploits came to an end, but their real battle for survival was only beginning. Throughout their captivity in Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma, Naiche kept alive Chiricahua spiritual power by embodying it in his beautiful hide paintings of the Girl's Puberty Ceremony—a ritual at the very heart of tribal cultural life and spiritual strength.
This narrative is a tribute to the Chiricahua people, who survive today, despite military efforts to annihilate them, government efforts to subjugate them, and social efforts to destroy their language and culture. Although federal policy makers brought to bear all the power at their command, they failed to eradicate Chiricahua spirit and identity nor to convince them that their lower status was just part of the natural social order. Naiche, along with many other Chiricahuas, believed in another kind of power. Although not known to have Power of his own in the Apache sense, Naiche's paintings show that he believed in a vital source of spiritual strength. In a very real sense, his paintings were visual prayers for the continuation of the Chiricahua people. Accessible to individuals for many purposes, Power helped the Chiricahuas survive throughout their
In this book, Griffin-Pierce explores Naiche’s artwork through the lens of current anthropological theory on power, hegemony, resistance, and subordination. As she retraces the Chiricahua odyssey during 27 years of incarceration and exile by visiting their internment sites, she reveals how the Power was with them throughout their dark period. As it was when the Chiricahua warriors and their families struggled to stay alive, Power remains the centering focus for contemporary Chiricahua Apaches. Although never allowed to return to their beloved homeland, not only are the Chiricahua Apaches surviving today, they are keeping their traditions alive and their culture strong and vital.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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Table of Contents

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List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

Timeline of Chiricahua Imprisonment

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pp. xi-xii

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Prologue: Life before Naiche and the Chiricahua Apache Prisoners of War

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pp. xiii-xvi

I cannot remember a time before I knew of Cochise, the famous Chiricahua leader. My earliest childhood memories are of the movie Broken Arrow (Daves 1950) and the book Blood Brother (Arnold 1947.) Cochise’s dignity, integrity, and stature as a great leader remained etched in my mind despite the great liberties that I later learned were taken with his story. I am part Catawba Indian from South Carolina and having a positive American Indian ...

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Foreword: A Bronze Ga’an Speaks

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pp. xvii-xviii

On our dining table stands “Apache Mountain Spirit Blessing,” a 25-inch bronze by the cowboy sculptor R. Scott Nickell. The bronze figure—a ga’an, or Mountain Spirit, in the dialect of the Western Apache—came to Tucson last August from the foundry in Lander, Wyoming, but we bought it in Jackson Hole in June, a full year of non-buyer’s lament after having discovered ...

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pp. 1-10

The story of the Chiricahua Apache Prisoners of War is a long and heroic story of survival against amazing odds. Today the Chiricahuas remain the only group in the American Southwest that was never allowed to have a reservation in their homeland. The Chiricahuas are still in their diaspora, and, thus, the survival of their cultural identity—as opposed to their political identity, which has been subsumed under that of the Mescalero Apaches—...

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Chapter 1. Ethnographic and Historic Background of the Chiricahua Apaches

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pp. 11-45

The sun is just coming up over the Rincon Mountains when I head east from Tucson for the Cochise Stronghold (Figures 2 and 3). The desert is alive with light: prickly pear pads reflect the light like oval mirrors while creosote, mesquite, and paloverde begin to glow with the sun’s growing intensity. Long tentacles of ocotillo crown the crest of hills, their bright green leaves illuminated. ...

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Chapter 2. Military Conquest as a Physical, Psychological, and Symbolic Event

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pp. 46-70

I awake to a thick, watery dawn, with condensation so heavy that the lens of my camera fogs up as soon as I remove the lens cap. The sun, completely obscured by haze, takes hours to burn off the lingering mist. The previous night when I arrived, the darkness reverberated with the loud and constant croaking of frogs. Trees, plants, and vines dripped and oozed with humidity. ...

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Chapter 3. Exile and the Construction of Cultural Identity

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pp. 71-86

The contrast between Fort Marion and Fort Pickens could not be more profound. Even though each is located in a militarily strategic position on the coast with a lighthouse in the distance, they are on opposite sides of the state. Fort Marion is on the east coast of Florida and faces the Atlantic Ocean, while Fort Pickens is at the western edge of the state and faces the Gulf of ...

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Chapter 4. Pratt and the Carlisle Boarding School

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pp. 87-106

Driving out of Mobile, Alabama, to Pensacola, I am amazed at how different the interstate highways are in the West from those in the East. All traffic coming towards me is obscured by a dense canopy of tall pine trees that shut out all the light and reach the shoulder of the pavement. The two lanes traveling east seem to exist in isolation, a wide winding road that threads its way ...

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Chapter 5. The Art of American Indian Prisoners of War

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pp. 107-132

Still an active military base, Fort Sill is an amazing combination of historic buildings and modern technology. As the only still active army installation of all the forts on the South Plains built during the Indian wars, Fort Sill is a National Historic Landmark. At the same time, all field artillery soldiers and Marines receive their training here, as well as many international students ...

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Chapter 6: The Chiricahua Apache Girl’s Puberty Ceremony and Naiche’s Hide Paintings

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pp. 133-168

The minute I step outside the El Paso airport, I take in a deep breath of the clear air. The space and light dazzle me with their clarity and distance. Rugged, unadorned mountains rise toward the sky on the horizon, their shadows finely delineated against the intensely blue backdrop of sky. The murky, ambiguous horizon of the East has finally given way to the crisp clarity of west-...

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Epilogue: Life after Naiche

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pp. 169-170

Leaving Naiche’s world was difficult. The experiences of the Chiricahuas had become intensely real to me as I walked the places that Naiche and his people had walked in Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Only weeks after I left Fort Pickens, in Pensacola Bay, Hurricane Ivan washed away the only road to the fort, which remains closed to the public. The timing of my ...


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pp. 171-182


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pp. 183-185

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381349
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817353674

Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 209116616
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Chiricahua Apache Enduring Power

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Puberty rites -- Southwest, New.
  • Indian art -- Southwest, New.
  • Chiricahua Indians -- Government relations.
  • Chiricahua Indians -- Biography.
  • Chiricahua Indians -- Social life and customs.
  • Naiche, ca. 1857-1921.
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