What is the White Mountain Apache Tribe?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
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  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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The White Mountain Apache Tribe are the descendants of the native peoples of central Arizona. Today, between 12,000 and 15,000 members of the tribe live in nine Apache communities on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. The modern Apache tribe, for the most part, no longer adheres to its traditional nomadic lifestyle, but now enjoys an economy based mostly on tourism. The White Mountain Apache Tribe, however, continues to keep alive its traditional beliefs and customs.

The White Mountain Apache Reservation was founded on 9 November 1891, by Executive Order of the President of the United States. It was originally called the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The White Mountain Apache Reservation once included the San Carlos Apache Reservation. These two reservations were separated by Congressional Act in 1897, and remain separated today.

The White Mountain Apache Reservation covers 1.6 million acres in central Arizona. The counties of Gila, Navajo, and Apache make up the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Most of the citizens of the tribe live in Whiteriver, the capital of the tribal government. Other major communities on the reservation include Hon-Dah, East Fork, Seven Mile, Cedar Creek, and McNary. The White Mountain Apache Tribe offers public education to its young people.


The White Mountain Apache Tribe are considered a sovereign nation, with its own tribal government. The executive offices are Tribal Chairman and Vice Chairman. A Tribal Council, consisting of the Tribal Chairman, Vice Chairman and nine members of Council, governs the tribe. Council members are elected by popular vote. Members serve four-year terms of office.

Tourism, casino gambling and recreation form the basis of the White Mountain Apache Tribe's modern economy. Outdoor enthusiasts are generally encouraged to take advantage of the reservation's skiing, hiking, camping, and whitewater rafting opportunities. Hunters typically enjoy the opportunity to hunt Big Horn sheep, elk, and other game on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Anglers might enjoy fishing for trout in the reservation's many streams and waterways.

The Sunrise Park Ski Resort typically offers outdoor activities in both summer and winter. Enthusiasts might enjoy camping, hiking, mountain biking, and skiing there. The Hon-Dah Resort Casino usually offers visitors to the reservation the chance to enjoy casino gambling.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe generally continue to preserve their traditional culture. The Apache Cultural Center and Museum attempts to preserve the history and culture of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. They typically rely on preserving oral histories and objects of archeological and historical interest. They also sometimes offer modern Apache artists the opportunity to showcase their work. Walking tours and other community events may help keep Apache culture alive.


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