The Apaches are known for their baskets, beadwork, sculpture, weaving and silversmithing. Once considered too primitive by contemporary art critics, Apache arts and crafts are now a hot commodity. It is illegal to falsify Apache artwork, and this consideration should be made for art dealers, artists and consumers.
The Apache Indians were fierce fighters, once part of the Navajo Indian tribe. They occupied the American Southwest, from the Arkansas River down to northern Mexico, and from central Texas to central Arizona. They have been in this region since 1100 A.D. The tribe considers itself very tied to the environment and seeks to live in balance with it, rather than do harm. This is reflected in Apache arts and crafts.
Apache Indians use symbols, patterns and geometric shapes to represent ideas, emotions and beliefs. From clothing pottery, everything was made with functionality in mind. Painting on pottery told stories, and specific clothing represented fighting skills. Turquoise, which represents good fortune, was incorporated in much of the work, and silversmithing was picked up by the Navajo Indians, who learned the skill from the Mexicans. Symbolism prevails throughout Apache arts and crafts, down to their multicolored woven baskets.
Find Apache arts and crafts from dealers who represent local, genuine artists. Blackwater Ministries in Fort Thomas, Arizona, is an example of this kind of art dealer. Its gallery serves as a conduit for genuine Apache artists and the outside public, and the ministry says it does not profit from the service. Also, when purchasing artwork from an unknown vendor, such as crafts booths, check for tags and labels that suggest Apaches didn't make the artwork. A simple inspection of the object can yield a "made in China" label.
It is illegal to falsify Apache arts and crafts. According to the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, individual violators can be fined $250,000, imprisoned for five years or both. For businesses, civil fines can reach $1 million. The law protects any Indian-made art from 1935 to the present. If a customer learns that his "Apache-made" art is fraudulent, he should request a refund. If that doesn't work, contact the Better Business Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce or the district attorney's office. In all cases, contact the Indian Arts and Crafts Board in writing, detailing the incident.
When decorating with Apache arts and crafts, take care not to mix the tribes. For example, it may be tacky to include a Kachina doll in an Apache motif because those were made by the Hopi and Zuni tribes. Also exercise cultural sensitivity. Many Apaches find the excavation of arrowheads, bones and artifacts to be offensive to their ancestors and spiritually disruptive. Displaying such items can have the unintended consequence of appearing insensitive or gauche.
Sarah Snyder is a San Antonio-based freelancer with more than 10 years of journalism experience. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg, the "San Antonio Express-News" and the "Daily Texan." She received a Bachelor of Arts in news and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.