Apache Maidens' Puberty Rites

Apache Maidens' Puberty Rites

July 4
The Apache Maidens' Puberty Rites are a celebration of the coming-of-age of girls of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, held for four days and four nights around the Fourth of July in Mescalero, N.M. Besides the puberty rites, there are other events: a rodeo, a powwow with cash prizes for dancers, a parade on July 4, and the nighttime Dance of the Mountain Gods.
The rites are related to the belief that soon after the creation of the world, White Painted Woman appeared in the east as a beautiful young woman, moved to the west, and disappeared when she was old. On the first and last days of the ceremonial, the girls must run around a basket four times, symbolically going through the four stages of life (infancy, childhood, adulthood, and old age). On the last day, their faces are painted with white clay and they enact the role of White Painted Woman, taking on her qualities and preparing for a rewarding adult life. On each of the four nights, the girls dance in the Holy Lodge, which was set up on the first day, while singers sing of the creation and beat time with deer-hoof rattles. The celebrations also involve feasting and elaborate ceremonial dresses.
In the 1800s, the U.S. government forbade the Apaches to congregate, but in 1911 decreed that they could congregate on July 4 to celebrate the nation's birthday. The Apaches then chose that date for their most important cultural ritual as an insult to their conquerors.
CONTACTS:
Mescalero Apache Tribe
P.O. Box 227
Mescalero, NM 88340
505-464-4494; fax: 505-464-9191
SOURCES:
DictWrldRel-1989, p. 531
EncyNatAmerRel-2001, p. 102
HolSymbols-2009, p. 32
IndianAmer-1989, p. 301