Manataka® American Indian Council
Apache Women in History
The maternal grandmother of Ernestene Cody Begay, Maa-ya-ha, was born around 1879 into the band of Western Apaches living near Cibecue Creek. She knew a great deal about herbs, was an accomplished basket weaver, farmer and midwife. She also served as an attendant during many Sunrise Dances. Maa-ya-ha had ten children with her husband, Eskin-na-chik Maa-ya-ha's mother was present at the battle at Cibecue in 1881. When fighting broke out she was told to hide and not to move as people ran everywhere. She remembered running with her shoes under her arm and suddenly realizing that they had been shot. She spent hours hiding under a bush until it became dark and she saw smoke coming from the wickiups and heard voices.
Maa-ya-ha's life was difficult when she was very young and food was scarce. Later on, however, she and her husband made a good life for themselves as skilled farmers and ranchers. Community members often turned to the couple for help. Maa-ya-ha died in 1970.
Gouyen, meaning "Wise Woman," was born into Chief Victorio's Warm Springs Apache band around 1880. One day, while the group was resting at Tres Castillos, New Mexico, it was attacked by Mexicans. When the offensive was over, seventy-eight Apaches had been murdered and only seventeen had escaped, including Gouyen and her young son, Kaywaykla. Her baby daughter, however, was murdered and shortly afterwards her husband was killed in a Comanche raid while visiting the Mescalero Apaches.
A legendary tale is told about the revenge of Gouyen. One night following her husband's death, she put on her buckskin puberty ceremony dress and left the camp carrying a water jug, dried meat, and a bone awl and sinew for repairing her moccasins. She was looking for the Comanche chief who had killed her husband. Finally, she found him engaged in a Victory Dance around a bonfire with her husband's scalp hanging from his belt. Gouyen slipped into the circle of dancers, seduced the chief, and killed him, avenging her husband's death. Then she scalped him, cut his beaded breechcloth from his body and tore off his moccasins. She then returned to her camp to present her in-laws with the Comanche leader's scalp, his clothing and his footwear.
remarried an Apache warrior named
she and her family were taken prisoner by the U.S. Army and held
at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where she died.
Lozen was the sister of mighty Apache war leader Victorio, and the most famous of the Apache War Women. Lozen was born in a section of New Mexico/Arizona/Northern Mexico known at that time as Apacheria Chihenne, Warm Springs Apache band, somewhere in the late 1840s. She let it be known at a very early age that she had no interest in learning the women's duties of the tribe, and set out on the warrior's path - taught by her famous brother.
Lozen was quite unlike her counterpart, Dahteste. Lozen had no concern for her appearance and, even though she is in several famous photos of Geronimo with his warriors, there is nothing to indicate that she is a woman. You would never spot her. She was very manly in her appearance, dressed like a man, lived and fought like a man. She never married, and devoted her life to the service of her people.
Victorio is quoted as saying, "Lozen is my right hand . . . strong as a man , braver than most, and cunning in strategy, Lozen is a shield to her people."
Legend has it that Lozen was able to use her powers in battle to learn the movements of the enemy and that she helped each band that she accompanied to successfully avoid capture. After Victorio's death, Lozen continued to ride with Chief Nana, and eventually joined forces with Geronimo's band, eluding capture until she finally surrendered with this last group of free Apaches in 1886. She died of tuberculosis at the Mount Vernon Barracks in Mobile, Alabama at the approximate age of 50.
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