Traditional Foods of the Apache People

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Apaches hunted deer for their meat and hide.
Apaches hunted deer for their meat and hide. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The Apache nation consists of six subtribes: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan and Kiowa. Each subtribe came from a different geographical area. The Apache were hunter-gatherers who roamed the land. Their meals were based on what they found on the land, not on crops they grew or animals they raised themselves.

Meat

Meat was an important part of the Apache diet. The Apache hunted deer, wild turkeys, jackrabbits, coyote, javelin, fox, beavers, bears and mountain lions, but the primary animal hunted was the buffalo. Buffalo hunts were held twice a year. The Apache also killed cattle on ranches when it was available and when they needed meat. Meat was dried for long-term storage and eaten roasted, baked, boiled and even raw.

Nuts, Seeds and Fruits

Since the Apache did not farm, their meat-based diet was supplemented with fruits, berries, nuts, seeds and vegetables they found growing wild. One of their chief fruit sources was the mescal cactus, which they used for food and drink. Other cacti the Apache relied on for food were the yucca, tule, palm and mesquite. Acorns were also gathered from the land to supplement their diet. The acorns were crushed or ground and used as a type of flour. Mountain chiles, wild onions, and honey were used for seasoning.

Corn

While the Apache were not farmers, corn, a cultivated crop, was a part of their diet. While some Apaches did grow corn, most corn was obtained by trading items such as buffalo hides, tallow and meat, and bones to neighboring Pueblo tribes. When the Apaches were forced onto reservations by the U.S. government, more of them did grow their own corn.

Taboo Foods

While the Apache were hunters, certain animals were considered "unclean," so were not used as food. These unclean foods included prairie dogs, snakes, insects, and other reptiles and amphibians. Animals that ate these unclean foods were also considered unclean. While some Apache ate pork if no other meat was available, most would not eat pork or bacon. The Apache also did not eat fish, as fish were also considered unclean.

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