Identification. The name "Apache" first appears in the historical record in 1598. There is no undisputed etymology, although Zuni is often cited as its source. The Western Apache include the subtribes White Mountain, San Carlos, Cibecue, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. They were defined as a single cultural unit because dialect variation among them was minor, they were horticultural to a degree, and they were linked through matrilineal clans, although they themselves recognized no such superordinate level of organization. All used the word Ndeé , or "man, person, Indian," to refer to their specific subtribe, but they did not necessarily include the other "Western Apache" in such a designation.
Location. Since the late seventeenth century the Western Apache have occupied the mountains of the Mogollon Rim, and the high desert transition zone of the Colorado Plateau, including the headwaters of the Verde, Salt, and Little Colorado rivers, and part of the Gila River. The area is between 32° and 35° N and 109° and 112° W. Today, most Western Apache live on the Fort Apache (White Mountain), San Carlos, Camp Verde, and Payson reservations.
Demography. According to the 1980 census the Indian populations of the three major reservations were Fort Apache, 7,010; San Carlos, 6,013; and Camp Verde, 136. Estimates of the nineteenth-century population total less than 5,000.
Linguistic Affiliation. Western Apache is one of the Apachean (Southern Athapaskan) languages, classified in the Athapaskan stock of the NaDené phylum.