Historically the Apache are known principally for their fierce fighting qualities. They successfully resisted the advance of Spanish colonization, but the acquisition of horses and new weapons, taken from the Spanish, led to increased intertribal warfare. The Eastern Apache were driven from their traditional plains area when (after 1720) they suffered defeat at the hands of the advancing Comanche. Relations between the Apache and the white settlers gradually worsened with the passing of Spanish rule in Mexico. By the mid-19th cent., when the United States acquired the region from Mexico, Apache lands were in the path of the American westward movement. The futile but strong resistance that lasted until the beginning of the 20th cent. brought national fame to several of the Apache leaders—Cochise, Geronimo, Mangas Coloradas, and Victorio.
Today the Apache, numbering some 50,000 in 1990, live mainly on reservations totaling over 3 million acres in Arizona and New Mexico and retain many tribal customs. Cattle, timber, tourism, and the development of mineral resources provide income. In 1982 the Apaches won a major Supreme Court test of their right to tax resources extracted from their lands.
See G. C. Baldwin, The Warrior Apaches (1965); D. L. Thrapp, The Conquest of Apacheria (1967); K. Basso and M. Opler, ed., Apachean Culture and Ethnology (1971); J. U. Terrell, Apache Chronicle (1972).
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