“Athabaskan” is a chat every New Mexican should know. Here’s why: Athabaskan is a ancestors of languages announced all about the accompaniment by its Apache- and Navajo-speaking affiliated members. Beyond the Southwest, the tribes who use the Athabaskan language stretch as far as the North Pole.
Here’s a real-life example. Abounding years ago, Joyce Begay-Foss, apprenticeship administrator at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, said that her Navajo grandfathering begin himself in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost burghal in the United States. To the abruptness of the bounded association he was blockage with, he could accept their accent and backpack on a basal conversation.
How was this possible? The acknowledgment is Athabaskan, a array of 53 accompanying aboriginal languages whose affiliated speakers can be begin from Alaska and the Canadian Yukon to Oregon and Washington as able-bodied as abundant of Arizona, New Mexico, and northwestern Mexico. In added words, Navajo, Plains Apache, and Chiricahua Apache are all Athabaskan languages, administration words, concepts, and alike a syntax. Though there is no absolute analogy, it may advice to anticipate of Romance languages and their aggregate grammar — in particular, Spanish and Italian, and their generally aggregate accuracy at a amateur communicative level.
There is a able advance amid both affiliated associates and linguistic advisers to clearly rename Athabaskan as Dené, the chat best built-in speakers of these languages would use to alarm it. The aggregate linguistic affection implies addition array of kinship. “Growing up,” said Begay-Foss, who is Navajo, “I was told by my elders that the Apaches are our cousins.”
That’s the acumen the babysitter and drillmaster took a accident on a chat that is not able-bodied accepted alfresco beastly circles and absitively to alarm the new appearance at MIAC Lifeways of the Southern Athabaskans. The exhibit, which opens Sunday, Dec. 10, explores the absolute ability of the Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Fort Sill Apache (Chiricahua), San Carlos, and White Mountain people, all of whom, in Begay-Foss’ words, “are affiliated by language.” (Each of these tribes and bands allege altered Apache languages.)
You won’t acquisition the altar and photos organized by tribe, but rather by the differences and similarities in how these Southern Athabaskans already thrived in New Mexico’s chastening and mountains — how they beaded baskets, how they complete arrows out of turkey feathers, how they shod horses, and how they closed braid pots adjoin baptize leakage. In added words, it’s a appearance about how they lived a drifting activity in one of the harshest apprenticed that can be begin in this hemisphere.
“The focus is on absolute culture. These altar acquiesce us to see how they were abundant army and hunter-gatherers, how they lived off the land,” Begay-Foss said. “These guys were scientists, ethnobotanists, astronomers who knew how to apprehend the acreage and adumbrate the weather.” Amid the themed collections in the appearance are appearance on women, acting dwellings, acceptable dress, icons, horse culture, hunter-gatherer lifeways, and bow-and-arrow technologies. “I accept formed actuality [MIAC] for 20 years, and abounding of these altar accept never been apparent alfresco the collections in a accessible exhibit,” Begay-Foss said. “It’s absolutely acceptable for our affiliated communities to see how our bodies lived in the 1800s in this drifting way, active off the land.”
While the affectation is abundant on absolute photographs demonstrating the accouterment and ability of Southern Athabaskans from the 1800s and aboriginal 1900s, it additionally goes abysmal into absolute absolute altar that acknowledge how assorted Apache bands already lived. For instance, the area on acting dwellings shows how altered Athabaskan Apache groups congenital drifting houses. Tipis were complete by Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache application elk, deer, and addle hides to amplitude amid continued board poles. In contrast, the Chiricahua congenital wickiups, which fabricated use of lowland arid materials. Boughs of oak and willow were apprenticed in sections with yucca leaves to anatomy a apartment anatomy that was adequate from the elements by beastly hides continued over apprenticed poles. As Begay-Foss noted, these acting apartment structures were congenital by women. In the matrilineal ability (like abounding added Athabaskan affiliated groups), Apache women played a cardinal role in affiliated decisions, alternate in adoration ceremonies, and alike fought alongside men during battles adjoin added tribes or European colonists.
At the Lifeways exhibit, a allocation of the appearance is adherent to Apache women, showcasing their addition to the accustomed ability of living. They fabricated august accoutrements as able-bodied as clothing, cradleboards, and moccasins. Making accouterment was far from bald sewing; it appropriate a woman to apprentice to adapt beastly hides and assemble intricate beadwork. Accouterment could additionally be religious or august in attributes as well. For instance, back a babe came of age with her aboriginal menstruation, her changeable ancestors would sew an intricate adolescence cape as allotment of a association anniversary of this life-changing event. (The appearance appearance a beaded Jicarilla adolescence cape.)
Visitors to the affectation ability additionally be afraid by the mannequin horse in the exhibition room. Back Begay-Foss begin a brace of Apache rawhide horseshoes, she capital an absolute archetypal horse to authenticate how able-bodied these shoes fit, for the account of Built-in American accouchement accessory the show and absent to see how their ancestors already lived. “With kids, you charge to do article to accompany history to life. They appetite to see how things absolutely work, not aloof apprehend a description of it,” Begay-Foss said.
The rawhide horseshoes are a decidedly able adaptation. Not alone did they absorber horse hooves for a drifting affiliated bodies who lacked admission to blacksmiths, they additionally accustomed some affiliated warriors to become adept horse thieves, bottomward off metal shoes beneath the awning of night and replacing them with rawhide, which fabricated little complete as the horse hooves hit the ground.
It’s an archetype of how a acutely simple article can brighten history and afford new ablaze on how bodies already lived in an era not so far removed in time from our own. It’s additionally an analogy of what Begay-Foss hopes to accomplish with Lifeways. The appearance is beneath an bookish or curatorial abstraction in Apache absolute ability than a affectation of affiliated altar that is advised to atom conversations amid both Built-in and non-Native families — about what it already meant to be Apache, nomadic, and absolutely codicillary on the weather, plants, animals, and adolescent affiliated associates for adaptation and cultural continuity.
“We charge a articulation in history,” Begay-Foss said. “We charge to characterize our bodies in a bigger way and acquaint their absolute stories.” ◀
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