"Until I was about ten years old I did not know that people died except by violence. That is because I am an Apache, a Warm Springs Apache (Chihenne), whose first vivid memories are of being driven from our reservation near Ojo Caliente with fire and sword." Kaywaykla, 187?-1963
It is hard to separate Apache warfare from Apache raids. The primary difference seems to have been that the raid had as its only aim the gathering of horses, cattle, food and clothing. Any combat that took place was purely incidental. With warfare, however, combat was the primary objective. Yet even war parties brought back what plunder they could lay their hands on.
Raiding, particularly to the Chiricahua, rivaled hunting in its economic importance to the local band or family group. To the Apache it was either raid or starve. When food supplies ran low, a raiding party would be organized and launched. Most raiding parties were small, consisting of as few as 5 or 6 warriors, up to as many as 10 or 12; much like today's Special Forces recon teams (6 men), U.S. Ranger hunter-killer teams (5-6 men), SEAL squads (8 men), and Special Forces A-teams (12 men).
There was little or no ceremony connected with raiding, though it was usually thought desirable to have an individual who had 'War Power' along. The warriors took very little with them, living off the land on their way to the objective and then off the plunder on their way back to camp, whilst remaining as incognito as possible both to and fro.
Raids were also used as training exercises for the boys of the tribal group. After completing a strenuous selection course that was designed to toughen and harden a youngster, the warrior-candidate was allowed to join a raiding party. However, for his first 4 missions, the boy was strictly strap-hanging as an observer. He did menial jobs for the full-fledged warriors --- gathering wood, taking care of the horses, etc.. The warrior-to-be was also bound by specific taboos and had to use a formal 'war language' that differed from his everyday tongue. Finally, upon completion of his fourth raid, and having been judged by the warriors as acceptable, the young man was declared a Warrior and enjoyed the rights and privileges that came with the title.
Unlike raids, warfare was always accompanied by a great deal of ceremony. The Apache man was never more religious than when preparing for war. There was a war dance before leaving in order to invoke the aid of Ussen, the Apache's One-God (being monotheistic and having in their religious mythology many parallels to the Christ story, Apaches made a relatively easy transition from Ussen to Jesus). Upon their return, a victory dance was held to give thanks. One or two medicine men who had war power usually accompanied a large war party. Each warrior carried a small bag that contained a sacred meal for morning and evening sacrifice, but more practically, it made for an excellent emergency ration. Arms were simple: bows and arrows, lances, warclubs and knives. Until the 1870s, firearms were rare, and maintaining ammunition supplies was quite difficult. But, once the Apache got a hold of quantities of both, they soon became masters of modern guerrilla warfare. Ambush, counter-ambush, prisoner snatching, and destructive raiding soon became the Apache trademark on the occupying forces of Mexico and the United States.
Nagondzog, the proud Apache tradition of militant self-sufficiency, is maintained and practiced with respect at the Blays-Halla Battle Academy under the auspices of the old Shidaalé who have taught, and who still teach us.