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Chiricahua (also Chiricahua Apaches, Chiricagui, Apaches de Chiricahui, Chiricahues, Chilicague, Chilecagez, Chiricagua) (pronounced /ˌtʃɪrɨˈkɑːwə/, US dict: chĭr′·ĭ·kâ′·wə) refers to a group of bands of Apache that formerly lived in the general areas of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona in the United States, and in northern Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico, it is not possible to precisely define the exact boundaries of their territory.



Once led by Cochise (whose name derived from the Apache word "Cheis," meaning "having the quality of oak"), Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, Nana, Juh and later by Goyaałé (known as Geronimo) and Cochise's son Naiche (among others), this Apache group was the last to resist U.S. government control of the American southwest.[1]

There were several loosely-affiliated groups of Apaches that came to be called Chiricahuas. These include the Chokonen, Chihenne, Nednai and the Bedonkohe. Today, all are commonly referred to as Chiricahuas, but in reality, they were not a single band. There were also many other less-related Apachean groups ranging all over eastern Arizona and the American southwest. It is incorrect to lump them all together, but these few mentioned bands that we call the Chiricahuas today have a combined history—they intermarried, lived and fought together occasionally. They formed short-term as well as longer alliances among themselves that today leads to a natural tendency to consider them as one people.[2]

The Apachean groups and the Navajo peoples were part of the Athabaskan migration into the North American continent from Asia, across the Bering Strait from Siberia. As the group moved south and east into North America, groups splintered off and became different peoples over time. The Apache and the Navajo are thought by some anthropologists to have been pushed south and west into what is now New Mexico and Arizona by pressure from other Plains groups such as the Comanche and Kiowa. Among the last of these splits before their histories became entwined with the European newcomers (and memorialized in modern history books) were those resulting in the different Apachean bands encountered by westering Americans; the Navajos and all the southwestern Apache groups we came to know. They were originally more closely related, but in their day-to-day existence in modern times we see them as independent groups.

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