THE GREAT FORT APACHE HERITAGE CELEBRATION or NDEE LA ADE’/ GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE WHOSE YOUTH ARE KEEPING THEIR TRADITIONS ALIVE !
The White Mountain Apache celebrates the Tribe’s Youth, it’s language and traditions through song and dance each year at the Great Fort Apache Heritage Celebration. It is a time of competition, Crown Dancers turn out to out dance other Mountain Spirit groups. Singers show up to entertain and to flaunt the Apache Spirit and Apache life ways. Participants may come from different districts, but they are all Apache. This Celebration each years serves as a reunion for former students of the Theodore Roosevelt BIA School, as well as, Apache from all directions. Holding onto the Apache customs, once taught from birth like language now competes with English and TV, and the Heritage Celebration highlight their traditions and celebrates the Apache Language. There is a flashing of colors as all participants of the Grand Processional join together on the dance floor. Earlier Apache children took a seven mile walk called the Seven Miles for Seven Generation Walk. “Youth keeping the future alive with traditions and culture” is the theme of the day meanwhile that night at the school they held a oldies dance for High School Alums that featured an Elvis look-a-like dance. The War Drum rang out from Fort Apache in the Arizona’s White Mountains as dancers took to the war path at the bidding of President Obama’s White House. The White Mountain Apache Tribe, (WMAT) accepted Obama’s Gen I initiative, the challenge is a Indigenous Youth Project designed to support cultural strategies to improve the college-and-career readiness of Native children or to preserve a culture”s traditions. A young WMA, Jared Ivins-Massey took that challenge, and brought the WAR dance to the iconic Fort this year. During the traditional building of furious resolve Warriors danced and thrust with traditional spears, others drew their bows with arrow, still another flaunted a hunting rifle, another still drew his large butcher knife leaving no doubt he stood ready to use it. These fierce warriors ranged from retirement to elementary school age and all welcomed the President’s initiative to focus on the lives of Native American youth and to restore the cultural rituals lost to Indian community in the early 1900s when the United States government banned Native American ceremonial dances. President Obama announced the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Initiative. Through this initiative Native youth are encouraged to conduct a positive event in their community that focuses on health and wellness, cultural preservation, and youth well being. Massey’s Gen-I event focused on the cultural preservation of the Apache language and traditions. For 75 years, many Native American ceremonial dances ceased and those that did manage to continue did so in secrecy. In 1978, when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed, many ceremonies and healing rituals were re-established amongst the Tribes. Some think these rituals have lost meaning for the younger Indian generation and, they will never again be quite the same, but others are working to restore the rituals of the past. “The Great Fort Apache Heritage Celebration today provides an important opportunity for the White Mountain Apache community to come together to share the beauty and vitality of their Ndee heritage, and to shape a uniquely Apache present and future” writes Karl A. Hoerig, Ph.D. Director of Nohwike’ Bagowa Museum and Apache Cultural Center. Fort Apache for more than a century served as a military post and then as a boarding school for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. “The Theodore Roosevelt School National Historic Landmark campus was dedicated to the control of Apache people and the destruction of much of their heritage. Starting with the establishment of the first Apache Cultural Center at Fort Apache in 1969, and continuing with ever-expanding initiatives to re-establish the community’s sovereignty over the site–including this annual event–Fort Apache is becoming first and foremost an Apache place: a place for education, for the perpetuation of heritage, for economic development, for the community.”
WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHE RETURN TO THE WARPATH…
“This celebration is now truly by, for and of the White Mountain Apache Tribes citizenry” writes John Welch, who produced the original 2001 event which has grown for the past 16 years into the event that now hosts Apache dance and singing each May when the tribe celebrates its annual gathering of the Apache People which now has grown into an “authentic expression of the communities interests and value.”
“Keeping the rituals of our ancestors alive”, say members of the Indian Club at Alchesay High School in Whiteriver. Their members who dance in the White Mountain Apache crown dance groups, find their roles “as Mountain Spirits who banish evil and bring good fortune”, culturally important. Some dancers come from Christian homes, go to church, and learn those traditions, and do not learn the Apache traditions. This is our heritage, and we have to keep it going.” teaches Rosalind Armstrong-Garcia, a group sponsor who believes the club fills a gap”. During this year’s Apache Heritage Celebration three school dance performed in the Gaan dance off which featured seven Apache Crown Dancers groups who delighted the crowd and competed among all the community dance groups.
The Apache religion has been a fundamental part of the Apache lifestyle. Their worship for their God, Ussen, the Giver of Life and the Gaan or Mountain Spirits, who are represented in religious rites such as healing and puberty ceremonies. While the Crown Dancers who dress elaborately to impersonate the Mountain Spirits, wearing kilts, black masks, tall wooden-slat headdresses, and body paint and carrying wood swords have no supernatural powers they serve as a conduit for the Apache spinning their words into the heavens and assuring their prayers reach their God. “The mountain spirits have taught the Apaches to perform the Apache Crown Dance as a means of curing. The crown headdress is be-decked with eagle feathers; the teacher that flew the highest in the Heavens. The signs of lightning are sacred symbols of the Apaches which are placed on the bodies of the Apache Crown Dancers who are instructed by the mysterious mountain spirits to perform healing rituals for the Apaches. The crown dance is authentically performed today,” reported long-time Apache Tribal Chairman Ronnie Lupe in the Fort Apache Scout newspaper. MOUNTAIN SPIRIT DANCERS COMPETITION
Kaiden and Hayle DeClay torment their father, Chico, a Crown Dancer from the East Port Dance Group. Chico makes of point of speaking Apache to his girls and they have learned to understand the language. Like many members of the White Mountain Apache People Chico and his wife Jenane believe their language and traditions is the key to holding onto the important rituals that make up the Apache traditions and ancient lifeways. In spite of the Batman, Superman and Star Wars t-shirts scattered throughout the crowd when the Cooley Mountain Singers Drum group begin beating out their songs. Apache youth began to sway to the Apache songs and the masked men they adore are Crown Dancers, whose color and sounds of bells bring them onto the dance floor as they try to copy their elders. White Mountain Apache Miss Indian Arizona Shasta Dazen tells the crowd “it’s a great day to experience
all the love that comes from our traditions and congratulations to everyone here for clinging to your culture.” Eleven month old Shannon Hope squirms from her daddy’s lap and begins dancing with the drum. Barely able to walk but she wants to dance. Her father Linton Ethelbah Sr. explains he speaks Apache to the toddler whenever he can and has noticed she appears to understand Apache and looks confused when his wife or other six kids speak English to her. Traditions are important to Linton whose medicine man grandfather, Thomas and his wife, Cecilia taught him the importance of the Apache way of life, I want her to understand Apache. His middle son is a graduate from McNary elementary school and just graduated from the Sherman B.I.A. Indian School in California. “He wanted to go elsewhere and learn to be independent. There’s nothing here right now, Ethelbah says, jobs are hard to find.” “Drugs and alcohol are problems here and in California he can learn to make a living…there are more opportunities there.”
“WHEN THEY GET THE CALLING…” Siting mesmerized the crowd just allows the music and dance take over. The Rock Creek Dancers, The Cooley Mountain Dancers, Diamond Creek Dancers were part of the dance off.
Monty Stover Sr. comes to the Heritage Celebration every year because he wants the White Mountain Apache new generation to know what their ancestors looked like. “Apache kids come up to me and ask if I’m an Indian. I am,” I say and “so are you”. No we’re not! they say to me! ” Their parents speak English too much,” Stover says. “When a young Apache child comes up to me and speaks Apache to me! That’s beautiful”, he said. “Those parents are teaching that child our traditions. So each year we have this Celebration so people can see where we came from and how our ancestors lived.” “We dance and sing, enjoy the prayers” says Kicker Z. “To keep our traditions strong to show our children who they are…” “When the drums begin the kids try to dance like the Crown Dancers says Jenane DeClay who is part Sioux and married to an Apache Crown Dancer. “They reach a certain age and get the calling, then they try to copy their father.”
Today there are many different nations of Apache people, the present-day Apache people include the Jicarilla, Mescalero, Chiricahua, Western Apache, Lipan-Apache, and Plains-Apache. The White Mountain Apache Tribe now consists of approximately 15,000 members. Many live on Tribal lands, but others live and work all over the country and the world. The majority of the population lives in and around Whiteriver, the seat of Tribal government. In 2000 U.S. census about 57,000 people identified themselves as Apache only; another 40,000 people reported being part Apache. Many Apache live on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. The complexity in the cultural division of Apache tribes can be can be seen by breaking down just one of these subgroups, the Western-Apache, the Apache people residing in east central Arizona are known as Western Apache. Most of these Native Americans live within reservations called the White Mountain, Fort Apache, San Carlos, Yavapai, Tonto, and Fort McDowell Mohave reservations. “The War Dance Generation Indigenous Event is focused on Cultural Preservation, to protect my Apache language and to see my culture continue. This event brings comfort knowing that this dance will continue for generations to come. Apache Warriors will dance into the next Seven Generations.”
In the old days, the two day War Dance was divided into discrete parts and began shortly after dark. In the first phase, called “going to war” the warriors of each clan were called to dance and demonstrate how they will fight the enemy. Those with spears would pretend to lance; those with bows would draw them back to show how far they can draw; those with shields used them also. The second phase was termed “cowhide, picked up” and involved the singing of chants that described the stealing of enemy property. In the third phase labelled “invite by touching” women of all ages were encouraged to choose a male partner and engage in social dancing. The final phase was performed at dawn the following day. Twelve of the bravest and most experienced warriors stood in a line and, one after the other, sang a song about personal success in war. After the last song, the warriors staged mock attacks on several camps, showing how they intended to surprise and defeat the enemy. This ended the war dance, and shortly later the war party made ready to depart writes Glenville Goodwin in his notes edited into the book, “Western Apache Raiding and Warfare” by Keith Basso.
THIS YEAR’S SPECIAL WARPATH EVENT was a special White House Initiative to empower Native American Youth. The white house is launching Generation Indigenous or (Gen I), a Native youth initiative focused on removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed. Jared Ivins-Massey, an ASU law student who produced a video of his community project showing the Heritage Celebration, the community initiative to restore past practices and traditions. Massey and others will share their stories online using #GenI …
13 year old Vernon Anderson says he loved the “War Dance” he got pretty excited thinking about things back in the day–“it was pretty cool” he said.
Fort Apache is an icon of the Apache Wars and the American West and is now a monument to celebrate Apache Heritage. Fort Apache Historic Park
sits on the confluence of the north and east forks of the White River in the White Mountains, homeland of the White Mountain Apache people. The presence of the U.S. Cavalry was initially to help the Apache live peacefully on their lands and to stifle conflict among the Apache clans and then arriving white settlers. Today Fort Apache recalls both a period of conflict and a time of cooperation between the U.S. Cavalry and several tribes from the Western Apache. The U.S. military left in 1922 after many years of declining use. The Apache Scouts that had been employed by General Crook were transferred to Fort Huachuca on the U.S,-Mexican Border, where they continued to serve. The last three Scouts retired in 1947. The Fort was transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to house the Theodore Roosevelt Indian Boarding School. First intended to serve Diné (Navajo) children, by the 1930s, a majority of students at the school were Apache. Theodore Roosevelt School continues today on the very spot to serve as a middle school with a school board selected by the Tribal Council. From the founding of Fort Apache in 1870 until the capture of Geronimo in 1886, this fort was involved in the Indian Wars and was first called Camp Ord, in honor of General O.C. Ord, Commander of Arizona when it was built in the spring; however, just a few months later, the name was changed to Camp Mogollon in August, then Camp Thomas in September. The post was finally designated as Camp Apache on February 2, 1871 as a token of friendship to the Indians, the fort soldiers would spend many years fighting and trying to exterminate. The fort’s initial purpose was to guard the nearby White Mountain Reservation. Situated at the end of a military road on the White Mountain Reservation, which adjoined the San Carlos Reservation, the fort guarded the White Mountain Indian Agency, while Fort Thomas watched over the San Carlos Agency. However, both reservations became the focus of Apache unrest, especially after troops moved the Chiricahua Apache in 1876 from Fort Bowie to the White Mountain Reservation. On April 5, 1879, Camp Apache was renamed Fort Apache.
Today, twenty-seven historic buildings make up the 288 acre National Register Historic District. Following maps available at the Museum, visitors can explore the district at their own pace. Interpretive signs located throughout the district explain the construction and use of the historic buildings and spaces, and allow visitors to immerse themselves in the history of what many consider the best surviving example of an Apache Wars-era military post. The Fort Apache Cemetery is 1/4 mile east of the main fort grounds and is accessible
by walking trail or road. Visitors interested in more adventure can hike the Historic Park ’s recreational trails, including a 1.4 mile loop through the East Fork canyon that passes the site of a historic Apache Scout camp. General Crook’s Cabin, built in 1871 and the oldest structure left on the fort today provides visitors with maps, historic photographs and murals allowing an historic overview of the fort and its impact on the Apache people. One room offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of army officers and their families living on a remote outpost in the wilds of the western frontier. The Fort Apache post office occupies the adobe adjutant’s building. The stone officers’ quarters, are today the residences of teachers and other Bureau of Indian Affairs employees. The sutler’s store and commissary building, cavalry barns, and guard house have not been significantly altered. One of the original four barracks, an adobe building in bad disrepair, houses the farm shop for the school. The parade ground provides a recreational area. The cemetery no longer contains dead soldiers, but does contain the bodies of Indian scouts. The fort is located five miles south of Whiteriver, Az, from Globe, take US 60 northeast 66 miles; turn east on State 73 and drive about 27 miles to Fort Apache.
The White Mountain Apache Tribe is located in the east central region of Arizona, 194 miles northeast of Phoenix. This Tribe manages the popular Sunrise Park Ski Resort, Fort Apache Timber Company and the popular Hondah Casino near Show Low.
The death of Nochaydelklinne,”The Dreamer” at Cibecue Creek and the Apache attack on Fort Apache two days later is often considered the final battle between the Apache and the U.S. Cavalry at the fort. The Apache repeatedly attacked the fort at long range, firing vollleys and scoring. The U.S. cavalry and native allies fought back but the Apache remained at the end of their rifle range during the entire fight. Two days later, reinforcements arrived but by this time the Apaches had already retreated into hiding. Only three American soldiers were wounded and Apache casualties are unknown. The two separate engagements at Cibecue Creek and Fort Apache helped ignite another Apache war that would end with the surrender of Geronimo in 1886. But the last Apache attack on the U.S. at Fort Apache was led by Apache Lawyers who took the United States all the way to the Supreme Court and won $12 million. In 2003 the Supreme Court of the United States held in a 5-4 decision that when the federal government used land or property held in trust for an Indian tribe, it had the duty to maintain that land or property and was liable for any damages for a breach of that duty.
The case involved Fort Apache, the collection of buildings on the reservation which were transferred to the tribe by the U.S. Congress in 1960. Although the tribe owned the Fort Apache buildings, they were held in trust and used exclusively by the federal government for an Indian school. This was a continuation of the building’s use from when the federal government retained title. As more schools were built at other Indian reservations, attendance dropped at the Fort Apache school. The tribe began to plan for use of the buildings and sought designation as a historic site. When the federal government wanted to turn the property over to the tribe for use, the tribe found that the property had deteriorated and sued for damages to the property. The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court, holding that the federal government used the property it held in trust, and that it therefore had a duty to maintain the property. The loss led the government to settle with the tribe for $12 million. The buildings are managed by the Fort Apache Heritage Foundation and the case, helps to define the Indian Trust Doctrine. The case has been widely discussed in legal literature and books.
President Obama launched the Gen-I Initiative at the White House Tribal Nations Conference to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential. The Gen-I Initiative calls for Native Youth Community Projects, like the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering this summer that will engage hundreds of Native youth in a day-long convention. The Native Youth Report acknowledges past failures of federal policy, explores the challenges facing Native children, and creates a path forward. The Gen-I Native Youth Challenge is part of the process of establishing the National Native Youth Network. Native youth are invited to take part in the Gen-I Challenge. This call to action creates a network of people interested in the issues facing Native youth and creating an information platform about opportunities and highlight their voices and positive contributions. Jared Ivins-Massey, is an enrolled member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona. He was born and raised on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Northeastern Arizona. Massey is one of seventeen Native Youth selected to create a steering committee for the upcoming White House Tribal Youth Gathering this summer that will engage hundreds of Native youth in a day-long convention. Jared is the son of Leo and Rolinda Massey of Fort Apache, Arizona and hails from the community of Seven Mile and Cibecue, Arizona. Jared is a proud graduate of Alchesay High School where he was elected student body president and elected the White Mountain Apache Youth Council Male Co-President. Currently Jared is a double major studying political science and justice studies. Jared currently resides at the Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus in Chandler, Arizona. Jared states, “With no Vision youth cannot prosper but with the guidance of our elders, a Vision is in our sight.” Jared is a traditional dancer and hopes to one day return to the White Mountain Apache Reservation and serve as a tribal attorney. I’m excited to share my Gen-I Native Youth Challenge! he shares on Facebook. My Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Challenge Event focuses on Cultural Preservation. “In conjunction with the 2015 Fort Apache Heritage Celebration & Festivities, my family and I will be holding the “Jared Ivins-Massey Apache War Dance Special” This dance was done in times of victory and through the event I hope Apache youth will learn this powerful dance. In addition, I ask that all participants submit a half page essay on “What it means to be an Apache Warrior.” The reason for my Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Event, is to ensure that my Apache language and culture continues. This event brings comfort knowing that this dance will continue for generations to come. These Apache Warriors will dance into the next Seven Generations. I see you Apache Youth! he writes. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Sacramento, CA. elected White Mountain Apache tribal member Jared Massey National NCAI Youth Commission Co-President. During his term Massey will work closely with tribal leaders in Indian country on BIA funding, healthcare, Indian Health Services, Indian Reservation Roads funding and gaming. NCAI is a national organization that advocates, lobbies and addresses issues throughout Indian country. “We are extremely proud of Jared. He is an excellent role model and ambassador of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The National Congress of American Indians is a great organization that works for the betterment and well-being of Indian people. NCAI will be a great experience for Jared to further develop his leadership skills and solidify his future’s foundation with education, culture and experience,” stated Harrisen DeClay, WMAT Education Director.
Jerad Massey hopes by providing insight and assistance to White House staff in planning the 2015 Tribal Youth Summit, he hopes challenges that youth face today on reservations will be addressed. Coming from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Massey has seen first-hand the struggles of reservation life and tribal youth. “I personally have experienced so many social issues that plague our youth and challenge our youth from breaking so many cycles with suicide, drugs, alcohol, poverty, sexual abuse and domestic violence. I am excited to work with the White House, because this personal testimony and experience is not just part of my past and my roots as a young Apache man, but they are the real-life and day-to-day things that face our youth. We need to use these issues to deliver messages to our youth empowering them to overcome these social issues and that we will survive to create an even better and more promising futures for our children.”
Deandra Antonio, 17, of Whiteriver, Arizona, of the White Mountain Apache Nation and who serves on the White Mountain Apache Youth Council, is greeted by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Tribal Youth Gathering
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