Apodaca was born in Los Angeles and raised in Tustin, California. His father's family were from the eastern side of the Navajo Reservation, of the Ma'ii deeshgiishinii Clan (Jemez Clan), and his mother's family are Mixton. Apodaca received his masters' of arts degree in American Indian studies and his doctorate degree in Folklore and Mythology from University of California, Los Angeles. He was the Outstanding Graduate Student of 1996. Apodaca lives in Orange, California.
Apodaca is an associate professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Chapman University and a visiting professor at UCLA. He has worked as a regional advisor to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian (representing the California-Nevada-Utah region).
Apodaca was a curator at the Bowers Museum in Orange County over a period of seventeen years.
In 2008, Apodaca was the Lecturer in Residence at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, a part of Autry National Center, where he made presentations entitled The Mayan end of the World?, Unravelling the mystery of cogged stones used in early California, and Imagery and reality: the role of American Indians in film and television.
In 2008, Apodaca was a keynote speaker at the University of California Native American Professional Development Conference. 
Apodaca recovered and restored once-lost recordings of traditional Agua Caliente tribal leader Joe Patencio, Alvino Siva, and others singing bird songs of Cahuilla oral literature. The collection is archived at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs.
Apodaca was a selector for the NMAI Native American Film and Video Festival. He has also been a member of the Native California Network, and a board member for the California Council for the Humanities. He has been employed by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the California Arts Council, and the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department.
He was a creative consultant for the Disney film, Planes: Fire and Rescue 2004, for which he helped develop the character Windlifter, a heavy-lift helicopter who is portrayed as an American Indian and voiced by actor Wes Studi. Apodaca assisted with design elements on Windlifter’s image, and in a script element in which Windlifter recounts an American Indian folktale of how Coyote was renewed by fire.
Apodaca, Henry Koerper of Cypress College and Jon Erikson of the University of California Irvine, promoted California state legislation that added an 8,000 year old carving of a bear to the list of California state symbols as the official California State Prehistoric Artifact.
Apodaca is a contributing editor to News from Native California . He has edited the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology and has been an adviser for Pearson Scott Foresman publishers. Apodaca serves on the editorial board of Malki Museum Press.
List of awards
- Orange County Human Rights Award 1971
- Native American Journalists Association award 1997 (California tongues: language revival as basis for cultural renaissance in Native Americas Journal, Cornell University, American Indian Program).
- Mary Smith Lockwood National Medal for Education 1999 (from the Daughters of the American Revolution)
- Little Eagle Free Foundation Man of the Year 2007 (sponsored by the family of Walter Knott)
- Honorary Host Committee member (UCLA 40 Years of Ethnic Studies celebration)]].
- Smithsonian Institution Museum Professional Award.
- Apodaca P. and Angelo G. "Gabrielino/Tongva culture" (1991) video.
- Apodaca P. "Permanent sandpainting as an art form" (1991)
- Apodaca P. "Sharing information: the Cahuilla tribe and the Bowers Museum" (1991)
- Apodaca P. "California Indian shamanism and California Indian nights" (1994)
- Apodaca P. and Labbe A. J. "Images of power: masterworks of the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art" (1995)
- Apodaca et al "Archaeological, ethnohistoric, and historic notes regarding ORA-58 and other sites along the Lower Santa Ana River drainage, Costa Mesa" (1996)
- Apodaca P. "Testaments of hope" (1998)
- Apodaca P. "Powerful images: portrayals of Native America" (1998)
- Apodaca P. "Tradition, myth, and performance of Cahuilla bird songs" (1999), doctoral thesis, UCLA.
- Apodaca P. and Madrigal L. "Cahuilla bird songs" (1999)
- Kozak and Lopez "Devil sickness and devil songs: Tohono O'odham poetics" (2001) Review.
- Apodaca P. "Cactus stones: symbolism and representation in Southern California and Seri indigenous folk art and artifacts" (2001) 
- Apodaca P. "Hollywood Tragicomedy" (2007)
- Apodaca P. "Under West's wing, NMAI made history" (2008)
- Apodaca P. "Native American Art" (2015)
- Apodaca P. "Wikikmal: the birdsong tradition of the Cahuilla Indians" (forthcoming)
- Heritage Tustin Area Historical Society newsletter vol 32:2 April/May 2007. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
- Paul Apodaca Lapahie website
- Archives Daily Bruin website.
- Paul Apodaca UCLA winter 1999.
- Southwest Museum Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine. Autry National center website.
- Keynote speaker Archived 2012-12-12 at Archive.is AIRP website.
- Cahuilla OAC website.
- Paul Apodaca Native Networks website 1997.
- Alumni Archived 2008-08-20 at the Wayback Machine. American Indian Studies UCLA.
- Paul Apodaca Lapahie website.
- Lonesome Dove Internet Movie Data Base.
- Planes: Fire and Rescue Stitch Kingdom website.
- Winging it with Wes Studi Indian Country Today website July 14, 2014.
- California prehistoric artefact Netstate website.
- Paul Apodaca Archived 2008-12-05 at the Wayback Machine. Heyday Books website.
- Board and staff Malki Museum website.
- Time Out Archived 2012-12-12 at Archive.is University of the Pacific.
- Knowing DVD magazine website.
- Awards Chapman University website October 14, 2008.
- broken rainbow IMDB.
- Award winners Archived 2009-09-01 at the Wayback Machine. Orange county government website
- The People's Path Archived 2008-09-07 at the Wayback Machine. Native Americas Journal 2001
- Honorary Host Committee for the 40th Year Archived 2012-08-04 at Archive.is Ethnic Studies, UCLA.
- Apodaca P. and Angelo G. "Gabrielino/Tongva culture" (video) Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc./Vision Maker Video, Lincoln, Nebraska 1991.
- Apodaca P. "Permanent sandpainting as an art form" in Heth C. (Ed.) Sharing a Heritage: American Indian Arts UCLA AISC Press 1991.
- Apodaca P. "Sharing information: the Cahuilla tribe and the Bowers Museum" in News from Native California 5(2) February-April 1991.
- Apodaca P. "California Indian shamanism and California Indian nights" in News from Native California 7(2): 24-26 1994.
- Apodaca P. and Labbe A. J. "Images of power: masterworks of the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art" University of Washington Press, 1995.
- Apodaca P. et al "Archaeological, ethnohistoric, and historic notes regarding ORA-58 and other sites along the Lower Santa Ana River drainage, Costa Mesa" in Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 32(1):1–36 1996.
- "Testaments of hope" Chronical of Higher Education February 20, 1998.
- Apodaca P. "Powerful images: portrayals of Native America" in American Anthropologist 101(4): 818 1998.
- Apodaca P. and Madrigal L. "Cahuilla bird songs" in California Chronicles 2(2): 4-8 November 1999.
- Kozak and Lopez, "Devil sickness and devil songs: Tohono O'odham poetics" in American Ethnologist 28(2): 496-497 2001.
- "Cactus stones: symbolism and representation in Southern California and Seri indigenous folk art and artifacts" Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 23(2):215-228 2001
- "Hollywood Tragicomedy" Indian Country Today, November 30, 2007.
- "Under West's wing, NMAI made history" Indian Country Today, January 18, 2008.
- Apodaca P. and Saubel K. S. "Founding a tribal museum: the Malki Museum" in Kennedy F.(Ed.) American Indian places: a guide to American Indian landmarks Houghton Mifflin, New York 2008.
- Apodaca P. "Native American Art" in Beal T.(Ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts Oxford University Press, NY 2015.
- "Wikikmal: the birdsong tradition of the Cahuilla Indians" American Indian Studies Center, UCLA.