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Naiche (Chiricahua Apache, 1857–1921), painting of a girl’s puberty ceremony
ca. 1907
Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Chamois skin, paint
78 x 67 cm
Collected by Mark R. Harrington

“ All we want is to be freed and be released as prisoners, given land and homes that we can call our own. That is all we think about. We have learned to work. That is generally the way when they take anybody to learn. After they have taught them for a while they will look at them and think well now these people have learned enough I guess. I will give them some kind of work…. Are we going to work here for you as long as we can move our hands, work until we are so old we can’t work anymore?”
—Naiche, 1911, speaking to U.S. Army officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma

As I look at this painting by Naiche, the last hereditary leader of the Chokonen band of Chiricahuas, I can only think that a story is being told by a leader, a person, a prisoner—how the gáhé danced at a girl’s puberty ceremony among the birds, insects, and plant life; under the stars; in front of the Creator and the people. Where did it happen? Was the ceremony held in Mexico, where Chirichuas fled from the United States Army? Arizona, where they were confined to a reservation? In the East—Florida, Alabama, or Oklahoma—where Chiricahuas were held as prisoners-of-war for 27 long years. Or here, in Mescalero, where some agreed to go when they were released? Most important, I think that the people, Indé, carry the story on, as told on the hide.

—Oliver Enjady, (Mescalero Apache)
Artist, Mescalero Apache Tribe

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