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The Apache Indians

In Search of the Missing Tribe

Helge Ingstad

Publication Year: 2004

Available in English for the first time, The Apache Indians tells the story of the Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad’s sojourn among the Apaches near the White Mountain Reservation in Arizona and his epic journey to locate the “lost” group of their brethren in the Sierra Madres in the 1930s.

Ingstad traveled to Canada, where he lived as a trapper for four years with the Chipewyan Indians. The Chipewyans told him tales about people from their tribe who traveled south, never to return. He decided to go south to find the descendants of his Chipewyan friends and determine if they had similar stories. In 1936 Ingstad arrived in the White Mountains and worked as a cowboy with the Apaches. His hunch about the Apaches’ northern origins was confirmed by their stories, but the elders also told him about another group of Apaches who had fled from the reservation and were living in the Sierra Madres in Mexico. Ingstad launched an expedition on horseback to find these “lost” people, hoping to record more tales of their possible northern origin but also to document traditions and knowledge that might have been lost among the Apaches living on the reservation.

Through Ingstad’s keen and observant eyes, we catch unforgettable glimpses of the landscape and inhabitants of the southwestern borderlands as he and his Apache companions, including one of Geronimo’s warriors, embark on a dangerous quest to find the elusive Sierra Madre Apaches. The Apache Indians is a powerful echo of a past that has now become a myth.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvi

He grew up in the Norwegian town of Bergen, from the Middle Ages an old Hanseatic seaport located between high mountains. His father, Olav Ingstad, was an engineer, and his mother, Olga, was the daughter of a school principal from Tromsø, in northern Norway. Together with his elder sister, Gunvor, ...

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pp. xvii-xxxix

Helge Ingstad traveled to Arizona in the late 1930s to visit the White Mountain Apache Indians, a Native American people who are linguistically and culturally related to the Chipewyan people Ingstad had met on an earlier trip to Canada. Ingstad's account of his adventures is invaluable for the picture it paints ...

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1. The Long Migration

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pp. 1-10

A trail of dog sleds and men wearing pelts and snowshoes wind their way across the white tundra of northern Canada. It's slow going. The dogs suffer from hunger and trudge along with their tails hanging low. The twelve Indians and one white man who straggle behind their sleds aren't that much better off. Glaring sunshine ...

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2. San Carlos

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pp. 11-20

The heat of the early summer sun swells across the San Carlos Reservation. The air is so crystal clear that the distant, slender-leafed yucca plants with their tall, white blossoms reaching toward the sky seem to be closer than they are. A rider appears over on the bone-dry sand dunes, where giant cacti stand with outstretched arms. ...

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3. White Mountain

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pp. 21-34

Just below the big mountain, the river winds like a glistening ribbon between the woods and green hills. A young Indian girl using a wide tumpline across her forehead to carry a clay jug on her back appears at the edge of the river, just where a deep pool forms and where bits of foam swirl around in an eddy. ...

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4. Glimpse of the Old and the New

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pp. 35-44

One of the first things that strikes me during my stay with the White Mountain Apaches is how clever they are. They are quick to perceive, have a keen sense of logic, and are able to express their thoughts clearly and concisely. Our self-righteous race can often be quite condescending regarding Native peoples' understanding. ...

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5. Dance and Prayer

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pp. 45-58

The same intense sunshine and the same clear, blue sky above the red hills and green forests. Donkeys doze motionlessly in the shade of a large, leafy tree, and the Indians retreat under their sunshades while the children splash around in the river. Sunlight shimmers in through the trees and dances over their plump ...

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6. Apache Cowboy Life on the White Mountain Reservation

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pp. 59-76

I slowly ride up the slope toward mighty White Mountain, sacred peak of the Apaches. Far below, the Indian tents disappear and the valley river soon becomes nothing but a distant shimmering streak. My horse digs its hooves into the red sandy slopes and makes its way between ancient juniper pines with silvery-gray ...

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7. An Expedition Is Planned

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pp. 77-90

I had returned to the Apache camps on the mountain plateau of the White Mountain Reservation when one evening I found myself once again sitting in front of the tent of my friend Tenijieth, the medicine man. We talked about Apache wars and how the Indian scouts contributed to helping the American soldiers. ...

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8. South into Mexico

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pp. 91-102

Almost as a continuation between the Rocky Mountains and the Andes, the westerly Sierra Madre Occidental cuts through the Mexican interior like a huge reef. In the northern region, where the Apaches usually dwelled, the mountain range establishes the border between the neighboring states of Chihuahua and Sonora. ...

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9. Through the Western Sierra Madre

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pp. 103-118

Not far into the Sierra Madre and a day's ride from Sienequita, there was supposedly one last ranch at which the Yaqui Indian Ysidro Mora and his family lived. He was known to be a tracker and mountain man that few could match, and he was considered to be the only one in the area who knew so much about the ...

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10. Nacori Chico

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pp. 119-128

Slung in a hollow amidst endless mountains lies the village of Nacori Chico. No road leads there, just steep trails over the mountains where riders have to travel for days to reach any kind of civilization. In this little corner of the world there are few modern conveniences, but there isn't much lacking, either. The people here ...

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11. Through the Heart of the Sierra Madre

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pp. 129-146

We seemed to climb forever up the steep slopes. If they had been any steeper, people and mules wouldn't have been able to cling to them. Finally, we were back up to the wooded areas just below the Sierra Madre peaks at about nine thousand feet. Below us to the west lay the precipitous cliffs with their vertical drops ...

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12. Dramatic Christmas

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pp. 147-154

When polygamy was outlawed in the United States, small groups of Mormons immigrated to northern Mexico and began new lives for themselves there. About forty-five years ago, one small group journeyed into the Sierra Madre and settled at Chuichupa, a small mountain plateau about six thousand feet above sea level. ...

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13. Cave Country

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pp. 155-170

In the middle of the cave, a fire flickers and casts a strange glow onto the dark corners of the rock, where old Indian ruins vaguely appear. Outside the darkness of night hangs like a black wall. The only sound we can hear out there in the dark is the hushed rushing of water from the river flowing in the canyon far below. ...

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14. Prisoners from the Wilderness

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pp. 171-182

In previous chapters I mentioned that I wanted to locate the Indians who in recent years had been captured during encounters with the mountain Apaches. By talking with them I hoped to gather information that, together with my own experiences, might give me an idea of the life and history of these people. ...


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pp. 183-186


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pp. 187-188

E-ISBN-13: 9780803204812
E-ISBN-10: 0803204817

Publication Year: 2004