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An Original Apache Tale 
Author: Paul R. Machula


Many believe that the great San Carlos Apache people entered this region sometime around the 11th century A.D. (or perhaps even later). Many Apaches, however, believe that they have always lived in the area. Perhaps some of them may have intermarried with the Salado or similar peoples. At any rate, by 1500 they were in complete control of all eastern Arizona, western New Mexico, and the central part of northern Mexico. They call themselves Nnee or Indeh, "the people." Their language is closely related to the Navaho.

The Apache who settled in the Pinal Mountain region state that they originally came from the north, near what is now Cibecue (Dish Chii' Bikoh, "red canyons"). Most traveled down the eastern edge of the Sierra Ancha ("wide mountain") range and then up Pinal Creek. They then settled in and around the eastern and northern slopes of the Pinal Mountains, where they called themselves the t'iis ebah nnee ("grey cottonwood people"). Some later settled south of the "Pinals" around what is now known as Aravaipa Creek (Aravaipa means "little wells" in Pima). The Spanish called the Apaches north of the Pinals the "Pinal Apaches." Those south of the Pinals were called the "Aravaipa Apaches." A small group living further north of the Pinals were the Apache Peaks band, and a small group was also located along the San Carlos River--the San Carlos band. Still another group was located in what is now Tonto Basin--the Tonto band.

In the last part of the 19th century all these bands were concentrated on the San Carlos Reservation, at the junction of San Carlos River and the Gila River. The San Carlos Apache now consider themselves a unified people, even though they were originally quite disparate bands.

The San Carlos Apache people have a truly incredible history, and a fascinating, beautiful culture.

San Carlos Apache cultural center,

They have also recently completed a large, successful casino known as "Apache Gold Casino."

Good books to consult about the Apaches are:
Goodwin, Grenville. The Social Organization of the Western Apache. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1969.
Haley, James L. Apaches: A History and Culture Portrait. New York: Doubleday, 1981.
Mails, Thomas E. The People Called Apache. New York: BDD Promotional Book Co., 1993.
Perry, Richard. Western Apache Heritage. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1971.
Schroeder, Albert H. Apache Indians IV. New York: Garland Publishing, 1974

 Author: Paul R. Machula


The vowels of Apache are the same as those commonly known as "continental." That is, they are quite similar to those of Spanish and other continental European languages. They are pronounced approximately as follows:

a -- ah
e -- eh
i -- ee
o -- oh
u -- oo


gah -- rabbit
beso -- coin
bigan -- his hand
cho -- large
hay -- where

The vowels are also often nasalized. Nasalization is indicated by a "hook" under the vowel. This is called an ogonek (from Polish), but is an unavailable character in HTML. (BUT ALSO SEE 'A REAL TREAT' BELOW!) Therefore, for the purposes of this discussion the ogonek will represented by the circumflex accent:

-- somewhat like on, without completing the n
-- like en, without completing the n
-- like een, without completing the n
-- like own, without completing the n
-- like oon, without completing the n


bigh -- because
nkz-- time
kh -- building
nzh -- good
hat'gha -- why

Vowels can also be pronounced using high or low tones (lowering or raising of the pitch of the voice). Low tones are assumed if the vowel is not marked by the high tone symbol. The acute accent mark is used for the mark of the high tone.


isdzn -- woman
bsh -- metal
gd -- cat
gosdn -- ribbon
t -- water

Vowels are also often prolonged, indicated by doubling.

chaa -- beaver
izee -- medicine
piishii -- nighthawk
shiwoo -- my teeth
d -- spring

The combination of a high tone and nasalization is marked by simultaneous appearance of the acute accent and the ogonek on the vowel. As this cannot be represented in HTML, the umlaut will be used to represent this combination.


nad' -- corn
dl' -- bird

All consonants and consonant clusters are pronounced approximately as in English, but the following:

gh -- somewhat like a gargling sound; does not occur in English


ighaa -- fur
tghaa -- length

n -- can occur as a single syllable, as in Nnee. Both "n's" are distinctly pronounced. In some dialects (notably White Mountain and Bylas dialects) the second "n" is pronounced like a "d".

nnee -- people
nneez -- moustache

Other distinctive Apache sounds are the following:

' -- glottal stop. If one were saying "oh-oh" to a baby, this sounds very similar as an Apache saying o'o. The ' symbol indicates the "catch" in breath between the two o's.


ch'ah -- hat
dit'ood -- wet
ni' -- ground, earth
ha'ndh -- come in (to one)

"Voiceless l." Sounds rather like thl, as if one were lisping thlip, instead of slip. Because HTML does not allow the proper symbol (a slash l--same as the Polish slashed l), for our purposes we will use the English pound sign ().


og -- fish
dihi -- black
' -- horse

The Apache is language is still spoken today. On San Carlos Reservation there are about 4,000 speakers, and on the White Mountain Reservation there are probably 5,000 speakers. These are considered "Western Apache." The Mescalero Reservation has several thousand Mescalero and Chiricahua speakers. They are related Eastern Apache dialects. A small group of Chiricahuas in Oklahoma also speak the Chiricahua dialect. Still another dialect, that has only a few speakers (maybe 3 or 4) now, is Kiowa Apache. They live in Oklahoma near the Kiowa proper. Kiowa and Kiowa Apache are entirely unrelated.

It should also be noted that Navajo, the most-widely spoken Native American language in North America today, is closely related to Western Apache. After some familiarization, native speakers of either language can often "get the gist" of the other language.

I am including in this introduction a tale from the San Carlos Apache--in the original Apache and an English translation.


Dl' Binant'a'--An Original Apache Tale
NOTE: The English version of this tale is at the bottom of the page.
Dl' -- In my 'modified' Apache orthography

D dl' t'ah nnee d' ngot'iihi. Dl'hi a'dzaago ydati'. "Haadast'i'h dawa binant'a' dagol d' nh nohwinant'a' doo a' da'," daniigo lk'e. "Dalzhi' nnee daandl. Nant'an nohw golne'go nt' n ado'. Hago got'eeh nohw yati' doleehi bigh," danii lk'e.

Go dl itsogcho haabi'dot dantsh, "Bit'' nt dazh n," daniigo. Bit''h dayini'go n binant'a' hileeh hdat'ii lk'eh. Nzaad godiyaa, yaa ydati'go; n', "Dah nzh n," daanniid lk'e. "Bidiyg danii dnzhn ndin doo zh yati'h k'ego at' da. Nohwinant'a' silygo doo nohw yati'da nkeegonighh dnkoh." Go n k'izhi' nilt lk'eh.

Adi' bizaagolaani nhannt. Dagoshch'i', "n dazh bizaagch'hi at'," daabinniid lk'e. Dazh dadzaan yaa yati' a' dadzaan yedl. n doo nzh da nohwinant'a' hileeh ygo. Nohwits'' ita yati' hileeh dnkoh," daniigo, n k'izhi' naant.

K'adik'eh, jaghshdiy habi'dolt. "Dn nohwintant'a' hileeh goh dat'?" naach'inii. "n ado' a'n'h k'ehgo at', bizaagoch'go. Doo nt'go nohw haodziih at' da. Doo beegonidz da, a' k'ee yati'hi at' ado'. go yedl hileeh, dzhogo na'a n." n ado' k'izh' naant.

ik'ehgo ygo, goshdiyh dat'?" danii lk'eh. n nt' w. n ygo dijaad, hay yn'itihy nohw nazit'ii dolee. di' nt'go yati' a' do'. n nohwinant'a' hileehgo nt'."

Go gshdiy dl' binant'a' sil lk'eh. Dj ygo goshdiy t'ah dl' binant'a' ninl.


This story is about a time when birds were still like people. The birds got together to talk. "The different clans (animals) all have leaders, but we do not," they said. "We are good for nothing. It would be good for us to choose a leader also. He could then speak for us about our activities," they said.

So the birds selected the oriole first. They said, "His feathers are very nice." Because of his feathers they thought they wanted him to be their leader. They discussed this for some time. "Well, never mind him after all," they said. "His long clothes are pretty, but he doesn't speak very much. If he becomes our leader he might not speak well for us in the future." They put him aside.

Then they chose the mocking bird. But they immediately said, "He is too talkative. He always speaks bad and mocks things. It would not be good for him to become our leader. He might speak even worse for us in the future." They put him aside to choose again.

The next time they chose a bluejay. "What would it be like for us if we chose him to be the leader?" they asked. "He is also like the other one. He talks too much. It would not be good for him to speak for us. He's too stubborn, and he also brags about himself. There would be a lot of mocking." They also set him aside.

"In that case, should it be the roadrunner?" they said. "He's good for sure. He would be fast for us in running to meetings. And he also talks well. It would be good for us if he became our leader."

Therefore, the roadrunner became the leader. Nowadays, roadrunner is the leader of all the birds.

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