The San Carlos tradition of holding Sunrise Dances is unique to the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The Sunrise Dance Ceremony is a four day rite-of-transition for young Apache girls which typically takes place from March through October. The "na'ii'ees(preparing her, or getting her ready) is an ancient practice, unique to Apaches which surrounds the myth of the Changing Woman who is a powerful figure in Apache culture and is believed to grant longevity. The power of Changing Woman is transferred to the pubescent girl through songs sung by the Diiyin (one who has power).

A medicine man is joined by other tribal members in singing a series of songs, up to 32 which are believed to have first been sung by Changing Woman.

These songs are collectively known as gohzhoosih-or songs of beauty and goodness. it is believed that the power resides in the girl for four days after the ceremony and during this period she is able to cure the sick and bring rain. In the early 1900's the US government banned Native American Spiritual practices and rituals, and as a result, the Sunrise Ceremony was considered an illegal act. Although the practice diminished, it continued throughout the 1900's albeit secretly.

Today, the practice is strongly entrenched into Apache life and dances are held almost every weekend throughout the Spring. it has been said that the practice "teaches Apache values of language, culture, food and love, prayers, respect, wisdom, co-operations, appreciation and endurance."

The dance itself requires months of planning, and with an average cost of a dance ranging from $5000 to $80000 it is no small feat for a family to host a dance for their daughter.

A Sunrise Dance typically begins on Friday afternoon with the first of many gift exchanges, and proceeds through Sunday when the Crown dancers paint the girl. it is an act of purification and serves to wash away any bad history and clear the path ahead for future blessings.

Note: Witnessing a Sunrise Dance is a unique and powerful experience and one which provides a glimpse into the rich culture of the San Carlos Apaches. For "outsiders" it requires an invitation from a family or tribal member to attend. but as their guest, you are then enfolded into the family of dancers and fed, entertained and hosted as a member. (Photos and Text from LC Gross:"Apache Ceremony" GMT April 2006)


Responses to "Apache Ceremony Celebrates Women (Video)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    That's close to the way I did it !

  2. mAlice says:

    Thank you for sharing a bit of your culture with us, I appreciate having a little insight into your ways, l love the fact that you carry on with tradition because in my eyes tradition is the way to keep us grounded, helps us to identify who we are as a people and no one can ever take that away from us, nga mihi nui, (big ups to u) kia ora

  3. SueB says:

    Thank you for sharing that.

  4. Bright says:

    Very beautiful, I will always cherish the Sunrise Dance in my memory from 30 years ago. ♥

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am so grateful for this sharing...the beauty brought me to tears, and gave me a deeper insight into Apache culture. White girls have nothing so powerful or beautiful to guide them into their lives as adult women!

  6. Unknown says:

    My soul weeps in grief for what was lost - AND - celebrates in joy to see it carried on - those soul of one set to the wind...

  7. Unknown says:

    Beautiful tradition, with history, and culture, and real meaning. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Unknown says:

    Thanks for sharing your video with me. I really liked it. 8

  9. *~~Chris says:

    It's time that America gave the real Americans their ball back. It's time Australia gave the real Australians their ball back too.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How wonderful to see the transition from girlhood to woman joyfully and respectfully celebrated by the whole community. It brought tears to my eyes. Many blessings.

  11. Unknown says: this particular dance unique to the San Carlos? my fiance is Coyotero...

  12. Beautiful !!!!!! ~~~~ Sacred Women !!!! <3

  13. What a beautiful tradition, with history, and culture, and real meaning - and to see the transition from girlhood to woman joyfully and respectfully celebrated is amazing. It gives the girls Real meaning to becoming an adult. she can be well grounded and with purpose.
    to many young women of today never have or know those things.. your young women are truly lucky to be in your culture..
    thank you so much for sharing so that we can learn..

  14. Louise C says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful and moving part of your culture with us. It is truly a wonderful ritual that should have never been banned in the first place and I am deeply touched you shared this coming of age ritual for young women filled with joy respect with us.

Write a comment