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Apache Legends & Lore of Southern New Mexico: From the Sacred Mountain, by Lynda A. Sánchez, The History Press, Charleston, S.C., 2014, $19.99

Percy Bigmouth, a Mescalero-Lipan Apache born in 1891, wanted the old ways of his people to be remembered, so he shared stories with Eve Ball, well-known chronicler of Apache history, and other friends and also wrote of the legends on Big Chief tablets. Unlike some other Apaches, he was willing to work with any white person who wanted to learn about the old stories and traditions. Ball died in 1984, but her mentor and friend Lynda Sánchez (see Interview) has edited and fleshed out the valuable information preserved by Percy.

Sánchez first provides the reader with tribal background, noting that the Mescaleros’ sacred mountain is 11,981-foot Sierra Blanca, or White Peak, and that their homeland has proved bountiful (mescal was the staple food, and they ate a “a well-balanced, high fiber and delicious repertoire”). Next she tells about Scout Bigmouth (“Old Dad”), who lived to 108, and son Percy Bigmouth, who believed in the Indian proverb “A people without a history is like wind over buffalo grass.” Most of the chapters after that are devoted to “the legends, favorite lore and myths related mostly by Percy to his friends over time.” You will find here legends about caves (the entrance to the underworld) and the bats that inhabit them, tales of Old Coyote the trickster, information about the Apache cradleboard ceremony and stories of battles with Comanches. Oral history certainly has its place, but it is good that Percy Bigmouth chose to put important details down in words in the 20th century, and that the author believes in storytelling in the 21st century.