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Signals – Smoke Signals of the Apaches – Sign Language

The following information was obtained by Dr. W.J. Hoffman from the Apache chiefs under the title of Tinnean, (Apache I):

The materials used in making smoke of sufficient density and color consist of pine or cedar boughs, leaves and grass, which can nearly always be obtained in the regions occupied by the Apaches of Northern New Mexico. These Indians state that they employ but three kinds of signals, each of which consists of columns of smoke, numbering from one to three or more.

Alarm

This signal is made by causing three or more columns of smoke to ascend, and signifies danger or the approach of an enemy, and also requires the concentration of those who see them. These signals are communicated from one camp to another, and the most distant bands are guided by their location. The greater the haste desired the greater the number of columns of smoke. These are often so hastily made that they may resemble puffs of smoke, and are caused by throwing heaps of grass and leaves upon the embers again and again.

Attention

This signal is generally made by producing one continuous column, and signifies attention for several purposes, viz, when a band had become tired of one locality, or the grass may have been consumed by the ponies, or some other cause necessitated removal, or should an enemy be reported, which would require farther watching before a decision as to future action would be made. The intention or knowledge of anything unusual would be communicated to neighboring bands by causing one column of smoke to ascend.

Establishment of a Camp; Quiet; Safety

When a removal of camp has been made, after the signal for Attention has been given, and the party have selected a place where they propose to remain until there may be a necessity or desire for their removal, two columns of smoke are made, to inform their friends that they propose to remain at that place. Two columns are also made at other times during a long continued residence, to inform the neighboring bands that a camp still exists, and that all is favorable and quiet.

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