Karen Rausch

Oct 31, 1995

 

An Apache World View

 

     This assignment has been very difficult for me.  I began a few weeks ago by reading three personal narratives of Apache women contained in an ethnography of the Apache Indians and an Apache man’s story of his own life as told to an American anthropologist.  Since reading these materials I have been trying to imagine myself as an Apache.  I have tried to put myself in their world, to share in their experiences.  This has been a great challenge, as it requires that I set aside the only worldview that I have ever known, replacing it with a new perspective which differs from my own in so many ways.  This is empathy at its highest level.  After several hours of contemplation on this subject, I believe that I have just begun to understand and experience the Apache world.  I have discovered many aspects of my existence that would be radically different if I were an Apache woman.

     First of all, I would live in a rugged and challenging physical environment.  As a woman, I would have very specific knowledge of this rough terrain, gained from many long days spent farming and gathering foods.  I would be in excellent physical condition, a necessity considering the amount of work I would do each day.  I would have many responsibilities in my family, including gathering the wild plant harvest, preserving and storing surplus meat and vegetables, making decorative painted containers, gathering firewood, preparing meals, and caring for the children. One of my most important duties would be to make clothes for my close relatives.  This would be a very big responsibility because clothing is considered very personal.  I would always prefer to make and wash my own clothing, because I would dislike my clothing being handled by anyone other than a close relative, even someone of the same sex.  I think that having so many responsibilities and being trusted with that much work would make me feel proud and important.  I would always work hard to please my relatives, perhaps by spending extra hours on their clothing or making lavishly painted containers.

     As a nineteen-year-old woman, I would already be married.  I would know and understand that marriage is essential for the mature woman or man.  Without a husband, I would have no one to hunt for me, no one to bring me booty from raids, and no one with whom to have children.  Without a wife, an Apache man would have no one to gather and prepare wild foods for him, no one to make his clothes, and no one to bear him children.  After my puberty rite at age fourteen, I would have been eager to find a husband because I would know that women and men cannot get along without each other.

     There would be no formal ceremony to mark my marriage.  Instead we would have an agreement between my gamily and my husband’s family.  WE Apache have ceremonials to mark one’s passage into a new stage of life, such as the girls’ puberty rite, which marks the emergence of a mature woman from girlhood.  I would not expect a ceremony to celebrate my marriage because I would understand that marriage´ is no† so much the founding of a new social unit (which would merit a ceremonial) as it is the absorption of me and my husband into an already existing social unit, my family.

     After marriage, I would continue to live in the encampment with my parents, sisters, and unmarried brothers, and my new husband would leave his local group to join my family.  This matrilocal marriage system is a reflection of the fact that women are the stable core of Apache society.  AS an Apache woman, I would hold an important and secure place in society.  I think that I would feel very safe and secure as an Apache woman, knowing that no matter who I married, I would always be so fortunate as to live close to my family.

     When my husband joins my family, he would be expected to show full respect, loyalty, and economic cooperation towards my relatives.  My new husband would be very eager to earn the approval of his affinal relatives because they exercise a good deal of control over him.  He would always treat me well, fulfilling my every want and need, hoping that I would tell my family how happy I am in my new marriage.  In the rare case that my husband was neglectful or abusive, my family would notice my unhappiness immediately, and they would directly approach my husband about the problem.  Most likely I would have no marital problems, and I would be a lucky woman to have such a loyal husband and concerned family.

     Because I would remain in my matrilocal extended family all my life, even after marriage, my closest emotional ties would be with my mother and my sisters.  I would tend to be more emotionally secure and have a cleared self-concept than my husband because I would not have to make the major social adjustment of leaving my family like did after our marriage.  Also, I would have the good fortune to live my entire life on the same homeland where I was raised and educated in terms of farming and gathering activities, giving me that ability to make a stable contribution to my family’s food supply.   I think that it would be wonderful to live in a society that is supportive of women and allows us full participation.  As an Apache woman, I would feel a great deal of confidence and self-respect, and I would take pride in the fact that I am an integral part of my community.

     This self-confidence would not be arrogance, however, and I would never seeks self-glorification.  In fact, if asked to give information about something, I would be very reluctant to admit that I have any knowledge of the subject, even if I have a great deal of expertise.  I would do this not to aggravate the questioner, but because I would feel that to readily admit knowledge of things is to cheapen them.

     My religion would be one of the most important parts of my existence, permeating all aspects of my thoughts and my culture.  I would see no clear distinction between the natural and the supernatural; I would see only the existence of vague, undefined, diffuse supernatural powers.  These powers are not opposed to the natural world, but are a part of it, existing roughly on the same level as the sun, wind, and rain.  I would believe that these supernatural helpers give warnings of and protection from danger.  I would always strive to be in good standing with these powers, because they can cause serious illness if I show disrespect for holy things.  I think that I would be comforted by the knowledge that these powers exist to provide me with assistance in times of need.  These powers would also motivate me to show due respect for holy things, because I would fear the possibility of illness and even death.

     As an Apache, I would view death as the ultimate enemy, on of the darkest, most evil forces of the world.  I would be afraid of ghosts, because they are ht potentially dangerous spirits of dead people which have powers and can cause sickness.  hen someone dies, there would be no formal funeral rite, because death is not to be celebrated.  I would be careful not to utter the dead person’s name for at least ten years, because I would believe that a name is the property of the individual who bears it, and it should be buried with the deceased.  I think that this treatment of death would arouse great fear and respect in me.  I would be fearful of the powers that cause death and respectful of those who have been so unfortunate as to have experienced death.

     In contrast, I would view old age as triumph over death.  For this reason, I would have a great deal of respect for my elders for having fought off the forces of evil.  I would be very fond of my grandparents, especially my maternal grandparents.  My grandparents would be the ones who tell me many of the myths and legends of my culture.  Whenever they would tell stories, I would listen attentively and search for the lesson in their words.  I would place great importance on these oral traditions, believing them over written materials.  I would always believe that which I hear over that which I read, because speech is a more direct and reliable form of communication.  I would think the white people strange for the way that they accept only that which is written on paper as true.

     At puberty, my elders would have taught me the four life objectives for Apache women:  physical strength, even temperament, prosperity, and sound, healthy old age.  After writing this paper, I think that I have at least a partial understanding of these objectives.  I would always strive for physical strength, because life makes heavy demands, which I must be able to meet.  I would try to maintain an even temperament in all situations, as this is essential for kinship and successful interpersonal relationships.  I would work hard to achieve prosperity, which I would define as being free from hunger and want.  Life can be difficult at times, but I would always try to make the best of what I have.  Finally, I would live a moral life, obeying the various powers at all times, for it is these powers that would lead me into old age, a coveted and respected position in Apache life. 

     There are so many things that would be different about me if I were an Apache woman, ranging from my everyday activities to my life-long goals.  When I first began reading about the Apache, I felt like I was reading a collection of unrelated facts, which was very discouraging.  However, as I continued my reading and even as I have bee writing this paper, I feel like I have really come to understand a great deal about the world view of the Apache.  When I first found that short list of life-objectives (see above), I stopped without reading any of the written expltopped without reading any of the written explanation of justification, and I actually understood that logic behind each objective.  I examined each objective individually, and I thought of my own reason for who understand about the Apache worldview.  For each one is true, based on what I have come to understand about the Apache worldview.  For just a moment, I saw the world through the eyes of an Apache woman

 

Susan Muschett

ANT 3610

Language Ecology Paper

 

     Good evenin’ to you.  Me name is Maggie and I am a Traveller.  At eighteen, I’m the eldest of seven children, the youngest bein’ little Mickey, who’s only just turned three.  It’s time for the evenin’ meal here in camp, and tonight we have been blessed with a gearty one; me dad has sanred a hare and we children have gathered wild balckberries and begged some eggs and cabbage.  As the eldest, ‘tis my job to see to the youngers and to help me mum with preparin’ the meal.  Three’s two other families in our group, and so me dad is off havin’ a smoke with the other menfolk, me two uncles.  It’s mid-June now, and we’ve been lucky enough to find a farmer who needs help with harvestin’ his beet and potato crops, so we’ve also got them stored away for when we’ve no other food.  If our luch holds, next month we’ll be harvestin’ the hay, and followin’ that it’ll be time to  reap the oats and rye.  We’re glad to get what work we can now, for ‘tis right scarce in the winter months - even the farmers are relaxing.  This year has treated us fair well; it’s hard to find a farmer who’s got any work at all for you these days, what with all the machines they’ve got doin’ the work for ‘em - they’ve got little need of we Travellin’ People.  Tinsmithin’s gone the same way...  me dad told me thre used to be a time when we could make a fair living justr travellin’ from farm to farm, jobbin’ tin, sweepin’ chimneys, and harvestin’ crops, but those days are long gone.  Me dad says plastic is what put us out  and that’s in it all.  Because plastic is what we use today.  Nobody wants tin anymore, save for a few farmers who stand by the old ways and a few tourists now and then.  Me dad could make anything you wanted out o’ tin, he could, and do a right fair job of it, too.  But folks laugh at tinsmithing today, and selli’ tin’s harder then collecting scrap today.  Nobody rightly wants tin in their houses... ‘tis a shame, really.

     Nowadays works is so scarce me mum’s taken to begging more than ever.  She’ll bundle up me baby cousin Patrick and go from door to door, sayin’, “Could you spare alittle help, ma’am?  My little child is dyin’ of the hunger and I’ve no money to buy its milk.  I’ve nine more fine childer in me wagon and me husband, God bless him, he’s sick in hospital.  I don’t care about meself... it’s the poor childer....”  Uf she’s luchy and the lady is givish, she’ll get a few bob or maybe a spot of food or a bit of clothing, but more often than not, she’ll only get curses for her troubles.  They’ll tell her it’s not decent the way she treats us, that we should all live in a nice house and be off to school, and that mum and dad should settle down and find jobs in the city somewhere.  Cor!  THere’s Travellers that’ve done such things - in Dublin they’ve shut us up in little tigins and expect us to be so thankful that we’ll all run out and do as we’re told, clean up our acts, I suppose, and pass up into the gentry.  Well as for me, I’d rather die!  It’s not healthy bein’ shut up inside four little walls all day long, with no trees in sight and only the windys to keep you half breathing.  And the neighbors!  What’s they be aside from in our business?  “Here’s some mil for the children and blankets for the family” - well, we provide for oursevles quite nicely, thank you ma’am!  We’re Travellers, always have been and always will be - we can’t sit too long in one place without feelin’ it runnin’ in our blood - and we won’t be needin’ your charity handfuls, we’rte gettin’ along just fine, thank you!

     Aye, and I’ve seen ‘em looking down their noses at me, seen city childer run off when they see us comin’... they like to think they’re better off than us.  What’ve they got that I want?  Nothing , that’s what.  I have no need of their readin’ and writin’, nor of their stuffy little row houses and fenced-in yards.  My yard is the bonny Irish countryside, and my education is knowin’ how to shout for the horses and call the dogs, how to tie a rope to more than a little dog, how to throw a whistling sound to the colts -  that is education enough to me.  So we don’t read or write - what we do is sing.  That is the way out of the tragedy of the life here on the road, and it does be a lonely life at times, but I’d rather be free and with my family than shoved into a dirty Dyblin tigin, that’s for true!  And as for the schools, what’s so grand about ‘em?  I’ve heard tales of a school up in the mountains where they do be digging turf for their dinner and walk in their feet naed in the snow like sheep and goats!  A boy got taken up for begging and he was sent at six to such a place in the wilderness... what sort o’ life is that for a boy?  He’d be much better off here in the fields, doin’ an honest days’ work, rather than forced into some little Irish school, learnin a language that won’t do him no good out here.  For he can talk Irish to us ‘till he’s blue in the face, but if he’s forgotten his shelta, then he’s a Traveller no more!

     So as you can see. stranger, I’m quite happy wi’ the life I’m livin’, and there’s no other I’d rather be havin’.  We’ll be off to the county Kildare fair soon, and it’s gettin’ nigh time for me to be findin’ a husband and startin’ me own family o’ Travellers.  But for now I need to finish up wi’ the dinner so me family can eat and rest up for tomorrow’s work...  thank you for the offer, but I’d much rather be a Traveller than a buffer any day!  ...Michael!  Patrick!  Time for dinner.

 

 

Glossary

 

bob - shillings

 

buffer - a settled person

 

childer - children

 

givish - generous

 

jobbin’ - mending

 

shelta - the language of the Travellers

 

tigin - small windowless government huts provided in Dublin in an attempt to settle the                                   

Travellers

 

Travellers - better known as the Tinkers, people who have no fixed abode and wander the Irish countryside, but not including showpeople or entertainings troupes, and not to be confused with Gypsies

 

windys - windowss