Chiricahua (also Chiricahua Apaches, Chiricagui, Apaches de Chiricahui, Chiricahues, Chilicague, Chilecagez, Chiricagua) (AHD: [chĭ-rĭ-kä´-wə]) refers to a group of bands of Apache that formerly lived in the general areas of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona in the United States, and in northern Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico (it is not possible to precisely define the exact boundaries of their territory).


Led by Cochise and later by Goyaałé (more famously known as Geronimo), this Apache band was the last to resist U.S. government control of the southwest. In 1852, a treaty was signed between the U.S. and the Chiricahuas. During the 1850s, miners and settlers moved into Chiricahua Territory, and the Apache population diminished because of starvation, disease, and attacks. In 1861, the Chiricahuas began fighting the U.S. after Mangas Coloradas was whipped by miners and Cochise’s relatives were killed by the U.S. Army. In 1863, Mangas Coloradas was killed by the U.S. Army when he attempted to sue for peace. The army took him into custody, and he was killed that night. The murder and mutilation of Mangas' body only increased the hostility between Apaches and the United States, with more or less constant war continuing for nearly another 25 years.

In 1872, the Chiricahua Apache Reservation was established, which only remained open for 4 years. In 1877, all Apaches were concentrated on one reservation and the others were closed. In 1883, the Chiricahua campaigned into Mexico, returning to the reservation the following year.

They finally surrendered in 1886 and were exiled to Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma. Eventually most were moved to the Fort Sill military reservation in Oklahoma until 1913, when they were allowed to return to what is now Arizona. Many still live in Oklahoma or on the Mescalero reservation in New Mexico. Their last stronghold was the Chiricahua Mountains, in southeastern Arizona, part of which is now inside Chiricahua National Monument.


Since the band was much more important than tribe in Chiricahua culture, there is no native word for a Chiricahua tribe in the Chiricahua language.

According to Opler (1941) the Chiricahuas consisted of three bands:

  • Chíhéne or Chííhénee’ 'Red Paint People' (also known as the Eastern Chiricahua, Warm Springs Apache, Gileños, Ojo Caliente Apache, Coppermine Apache, Copper Mine, Mimbreños, Mimbres, Mogollones, Tcihende),
  • Ch’úk’ánéń or Ch’uuk’anén (also known as the Central Chiricahua, Ch’ók’ánéń, Cochise Apache, Chiricahua proper, Chiricaguis, Tcokanene),
  • Ndé’indaaí or Nédnaa’í 'Enemy People' (also known as the Southern Chiricahua, Chiricahua proper, Pinery Apache, Ne’na’i).

Schroeder (1947) lists five bands:

  • Mogollon
  • Copper Mine
  • Mimbres
  • Warm Spring
  • Chiricahua proper

According to the Chiricahua-Warm Springs Fort Sill Apache tribe in Oklahoma there are four bands in Fort Sill:

  • Chíhéne (also known as the Warm Springs band, Chinde (?)),
  • Chukunen (also known as the Chiricahua band, Chokonende),
  • Bidánku (also known as Bidanku, Bedonkohe (?)),
  • Ndéndai (also known as Ndénai, Nednai).

Additionally there is the word Chidikáágu (derived from the Spanish word Chiricahua) which refers to Chiricahuas in general, and the word Indé, which refers to Apaches in general.

Chiricahuas are called Ha’i’ą́há (meaning 'Eastern sunrise") by the White Mountain, Cibecue, and Bylas groups of the Western Apaches. They are called Hák’ą́yé by the San Carlos group of the Western Apaches. The Navajos call Chiricahuas Chíshí.

See also


  • Castetter, Edward F.; & Opler, Morris E. (1936). The ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache: The use of plants for foods, beverages and narcotics. Ethnobiological studies in the American Southwest, (Vol. 3); Biological series (Vol. 4, No. 5); Bulletin, University of New Mexico, whole, (No. 297). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Hoijer, Harry; & Opler, Morris E. (1938). Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache texts. The University of Chicago publications in anthropology; Linguistic series. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Reprinted 1964 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; in 1970 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; & in 1980 under H. Hoijer by New York: AMS Press, ISBN 0-404-15783-1).
  • Opler, Morris E. (1933). An analysis of Mescalero and Chiricahua Apache social organization in the light of their systems of relationship. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1935). The concept of supernatural power among the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apaches. American Anthropologist, 37 (1), 65-70.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1936). The kinship systems of the Southern Athabaskan-speaking tribes. American Anthropologist, 38 (4), 620-633.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1937). An outline of Chiricahua Apache social organization. In F. Egan (Ed.), Social anthropology of North American tribes (pp. 171-239). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1938). A Chiricahua Apache's account of the Geronimo campaign of 1886. New Mexico Historical Review, 13 (4), 360-386.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1941). An Apache life-way: The economic, social, and religious institutions of the Chiricahua Indians. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (Reprinted in 1962 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; in 1965 by New York: Cooper Square Publishers; in 1965 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; & in 1994 by Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0-8032-8610-4).
  • Opler, Morris E. (1942). The identity of the Apache Mansos. American Anthropologist, 44 (1), 725.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1946). Chiricahua Apache material relating to sorcery. Primitive Man, 19 (3-4), 81-92.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1946). Mountain spirits of the Chiricahua Apache. Masterkey, 20 (4), 125-131.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1947). Notes on Chiricahua Apache culture, I: Supernatural power and the shaman. Primitive Man, 20 (1-2), 1-14.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1983). Chiricahua Apache. In A. Ortiz (Ed.), Southwest (pp. 401-418). Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 10). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Opler, Morris E.; & French, David H. (1941). Myths and tales of the Chiricahua Apache Indians. Memoirs of the American folk-lore society, (Vol. 37). New York: American Folk-lore Society. (Reprinted in 1969 by New York: Kraus Reprint Co.; in 1970 by New York; in 1976 by Millwood, NY: Kraus Reprint Co.; & in 1994 under M. E. Opler, Morris by Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-8602-3).
  • Opler, Morris E.; & Hoijer, Harry. (1940). The raid and war-path language of the Chiricahua Apache. American Anthropologist, 42 (4), 617-634.
  • Schroeder, Albert H. (1974). A study of the Apache Indians: Parts IV and V. Apache Indians (No. 4), American Indian ethnohistory, Indians of the Southwest. New York: Garland.

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