Hand-painted on horsehide rectangles, the 40-card deck at first resembled the Spanish deck from which it was adopted.
The Chiricahuas and Western Apaches later came to design their own cards and invented new games and new tales of how they learned of the cards, said Alan Ferg, archivist at the Arizona State Museum. Ferg will share more about the culture of Apache playing cards Wednesday at the Nights at North presentation at Heard Museum North Scottsdale.
Ferg co-wrote the book Playing Cards of the Apaches: A Study in Cultural Adaptation (Screenfold Press,2006, $95). Once the Apache wars were over and Native Americans had access to paper cards, they continued to craft ones from rawhide anyway, Ferg said.