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(Apaches are not "really a plains tribe" but I decided to add them to my "tribes list" anyway. -Frank)
The word Apache is believed to be derived from a Zuni word meaning "enemy".
The Apache people (including the Navajo) came from the Far North to settle the Plains and Southwest around A.D. 850.
They settled in three desert regions, the Great Basin, the Sonoran, and the Chihuachuan.
The Navajo are not part of the Apache nation. They are their own honored nation. They only share the Athabscan language with the Apache. The Apache speak the Athabscan language, which originated in their former homeland of northwestern Canada.
These distinct groups can be organized by dialects:
The Western Apache (Coyotero) traditionally occupied most of eastern Arizona and included the White Mountain, Cibuecue, San Carlos, and Northern and Southern Tonto bands. San Carlos, Aravaipa, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, Southern Tonto, and Cibecue in Arizona, Chiricahua and Mimbreno in Arizona and New Mexico, Mescalero (Faraon) in New Mexico and Mexico, Jicarilla (Tinde) in New Mexico and Colorado, Kiowa-Apache (Gataka) in Oklahoma, and Lipan in Texas and Mexico. Western Apache (Coyotero), Eastern Arizona.
They exchanged buffalo hides, tallow and meat, bones that could be worked into needles and scrapers for hides, and salt from the desert with the Pueblos for pottery, cotton, blankets, turquoise, corn and other goods. But at times they simply saw what they wanted and took it. They became known among the Pueblo villages by another name, Apachu, "the enemy".
The Apache's guerrilla war tactics came naturally and were unsurpassed. The name Apache struck fear into the hearts of Pueblo tribes, and in later years the Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American settlers, which they raided for food, and livestock.
The Apache and the Pueblos managed to maintain generally peaceful relations. But the arrival of the Spaniards changed everything. A source of friction was the activity of Spanish slave traders, who hunted down captives to serve as labor in the silver mines of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The Apache, in turn, raided Spanish settlements to seize cattle, horses, firearms, and captives of their own.
The prowess of the Apache in battle became legend. It was said that an Apache warrior could run 50 miles without stopping and travel more swiftly than a troop of mounted soldiers.