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“Boys’ Training”

Apache Children“Apache Children,” Unidentified (Photographer)

Here a traditional Apache describes the training of boys in Jicarilla society. He was talking to anthropologist Morris E. Opler in the early 1940s.

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When there are many camps together, they make the boys train together and race against each other. Sometimes a man mounted on a horse rides to a boy. The boy has to catch hold of the mane of the horse and keep up with it without letting go. Sometimes the boys are sent on foot to run after the white-tailed deer and the antelope. If they are fast runners they can catch them on foot. Sometimes they are sent after wild horses. Sometimes they get them, sometimes not.

Sometimes they whip each other. One boy will hit at another with sticks, just as at war.

Sometimes a boy goes without eating and without drinking for about two days. Someone watches him, for he is in training. Sometimes the boy is made to go without sleep for about two days and one night. The man who is his teacher in this training is always scolding him, even if he does well. He makes the boy do more and more.

The boy is like a horse that gets whipped though he is pulling. The teacher is never mild with the boy; he doesn’t talk gently and use good words. The grandfather frequently whips the boy too.

“Sometimes they have the boys war against each other on foot.”

For practice in shooting arrows from horseback, the older people make the boys ride past each other and shoot. They don’t really try to hit each other; it is just for practice in using the arrows from the horse. They carry shields and spears when they practice. Sometimes they have the boys war against each other on foot.

They make the boys jump down from the top of a cliff with a young tree in their hands to break the fall. Sometimes they make them climb into the tops of trees. They also make them get to the tops of big rocks.

Sometimes the boys take the pith out of sunflower stalks and put a piece on their shoulder or arm. Then they set fire to it and let it burn itself out. It hurts. They tell young boys and girls to do it against sickness. It is good to keep any kind of sickness away.

“When the first snow of the season comes, the grandfather throws the boy into the snow without any clothes on.”

In the early morning the grandfather takes the boy out to the river, removes his clothes, and throws him into the water. Sometimes the grandfather himself takes his clothes off and goes in too and ducks the boy thoroughly. This is right in the wintertime. When the boy comes out, the grandfather says, “You shout now!” Sometimes the boy can’t yelp he is so cold. If a boy doesn’t yell, they whip him on his bare back with a willow branch. The grandfather is the only one who does this to you, unless you have no grandfather living; then your own father or your mother’s brother does it.

When the first snow of the season comes, the grandfather throws the boy into the snow without any clothes on. After that, he makes the boy run. He says, “Don’t put your clothes on. Stay out till you get warm.” And the grandfather makes the boy hold pieces of snow in his hands and tells him, “Run until that snow is all melted.” If it doesn’t melt quickly, he keeps the boy running till it is melted.

Apache Camp“Apache Camp,” Unidentified (Photographer)

The grandfather or the grandmother shows the boy how to make his own moccasins, so that if he has to go out somewhere and the women are not around, he can take care of himself in an emergency. They also show him how to patch his own clothes. And sometimes they make him wash his own clothes. Sometimes they make him take care of his own bed, straighten up after himself. And they sometimes make the boys take care of their own homes. They make them do these things even if they have mothers and sisters. They train them just like girls.

They tell the boys, “You are going to be married some day. Perhaps your wife will be sick sometimes, and you will have to take care of your own home till she is better.” And they teach the boys how to cook too.