What does this story teach us about how the Apache see the world?
My favorite story is that of the the white painted women, she is a heroine and the mother of the warrior twins, those who helped make the word fit for human beings. It is a metaphorical journey among the people and I feel that this helps the female children to understand their place in the Apache life, this story explains what kind of life she will endure and also what her place is in the matrilineal society. It explains the four stages of her life, this story also teaches us that the Apache people see their work as a round universe similar to the life cycles like the earth. Claire chose this story of Bernard’s to be in the book because it explains perfectly the belief of the Apache that the universe is round like life, there is a beginning of life, living life, reflecting on life, an end and a new beginning. This is also the story that the puberty ceremony tells.
Why did the author choose to include this story or why did Bernard choose to tell it when he did?
Bernard is a ritual singer, holy man, ritual specialist and astronomer who valued the traditions of his people and he imparts his tale with the usual measured stance which is so typical in the American Indian culture. Nothwitstanding all this, the story comes across as very direct and has no real sense of time – it is almost suspended in mid-air. Bernard simply decides to relate the story as it was his preconception to do so without any inhibitions or influences. It is a story full of power and inspiration, typical of the Apache legend.
Why did you like this one best.
I felt that in it, Bernard relates aspects of the Apache legend which are mythical and inspirational. His manner of telling the story is also extremely powerful and intriguing which is hugely appealing and personal to me.
The first and last day of the ceremonial include many traditional rituals. Discuss 3 you feel are important and how they help to form the girls into "Mothers of the Tribe" Do we have any symbols like this in our society?
The girl’s puberty ceremony is probably one of the most important of the initiation processes in the tribe’s whole existence. The first stage when they are blessed by the Elders of the tribe is also crucial as is the part where the girls kneel to be annointed. These are high moments of symbolism which create a sense of occasion and power and the girls are no doubt overawed by their intense experiences. The ceremony concludes with elaborate dancing forms which are also very powerful and important to the whole process as they are now ‘Mothers of the Tribe’ and can procreate the Apache line. The puberty ceremony lasts 4 days and nights.
The most important part of the book is the Puberty ceremony which represents the White painted woman, she first came to them from the East, a beautiful young woman, she grew to full adult hood and lived in the south she had children there, then she became old and her journey, very old, and she began her westward journey, she became even older with thinned skin and white hair like the snow in the north country, Then one day she died, the people were so sad for they loved her dearly, but the next sunrise she appeared to us in the East again, a young woman again. During the ceremony the girls dance around the basked four times, just like she lived the four stages in her life on earth. These are the 4 stages of life; babies, children, adults and elders.
Western culture is quite lacking in these type of puberty ceremonies and when a girl achievs this status, she almost wants to hide from others. There are however some comparisons as fertility is important for expansion and growth accordingly.
Why is "4" important to the Apache?
The significance of the number 4 to the Apache includes the Apache conception of creation- day 1 the sseparation of sky and Earth with the appearance of light and water. On day 2 came the plants and the tiny animals and on the 3rd day the four legged larger animals and the on 4th day the weakest link in the entire chain appeared which are people. Additionally the Apache have four laws which are; Generosity, Bravery, Honesty and Pride. They also have four stages of life; which are described as; infancy, childhood, adulthood and old age. There are also four values for girls which are; physical strength, even temperament, prosperity and finally a healthy old age.
The last chapter of the book deals with the changes the ceremony and the Apachean people have undergone over the last 5 Years. Choose 3 specific changes to customs/ceremonies, family/community, health or reservations conditions to discuss with examples. What impact have these changes had on the Apache positive or negative? Why do you feel this way?
Still they continue to observe traditions such as the Crown Dance and weaving of basketry which are crucial to their identity. Another huge change in their lifestyle is the fact that they used to be nomadic but now have to content themselves with reservation space which is obviously not the same as having large tracts of land as your territory. This has eliminated the need for hunting game and other animals for food which used to be an important part of Apache tradition and which has now vanished. In fact, most young Apaches find themselves confronted with a considerable lack of opportunities and the suicide rates at reservations are considerably higher than in other communities.
The book argues that the oral traditions of the Apaches should be conserved and kept for future generations as the situation cannot continue to deteriorate. The Apaches are a hugely important part of American culture and this should remain so.
Farrer C (2010); Thunder Rides a Black Horse: Mescalero Apaches and the Mythic Present; Waveland PR Inc