The Apache's guerrilla war tactics came naturally and were unsurpassed. The name Apache struck fear into the hearts of Pueblo tribes, and in later years the Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American settlers, which they raided for food, and livestock.
The Apache and the Pueblos managed to maintain generally peaceful relations. But the arrival of the Spaniards changed everything. A source of friction was the activity of Spanish slave traders, who hunted down captives to serve as labor in the silver mines of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The Apache, in turn, raided Spanish settlements to seize cattle, horses, firearms, and captives of their own.
The prowess of the Apache in battle became legend. It was said that an Apache warrior could run 50 miles without stopping and travel more swiftly than a troop of mounted soldiers.
The Apache regarded coyotes, insects, and birds as having been human beings. The human race, then, but following in the tracks of those who have gone before.
The Apache lived in extended family groups, all loosely related through the female line. (Matriarcial).... Each group operated independently under a respected family leader....settling its own disputes, answering to no higher human authority.
The main exception to this occurred during wartime, when neighboring groups banded together to fight a common enemy. Unlike ordinary raiding, where the main object was to acquire food and possessions,war meant lethal business. An act of vengeance for the deaths of band members in earlier raids or battles.
Leaders of the local family groups would meet in council to elect a war chief, who led the campaign. But if any one group preferred to follow its own war chief, it was free to do so.
Medicine Men presided over religious ceremonies. They believed in many spirit beings.
The Mescalero band consisted of followers and a headman. They had no formal leader such as a tribal chief, or council, nor a decision making process. The core of the band was a "relative group", predominantly, but not necessarily, kinsmen.
one U.S. Army general who had fought them meant it as a grudging compliment when he described the Apache as "tigers of the human species."
The Apache saw themselves differently, they faced constant struggle to survive. When they raided a village, they did so from pure necessity, to provide corn for their families when game was scarce. Most of the time they went their own way, moving from camp to camp in pursuit of deer and buffalo, collecting roots and berries, sometimes planting seeds that they later returned to harvest.
They set up their camps on the outskirts of the pueblos. They dressed in animal skins, used dogs as pack animals, and pitched tent like dwellings made of brush or hide, called wikiups.