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Oddly enough, APACHES had its origins with my editor at Doubleday, Jim Menick. Thinking to imitate that famous Time-Life series about the Old West with a new series on different Indian tribes, it occurred to him that Apaches were famous and powerful, their name started with "A"—just the thing to open a series with—and I was getting good reviews for THE BUFFALO WAR.

The original intent was to concentrate on the subject’s color and readability. After two years, during which most of my time was occupied with law school at the University of Texas, I had produced a more-or-less snappy review of the Apache wars. The problem was that it was almost completely derivative, with hardly a hint of original research. Terrified of the reviews that I knew would follow, and hagridden by the prospect of being regarded as a one-book wonder, I obtained an extension on the contract to find a new approach.

I began searching for secondary sources on the Apache Indian "Life-Way," to get some feel for everyday life within the native culture, and quickly discovered that there were none. When I located early ethnological monographs, I was stunned by what I found: mythological characters like Owl-man Giant, whose penis was so large it knocked women off cliffs when he got an erection, and Coyote, a Loki-like trickster whose attempts to get an easy meal or to get laid rendered me helpless with laughter.

And, the more I read about Apache culture, the more that knowledge changed my understanding of the history. For instance, Cochise, the great Chiricahua chief, has borne blame for generations for the massacre of American soldiers at Apache Pass in 1861, an episode that led to a bloody 10-year war. Learning the culture, however, made it clear that the fate of American captives was the say-so of widows whose men had been killed. A chief—even a revered one like Cochise—might make suggestions, but it was the women who ultimately decreed the fate of captives.

Recasting the book in this light took a further two years, and when it premiered in January, 1981, I was surprised at the critical controversy. One thing I discovered in giving the Apaches their own identity, as opposed to writing them as functions either of white expansion or of white guilt, was that some of them were good and some of them were bad. This ran counter to the carefully nurtured revisionism that was just beginning to take hold, resulting in, for instance, a savage notice in Newsday, that while one did learn a lot about Apaches from the book, racists like myself had no business writing about them. That review ran the very same day as another in the Daily Oklahoman, written by Montana Walking Bull, who I like to think was closer to the subject, celebrating the fact that at last, a white writer treated Native Americans as real people with their own lives and motivations.

Autographed copies of this book, in the softcover reprint from the University of Oklahoma Press, are available from the author for $25, plus $3 packaging and postage. E-mail your order here.


American History Illustrated: "combines the rigor and truth of the scholar with the clear and easy prose of the writer."

Booklist: "Haley maintains that an understanding of Apache culture should stand behind any appraisal of their history. His thesis cannot be disputed after reading this study. Outstanding, imparting a true sense of Apache life without being tedious and arcane."

American West: "A richly detailed examination, recounted with impartiality and compassion."

Southwest Review: "Path breaking … rich and informed. A book which must be examined thoroughly to be appreciated properly."

Choice: "Haley mixes carefully condensed episodes of history with sociological material … to achieve a remarkably clear and unbiased portrayal. As a broad based, general-audience account of the Apache, this book is without peer."

Denver (CO) Post: "Definitive … the best information on this tribe is now between the covers of one book."

Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter: "Welcome … for its comprehensive and ordered substance. It is well researched and uniquely constructed, written with unruffled expressivity."

Nashville (TN) Banner: "Haley’s work is another recommended example of the contention that nonfiction can be fun."

Los Angeles (CA) Herald-Examiner: "Fresh, insightful, perceptive."

Daily Oklahoman: "Haley’s scholarship, concern for historical truth, compassion and understanding pay off brilliantly."

Dallas (TX) Morning News: "Apaches reads like a prize winner in search of a competition. Haley becomes a powerful teller of Apache folk tales, an economist, a sociologist and a military historian. Writers with his gift are rare indeed."

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