About Playing Cards of the Apaches

Based on four decades of research by Virginia and Harold Wayland, here is the definitive history of how Spanish explorers and colonists introduced a new diversion to Native American cultures already familiar with a myriad of gambling games. This is a thoroughly documented and lavishly illustrated study based on more than 100 packs of Apache cards in museums and private collections around the world.

Playing Cards of the Apaches

First Edition of 1100
Hardback with jacket, 8.5 x 11 inches
320 pages
170 color photographs
30 historical photographs
4 maps
Dozens of line drawings
Detailed index

Designed by Dana Levy, Perpetua Press, Santa Barbara, California. Printed in China by Toppan Printing Co. ISBN 0-9787746-0-4.

An Introduction essay tells us about the Western Apache elders and a White anthropologist in the 1930s who told us much of what we know about the cultural context of cards and card games among nineteenth century Apaches. The images and iconography seen on cards are discussed within the larger context of other types of early Apache art, along with the role that these century-old cards play in the modern world.

The European group with which Apaches had the greatest contact came from Spain, so in Chapter 1 we turn to that country to find the origins of the card designs copied by Apaches. However, the games and cards of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Spain and Mexico are not those familiar to most modern English-speakers. Therefore, we also briefly explore how and when Spaniards first learned of playing cards.

Chapter 2 examines the historical circumstances that necessitated the manufacture of rawhide cards by Apaches. What were the cultural attitudes that made worthwhile the considerable effort necessary to produce their own cards? Were card games as popular among other American Indian groups as they were among Apaches, and did other tribes also make their own cards, whether out of necessity or choice?

Of the Apache packs that have come to our attention, the provenience information available indicates that the vast majority were made by only two tribes: Western Apaches and Chiricahua Apaches. In Chapter 3 we examine the place and nature of card playing in the cultures of these two groups, as reconstructed from historical accounts, and the specifics of playing-card manufacture.

In Chapter 4 the adaptation and metamorphosis of Spanish/Mexican suit signs by Apache artists are examined in detail. Specific examples illustrate the various cultural influences (Spanish, Mexican, American, and Apache) to be seen in the resulting Apache compositions.

In Chapter 5 we survey over 100 packs or partial packs. The history of each pack, to the extent that it is known, is recounted. Photographs of representative cards from each pack document the work of individual artists, and sketches of design motifs are presented that may aid in comparative studies.

Appendix A describes the handful of card packs made in the Spanish/Mexican tradition by other Native American groups, including Navajos, the Yuma/Quechan, what may be a Ute or Mescalero pack, and a pack made on buckskin from Taos Pueblo.

Appendix B illustrates Apache rawhide card lookalikes. "Cousins" from South American and the Philippines also inspired by the introduction of paper playing cards by Spanish explorers and colonists in those parts of the world. And what may be either innocent copies or intentional counterfeits to be found on internet auction sites.

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