Becoming Woman: Apache Female Puberty Rites
with Tika Yupanqui
Machu Picchu Seminar Series Chat Transcript
January 14, 1999  9-10:30 pm


20:58 Nimue Cormac: Hello. Is it time for the talk on Apache rites yet?
21:00 Tika Yupanqui: Becoming Woman Apache Puberty  Seminar starting in three minutes.  Web pages at
21:01 Dex Cusi: Hi
21:02 Aurora Inca: Good evening, everyone
21:02 Tika Yupanqui:  Who's here....Aurora, Nimue, Dex....
21:03 Neenah Amaru enters...
21:04 Tika Yupanqui: Hello Neenah. I'll wait two more minutes and see who else shows up. (It's nice to see all my loyal supporters here!)
21:04Dex Cusi: Hello all.
21:05 Tika Yupanqui: Well, folks, we have one male at this female puberty rite! Shall we let him in? (grin!)
21:05 Dreamwalker MorningStar enters...
21:05 Neenah Amaru: Greetings Tika, Dex, Nimue, and Aurora!
21:06Dreamwalker MorningStar: Forgive me Tika, I got dumped and had to come back in the hard way.
21:06 Neenah Amaru: *But how many are 'hiding'?*
21:06 Tika Yupanqui: Welcome Dreamwalker. Just waiting another minute to start. Web pages at (which you can open in another window if you wish)
21:06Aurora Inca: Kokopelli decided not to sit in on this one with me......girl stuff, eeww
21:06 Neenah Amaru: And welcome, Dreamwalker!
21:07 Neenah Amaru: Those web pages are fantastic, Tika! It was a really well-done!
21:08 Tika Yupanqui: Thankyou, Neenah. I learned a lot putting the web pages together...but it's difficult because I haven't personally observed an Apache puberty ceremony.
21:08 Tika Yupanqui: In fact, I want to start by saying that I'm speaking entirely as an outsider, attempting to respect Apache tradition and the sacredness of the ceremony, but knowing that I may make some mistakes because I haven't participated in such a ceremony myself.
21:09 Tika Yupanqui: My references are four books I read on the subject, including extensive interviews with Apaches, several web sites, and correspondence with an Apache woman. 
21:10 Tika Yupanqui: The Sunrise Ceremony of na'ii'ees is the sacred ceremony that Changing Woman,  also called White Painted Woman gave to girls
21:10 Neenah Amaru: Yes, you made that clear on the webpages. I think it was a very insightful representation...
21:10 Tika Yupanqui: experiencing their first menstruation to help them prepare for womanhood. It's origin is very much related to sacred Apache myths.
21:11 Tika Yupanqui: It is an arduous four day ceremony (sometimes celebrated as two days) which approximately 1/3 of all Apache girls today experience.
21:11 Tika Yupanqui: In the process they experience their own connection to their spiritual heritage, their physical endurance, the accepance of their community, 
21:12 Tika Yupanqui: and usually their newly discovered healing powers. They also learn about menstruation and the role of woman in their culture. And the whole time, they are honored and revered as Changing Woman or White Painted Woman herself, as a manifestation of the goddess.
21:14 Tika Yupanqui: This ceremony was actually banned for more than half a century but once more allowed when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed in 1978; as a result, more and more Apache girls are once again openly having their puberty ceremonies - which by the way are very physically demanding and VERY expensive. 
21:14 Tika Yupanqui: The Navajo also have a similar ceremony, called the Kinaalda, which includes some of the same rituals, but some different ones as well....I'm going to stop now and see if there are any questions so far. 
21:15 Dex Cusi: The ceremonies are supported by the women or are they imposed by the male  structure?
21:16 Tika Yupanqui: Dex, they are entirely supported by woman...but the men participate too. In fact the medicine man is one of the primary leaders, and the Gans Mountain Dancers. All honor sacred womanhood. We probably see here more respect and reverence for the feminine than in most other cultures, including many other Native American cultures. 
21:18 Nimue Cormac: Were the ceremonies banned because of religion or to "keep the Indians in their place"?
21:18 Tika Yupanqui: Changing Woman was the first child of First Man and First Woman, born of union with the sun. She is mother of two of the first men, but she is revered most of all.
21:19 Tika Yupanqui: Nimue, I suspect for both reasons (Dreamwalker, you can clarify this more). It was part of the government's attempt to assimilate the Indians and I suspect the Christian church's desire to stamp out "native american paganism"...Dreamwalker, any comment on the banning of native american ceremonies throughout most of this century?
21:20Dreamwalker MorningStar: The government feared Native Peoples ceremonies as they did not understand them.
21:20 Nimue Cormac: What exactly is the medicine man's part in the ceremony?
21:21 Tika Yupanqui: He conducts the singing of 32 prayers a day, some about 1/2 hour long....and instructs her in each stage of the ceremony. Her sponsor godmother also instructs her throughout the ceremony, and a woman who has been through the ceremony dances with her as a companion and helps her during her occasional "rests".
21:21 Nimue Cormac: I mean this is a very female rite. How does he fit into the whole scheme of things?
21:22 Tika Yupanqui: Actually this is not a kind of female rite that excludes men at all. Men participate just as much as women....There is really little secrecy too, except during the four days afterwards when the godmother instructs the girl in the secrets of becoming woman - menstruation, sexuality etc.
21:23 Nimue Cormac: What does the girl herself have to do to prepare for this ceremony?
21:24 Tika Yupanqui: Actually the entire extended family of the girl is involved in preparing for the ceremony. They have to build the lodge, and prepare food for four days for the entire tribe, and the ritual objects that the girl carries often have to be made. So male relatives help as well as female relatives. And the Ga'An or Mountain Spirits that arrive each night to dance and enact sacred stories are male.
21:24 Dreamwalker MorningStar enters...
21:25 Tika Yupanqui: One must realize how tough all members of the Apache tribe had to be to survive in the desert in very hostile territory and later when hunted by U.S. government. The women had to be very strong, and to be warriors. They really were not as subservient as women were in some tribes. 
21:26 Nimue Cormac: Thats quite different from our culture where men and women have such distinct and differing roles.
21:27 Tika Yupanqui: BTW, Dreamwalker keeps getting booted out...She telegrammed me to say that the govt. felt that if Native Americans were deprived of their ceremonies and traditions, they would be a lot easier to manage....(another tactic aimed at destroying their culture)
21:27 Ardanna Morna enters...
21:27 Neenah Amaru: Your pages say that nothing will touch the lips of these young women; or is that only liquids? Can they eat any solid food?
21:28 Dex Cusi enters...
21:28 Ardanna Morna: Greetings to all of you, am Im allowed to join you to listen a little, Im interested...
21:28 Tika Yupanqui: Well, Apache women do have somewhat different roles than men...I mean their motherhood is important, and they do a lot of the food preparation...but they are not expected to be softspoken and subservient. Physical and emotional strength is highly valued by the Apache for both women and men.
21:29Dreamwalker MorningStar: An insight here, most Native woman were held in the highest regard. In fact The Clan Mothers held more power than the chiefs among most Tribes.
21:30 Tika Yupanqui: Neenah, there are some prohibitions that are part of the ritual that might seem strange to us. Like they can't feed themselves....can only drink from a straw. They can eat, but the sponsor or companion must feed them. And they can't scratch themselves - they must use a scratching stick. (Back in the old days, there was lice...but also, since lots of clay, pollen and cornmeal are dumped all over them for four days and they're not allowed to wash, and they're outside in desert country, dancing about 12 hours a day, I'll bet they certainly feel itchy!)
21:31 Tika Yupanqui: Welcome, Ardanna. Feel free to listen and ask questions or make comments. And you can open my web pages in another window...
21:32 Ardanna Morna: Thank you, first I will listen, than if I have to say something I will speak up.
21:31 Marlee Manach enters...
21:32 Tika Yupanqui: Yes, as Dreamwalker says, women are held in high regard in many native traditions, and especially honored for their "creative" birthgiving role....and sometimes because they themselves embody the First Woman.
21:33 Neenah Amaru: Yes that seems to be the one underlying factor to all this! It's a matter of sacrifice, and how far one is willing to go to achieve it.....
21:34 Tika Yupanqui: Welcome, Marlee.....One thing that amazes me is how arduous the physical component of the ceremony is. Consider the dancing. They must dance at least 3 hours a day and then at night too. The first night they dance for 2 hours, the second night 4 hours, the third night 6 hours, and the fourth night, 8 hours. And then there's the running toward the east. The first day it's 1/2 mile...usually the last day, it's a 5 mile run. Imagine!
21:34 Marlee Manach: *sorry to be late*
21:35Dreamwalker MorningStar: Native Peoples moved about quite often. Many women gave birth while traveling and did not stop except to give birth.
21:35 Tika Yupanqui: Also about preparation...the girls often began a physical regime of daily running before they even started menstruating....sometimes a year's worth of training to build the endurance.....
21:35 Ardanna Morna: To give birth to a child is natural. But most of the people today are already too degenerated to give birth without help. Im working at a gynaecologyl clinic and I see that proplem every day.
21:35 Nimue Cormac: You said these were similar but different from the Navajo puberty ceremony. In what way?
21:36 Tika Yupanqui: Nimue, the Navajo ceremony is not quite as big or extensive. It also involves considerable running, and "molding" or massaging the girl into Changing Woman, and many prayers and songs....
21:36 Tika Yupanqui: But it doesn't include as much dance, and the central focus is the making of a giant cake which is cooked in the ground and served to the sun.
21:37 Tika Yupanqui: The girl must make the cornmeal from scratch, grinding about 120 pounds of it during the ceremony to make a cake about 4-5 feet across and a foot deep, and to create a very specially made corn husk topping for it. Eventually after giving the first piece to the Sun, she serves it all to her people 
21:37 Aurora Inca: What would happen if a girl couldn't handle all of that?
21:39 Tika Yupanqui: Aurora, that question interests me too.But you have to realize that this ceremony honors her; it isn't meant to humiliate her or push her beyond her limits.  She learns to stretch her limits...but the Apache certainly don't want the girl to pass out ....Also I've read about girls with disabilities of sorts who have such ceremonies, so I imagine that the ceremony is adapted to the girl in question.
21:40 Nimue Cormac: Weve been told for generations that we need a doctor. Birth is relegated to the same status as disease 
21:41 Aurora Inca enters...
21:41 Tika Yupanqui: The more a girl is able to dance and endure all the various rituals, the stronger she feels and the more self-confidence she gains. But how much each girl is expected to do probably depends on the individual girl....Also, these days, often several girls have their ritual together, so that their families can share expenses which can amount to $10,000....
21:42 Neenah Amaru: I wondered if that figure was per person or all inclusive.......
21:42 Tika Yupanqui: It has always amazed me too ...all the stories of Native American women who give birth while on the trail, stop to "drop" the child, then keep going......
21:43Dreamwalker MorningStar: That's a natural part of life Tika when it is not interfered with.
21:43 Neenah Amaru: Having been thru that experience, I find it difficult to believe.....
21:43 Neenah Amaru: I could not do that and keep on going........
21:44 Nimue Cormac: I don't know about you but I couldn't run 5 miles after dancing 6 hours either
21:44 Tika Yupanqui: Well  in regard to the cost....some girls also have a 2 day ceremony instead of 4 day ceremony to cut down on cost. But the costume costs about $1000 per girl, and the medicine man and godmother and ga'an dancers etc are paid, and food is served to the entire tribe for four days (that's a lot of food) and all the ritual objects are made....Of course the entire extended family chips in on the cost though....But as you can imagine, most Apache familes are not likely to be upper middle class and have money to burn. They may save up for years to be able to give their daughters even 2 day ceremonies  with other girls.
21:45 Marlee Manach enters...
21:46 Dreamwalker MorningStar: Everything for Native Peoples was natural, their entire life was one ever just sat around for long periods as we do today
21:46 Tika Yupanqui: One part of the ritual, by the way, is the girl enacting Changing Woman being impregnated by the Sun. You can see the posture on some of the pictures on my web site. When she is kneeling, leaning back with her hands up, she is letting the Sun impregnate her. Later, Changing Woman then gives birth to her first son, Killer of Enemies.
21:47 Tika Yupanqui: Nimue, they do get to rest....SOME, between dances. But they don't get to sleep much either..... Remember though that the entire tribe is honoring them, and sending them energy, and they are dancing most of the time alongside a companion who is encouraging them and supporting them. They have the love and support and energy of hundreds of people cheering them on. That's incredibly empowering. It's so empowering, as are the prayers etc. most of the girls do experience their own genuine healing abilities the last day, when as Changing Woman incarnate, they heal tribe members.
21:48 Nimue Cormac: Part of your story about  Changing Woman said she was reborn, or did I misunderstand? Do the Apaches believe in reincarnation?
21:49 Tika Yupanqui: Interesting question, Nimue. I don't think I've seen any reference to Apaches and reincarnation...but you have to understand that they did not have an otherworldly tradition and probably didn't care either way. Everything was geared toward survival in THIS WORLD. But the Changing Woman myth says that each day Changing Woman at the end of her life walked toward the Sun and met her young self approaching her, and became young again. Each day starts with the young Changing Woman....
21:50 Nimue Cormac: Perhaps its a reference to each new day being a new start.
21:51 Tika Yupanqui: Right, Nimue. That's more what it's about. Endings leading back to new beginnings.
21:52 Tika Yupanqui: About rest: she does get breaks between different parts of the dances.....and another part of the ceremony is that the girl is "molded" or massaged each day, into Changing Woman herself. And as she becomes Changing Woman, she becomes capable of healing others. 
21:50 Tika Yupanqui: Apparently being touched and blessed by the girl as Changing Woman is a very special experience and many tribe members do experience real healings.
21:51 Nimue Cormac: What kind of healing?
21:52 Dex Cusi enters...
21:52 Tika Yupanqui: In regard to healing, Nimue, I don't think there have been GREAT miracles, but the girls do laying on of hands, and tribal members claim that their arthritis improves as a result, or their migraines disappear etc.
21:53 Tika Yupanqui: Other questions?
21:54 Dex Cusi: Do other southwestern people like Zuni and Hopi have similar rituals?
21:56 Tika Yupanqui: Yes, Dex, many southwestern tribes have female puberty rituals, and some are similar. Some are more rigorous, some are less. I can't give you any details however about those other trimbes. The Apache rituals  (and the Navajo) are the most known and probably of more central importance in the tribe. The Sunrise Ceremony is one of the cornerstones of  Apache traditions; it is not a secondary ceremony.
21:56 Ardanna Morna: In the old path Im following myself, there you will be reborn during a ritual too. The ceremonies are different, but I know what you are talking about.
21:57 Tika Yupanqui: One difference in the southwestern tribes from some of the other tribes is that although a menstruating woman is taboo in some ways, her menstruation is viewed by the Apaches as sacred. In fact, some of the participants in the ceremony wear red paint in honor of her menstrual blood.
21:58Dreamwalker MorningStar: And in most Tribes that blood is so Sacred it is always given back directly to Mother Earth.
21:59 Tika Yupanqui: One thing I'd like you all to do is IMAGINE going through this ceremony. Women, imagine what a difference it might have made in your own experience of yourself as woman, or of your experience of menstruation. 
21:59 Nimue Cormac: Isn't it interesting that the more "primitive" people recognise the importance of woman?
22:00 Tika Yupanqui: In many tribes, the First Being is a Great Mother, a Woman....
22:00 Aurora Inca: True, Tika. Not to be crude, but it is very different from our own culture where the only response to our first "period" is being handed a kotex and being told to go clean up.
22:00 Nimue Cormac: A lot different attitude than the "curse"
22:00 Tika Yupanqui: Totally true, Aurora. This is part of what interests me so much about this ceremony. For some of us, there was mostly shame and embarrassment when we begin to menstruate.
22:01 Marlee Manach enters...
22:01 Ardanna Morna: For me these highly educated people are `primitive`, they have lost their relationship to Mother Nature long ago.
22:01 Tika Yupanqui: I remember trying to hide my bodily changes from everyone....and find it hard to imagine celebrating them publicly and being honored for them.....or viewed as more of  a sacred being as a result.
22:03 Aurora Inca enters...
22:04 Tika Yupanqui: I also think that the ceremony itself could catalyze an altered state of consciousness in many of these young women, so they experience a strength and spiritual connection that they never knew possible before. Many say it changes them permanently. They become WOMEN in four days. (Interesting, there is no adolescence, as we have for years. The sense of self moves from CHILDHOOD to WOMANHOOD)
22:04Dreamwalker MorningStar: Native Peoples celebrate according to their Original Instructions.......which have been handed down for thousands of years.
22:04 Nimue Cormac: No matter what your beliefs we were made as God/Godess wanted us to be. We should be proud of that. I first realized that when a good friend said to me, "God don't make junk"
22:06 Tika Yupanqui: Yes, as Dreamwalker says...and in the original myth, White Painted Woman/ Changing Woman is atop a mountain when she receives guidance about the puberty rite that she is to establish for her first daughter. This is the rite that is then passed down to all Apaches...
22:06 Dreamwalker MorningStar: To Native Peoples everything is Sacred...everything.
22:08 Tika Yupanqui: One thing I wanted to tell you all too is that outsiders can attend the Sunrise Ceremony. Two tribes, the White Mountain Apache of the Fort Apache reservation in Arizona and the Mescalero Apache of New Mexico have Sunrise ceremonies that are public around July 4th weekend every year.
22:09 Tika Yupanqui: That is when families of several girls who started menstruating during the past year join together and have a joint puberty ceremony for the girls, which outsiders may attend, provided they are respectful and observe the "rules" (like don't take pictures without permission, or step in the sacred areas etc.). I hope someday to attend one of these ceremonies.
22:09 Nimue Cormac: Just wondering. Is there something similar for bots?
22:10 Tika Yupanqui: Boys, Nimue? (grin). I think bots are computer robot programs!
22:11 Nimue Cormac: bots=boys
22:11 Tika Yupanqui: The Apaches don't have a puberty ceremony for boys. Whereas in many other traditions, the boys puberty ceremonies are primary (like visions quests etc.). 
22:12 Marlee Manach: You mean boys just....become men?  Nothing noting the passage of time?
22:13 Nimue Cormac: Interesting that women's ceremonies are the highlight of the year and men just become.....
22:14 Tika Yupanqui: Yes, Nimue, the role of the men in the Sunrise ceremony is to honor and support the girls....the females.....
22:15Dreamwalker MorningStar: I might add that a Vision Quest is also a very grueling thing, consisting of four days of preparation and prayer, a Sweat Lodge and the four days fasting on a mountain top alone
22:16 Tika Yupanqui: Right, many other kinds of puberty ceremonies like Vision Quests are very grueling. But as far as I know, Dreamwalker, originally in most tribes that had Vision Quests, they were for men...though I do believe that some women do have vision quests now, among the Sioux and Cheyenne (correct me if I'm wrong)
22:16 Dreamwalker MorningStar: What I was answering was the question about boys just *becoming* men
22:18 Marlee Manach: Thank you Dreamwalker. 
22:18 Tika Yupanqui: One thing I wonder today is how many white girls grow up feeling deep down that they are second -class, or carrying some shame about their bodies or femaleness. Our culture is still demeaning toward woman. Stay-at-home women who are mothers are considered to NOT be working, and often don't even have any disposable income of their own. And I wonder how white women's concepts of themselves would differ if they/we had been through the Sunrise ceremony.
22:18 Nimue Cormac: I don't know any job harder than being a mother
22:18 Marlee Manach: Actually, we stay-at-home mothers work harder than the ones that farm out the kids and go to work outside the home.
22:18 Ardanna Morna: Making somebody think she is second makes women handle not much easier, than  strong woman, knowing who she is.
22:18 Tika Yupanqui: I have never been a mother, but I honor all of you mothers, and know that you work VERY hard, and are on duty all the time....I also, in social work school, did research on single parent families, and learned that single parent men in the U.S. are really honored and valued and earn twice as much as single parent women who are taken for granted and simply EXPECTED to be impossibly self-sacrificing all the time.
22:19 Nimue Cormac: Thats for sure Ardanna
22:20 Aurora Inca: Yes, Tika. From my own experience, a single father who takes time off from work to attend school functions is "a good parent", a single mom doing the same thing is "not a dedicated to her job"
22:20 Tika Yupanqui: You know I also imagine that the government and Christian church didn't want to support the Sunrise Ceremony either....because it would  make not only for uppity native americans but a bunch of uppity women who thought they were sacred! I mean imagine, they might even expect to be treated like human beings....
22:20 Dreamwalker MorningStar: I am sorry Tika, but I must take my leave....I have to make 48 cupcakes for a kindergarten party tomorrow..........LOL
22:21 Tika Yupanqui: Go to it, Dreamwalker Mother, we honor your womanhood!
22:21 Marlee Manach: VERY large kindergarten class!
22:21 Nimue Cormac: Anything but that Tika. Human being. The nerve
22:21 Dreamwalker MorningStar: You have done a fantastic job Tika......truly!
22:21 Ardanna Morna: Women all over the world have the same problem. Whenever there is a woman who feels second-class, I try to help her giving her strength!
22:22 Ardanna Morna: Well,  Dreamwalker is a  good Mam.
22:23 Dreamwalker MorningStar exits...
22:23 Dex Cusi enters...
22:23 Tika Yupanqui: Ardanna, where are you? What country?
22:24 Ardanna Morna: Im from Austria, but Ive been raised in Turkey and Iran.
22:25 Ardanna Morna: I came back to my country, but until now Im still an outsider.
22:25 Tika Yupanqui: Well I'm happy to meet you Ardanna, and appreciate all of you who have come as well. Any other questions or comments (welcome again, Dex)
22:25 Marlee Manach: No questions.  I enjoyed being here, even if I kept being kicked out!  *s*
22:26 Nimue Cormac enters...
22:26 Tika Yupanqui: Sometimes I think that technology itself is a training ceremony in frustration tolerance and endurance, right folks? And in adaptability and flexibility.
22:27 Marlee Manach: You can say that again....
22:27 Ardanna Morna: I agree!!!!! LOL
22:27 Dex Cusi: so true.
22:28 Nimue Cormac: Thankyou Tika. Great job!!!!
22:28 Tika Yupanqui: I have a fantasy of creating a ritual for honoring womanhood, not the womanhood of heroines of the past like in Celebration of Woman, but each of us recognizing and acknowleding our own strengths as females, and not just as nurturers.....don't want to get too "new agey" though.....
22:28 Ardanna Morna: Tika, it really would be nice to talk once together if you have time!
22:29 Marlee Manach: "new agey"?
22:29 Tika Yupanqui:  Anyway, I'll be here for another ten minutes or so if anyone wants to continue. Thank you all for coming and for your excellent questions. I don't know all about you but I really learn from questions, from having to wrack my brain to answer them - GRIN!
22:30 Tika Yupanqui: Marlee, by "new agey" I mean too much "new age" let's all say affirmations about how wonderful we are and how life is love. The kind of simplistic stuff that doesn't acknowledge the darker or harder side of life.
22:31 Tika Yupanqui: The spirituality of the Apache was/is anything but airy-fairy. It's very physical and grounded and communal....
22:31 Marlee Manach: Ok.  I'm not into that.  I thought that was over and done with in the 60's!  LOL
22:32 Marlee Manach: *Oh, I see you noticed I am from Tara*  *smiles)
22:32 Nimue Cormac: every thing old is new again
22:33 Marlee Manach: What goes around comes around
22:33 Ardanna Morna: That New Age thing... I think these people only talk a lot but when it comes to action, they are are all gone.....
22:33 Marlee Manach enters...
22:34 Tika Yupanqui: Actually I think the Internet is a recurrence of  the personal growth orientation of the 70s....but more now universal, worldwide. A giant commune in much giving and receiving.
22:34 Nimue Cormac: bye everybody. See you soon.
22:34 Thunderhawk Amaru enters...
22:35 Tika Yupanqui: For some of us who don't have strong racial or tribal or family ties, we are finding new communities and traditions here. Our Celebration of Woman last weekend was a new kind of ritual for a new kind of community....
22:35 Marlee Manach: Bye Nimue
22:35 Tika Yupanqui: goodbye Nimue, thanks again
22:36 Tika Yupanqui: Transcript should be available at top left for anyone who came late. And web pages are at
GO TO BECOMING A WOMAN: Apache Puberty Web Pages
GO TO Celebration of Women
GO TO Tika/Tracy's Ancient Sites pages