How to be a Chief, Leading Your People, and Asking Yourself Important Questions

By Jarrett Retz -October 15th, 2018

"And Nana went about telling us that we were Apaches and that we had been trained to suffer. 2" [...]

2 Eugene Chihuahua stated, "It is true that from early childhood Apaches were taught that they must endure suffering without complaint. It was seldom that a child old enough to walk and talk ever cried.

Eve Ball, Indeh: An Apache Odyssey

Recently, I have been reading Indeh: An Apache Odyssey by Eve Ball. I heard about the book through Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History 19 - Apache Tears". Dan Carlin seemed to marvel at some of the aspects of Apache's and how they were described by other people in their time.

Online descriptions of the book use a quote from R. David Edmunds:

"A fascinating account of Apache history and ethnography. All the narratives have been carefully chosen to illustrate important facets of the Apache experience. Moreover, they make very interesting reading....This is a major contribution to both Apache history and to the history of the Southwest....The book should appeal to a very wide audience. It also should be well received by the Native American community. Indeh is oral history at its best."

---R. David Edmunds, Utah Historical Quarterly

I marvel at some of the things I read in the narratives, and have respect for some of their lines of thought. I felt compelled to write a post on this subject because these people were very very tough. They had some customs, and ways of thinking, that reminded me of passages that I connected with Sebatian Junger's work. Many of these aspects collide along the intangible plain of manhood, responsibility, and priority.

I hope to shed some light on subject, so below I will pull together some of these important thoughts in regards to complaints, leadership, suffering, death, and priorities.

Apache Culture

I will not try to write about Apache culture as if I had uncovered it, or as if I had drawn many of these conclusions myself. So, I apologize in advance if it reads in that way. I will, however, try to reflect the thoughts as they have entered my mind, bounced around a little, then escaped through some sort of open window into fresh air.

Starting with the quote I opened with, the statement was said in a time that many of the Apaches were living as P.O.W's in the swamp lands of the South, dying of various diseases. It was mentioned multiple times before this that Apache children, or Apache's, did not complain. It might be clear to see the importance of this when you look at the area that the Apache covered.

They lived in the desert areas of the American southwest, and Northern Mexico, where they fought people from both countries. Before that, they fought the Spanish, and I am very sure that the whole time they had battles with other native tribes. Such extreme conditions would be cause for some extreme behavior. Dan Carlin described them as 'warrior people', or a 'warrior tribe', and found a description of them stating they were the tigers of the human race.

The message that formed in my mind was that they were preparing their children for this harsh environment; you are going to be tough. Reading about the ambushes, diseases, battles, starvation, among other deprivations, it only makes sense because if the children, or the people, were not tough there is no way they would be able to endure this kind of lifestyle. The people in the tribe needed to be tough in order to save the rest of the people, and continue the existence of their people. Here, we come across the first gem. Apache children were told not to complain or cry (probably pretty harshly) because it was in the best interest of the tribe.

Put in different words, it was for the existence and continuation of the people.

The chief is responsible for the continuation and wealth fare of the people, and who gets to be chief?

The chief, as Daklugie (son of a Juh, one of the last great Apache chiefs) would explain, is chosen by the people. There isn't a dictatorship, and it isn't necessarily always the same bloodline as the previous chief, but many times it was. Chieftainship was awarded to the man that could best lead the other men. It was to the person that provided for the tribe the means of survival to the people.

Juh, the father of Daklugie, was described in the book by another Apache as a great chief. In the end he told the warriors in his tribe that he could offer them only death in the end, but yet they still stayed and fought for him.

So how do you become someone that can lead other men? Courage. It seems the Apache's would insult the leaders of the American army because their leaders did not actually lead them into battle. It was the opposite with the Apache, the chief was at the front of the charge. He was the tip of the spear. Now, there are obvious reasons to not do this in certain kinds of warfare, but it is also just as plainly obvious that that's the reason other men would follow a chief!

It wasn't just the best warrior that was chief. He also had to provide for this people. The chief found sustenance and shelter. When there wasn't enough of either, the chief suffered the most. Daklugie understood this when he was a kid. Before they were old enough to be warriors the boys would line up to take the horses from the warriors when they returned from a raid to care for them. If you were at the front of the line you may be the first one to have a shot at getting the chief's horse, or a great warrior's horse. Daklugie, being the chief's son, was the very last in line, because that was chief-like.

Reading this book there is a powerful list the comes to mind regarding how to become chief, but it can be reworded in a more modern way to say, how to become a leader;

  1. Provide for your people (whatever that may be)
  2. Literally lead your people into battle (however abstract that battle may have become)
  3. Do not complain.

After going through all the points, it can be summed up even more succinctly as, do what is best for your people. Many times, for many tribes, this meant trying to make peace in the end with the U.S.

It might be difficult to imagine how someone could have the courage the lead men into battle, or how they could endure such terrible suffering. This questioning led me to recall something that Sebastian Junger had written in his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Tying it all together with Nietzsche & Sebastian Junger..

Sebastian Junger has done a lot of research on Native American culture, and has also taken criticism as a Native American romantic, but this quote from his book, Tribe, explains how someone could lead men into battle;

"What would you risk dying for—and for whom—is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves.”

This question was very easy for the chiefs of this tribe to answer. They would risk dying for their people. The number one priority is the continuation of the people, and not only that, it is something that they would die for. So, putting yourself at the front is less of question of how, but why.

The way I like to think about it is, if a chief made a decision, you knew it was made for his people. The decision almost doesn't warrant explanation because it can be seen that his priorities are so clear. Also, if anyone is going to take responsibility for the suffering, or endure the most suffering, it is the chief.

How can someone endure the suffering. Enter Nietzsche;

"If we have our own why in life, we shall get along with almost any how."

So you're probably not trying to be a chief, but you may want to be a leader. What can you do next? Ask yourself important questions.

  • What would you risk dying for, and for whom?
  • Who are your people?
  • How can you be a chief for them? (HINT: Look at list above)

And by no means are these easy questions to answer. You can see this by looking at our leaders, and look at the actions of people around us. I think these are very difficult things for people to answer, especially younger people. However, if there was ever a guide on how to be man, I think it would be impossible for it not include the qualities of a chief.

Media Referenced In This Post

Some of these are just links to Amazon because that's usually the first thing that comes up when I Google them anyway.

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