27 Aug 2018
The Apache are one of the most famous native American groups. Long before any coloniser set foot on American soil, the Apache were living in the northern territory. They witnessed the development of the new nation first-hand.
An era of colonial violence displaced many of the Apache. Around them, their home transformed into one of the most powerful nations in the modern world. But, against the odds, they have managed to continue their rich cultural traditions.
The Apache people are divided into thirteen tribes, each with its own unique identity. Each has an individual culture. However, there are a few things which all Apache tribes have in common.
It would be impossible not to mention their oppression at the hands of the USA and Mexico. The Apache, along with other native American peoples, suffered greatly at the hands of the colonists.
They are also bound together by their animistic world view. The Apache believe that animals, objects and even places can all possess their own spirit. They express their beliefs through certain ceremonies.
One ceremony, which is common to multiple tribes, symbolises the passage of young girls into womanhood. Rich in cultural symbolism, it is called 'the Sunrise Ceremony'.
The Sunrise Ceremony marks an important passage from child to womanhood. It is performed to strengthen the individual girl along with her entire tribe.
The ceremony revolves around the symbolic number four. It represents the four stages of life (infant, child, teen, adult), the four sacred mountains and the four directions of the land and of prayer.
The young woman is guided through four days of the ceremony and must overcome each 'sacred mountain'. She must demonstrate her commitment to the tribe in a show of tenacity. Without this, the other members of her tribe will not consider her to have fully entered womanhood.
On the twelfth and final day of the ceremony, the medicine man dines with the young woman. Then, finally, he gives her the gift of her Apache name, which she will keep for the rest of her life.
One particular tribe begins their Sunrise Ceremony with a special ritual. The young woman must run four laps between her tipi and a traditional woven basket. Indeed, the tribe takes its name from from the Mexican Spanish word for 'little basket': jicarilla.
But what does all this have to do with the aronia berry and its health benefits?
Aronia berries were an important part of the diet of many native Americans. They usually ate the berries raw, or dried them and mixed them into pemmican. Pemmican is type of food cake which contains dried meat, tallow and berries.
The Jicarilla would dry the fruit and press it into cakes, which they could stockpile for the difficult winter months. They would also mash the fresh berries and make a jam, or simply leave them to ferment to make cherry wine.
They made sure to use every part of the plant, even making a form of medicinal tea with its bark and roots.
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