Apache, Jicarilla (Native Americans of the Southwest)

Jicarilla is from the Spanish for "little basket," or "chocolate basket," and Apache is from the Zuni word Apachu, meaning "enemy." The Apache call themselves Ndee, or Dine’e (Di ‘ iie>), "the People."

Location The Apache arrived in the Southwest from present-day Canada around 1400. By the early 1600s, the Jicarilla were living from the Chama Valley in present-day New Mexico east to present-day western Oklahoma. The Jicarilla Reservation is located in northwest New Mexico, west of the Chama Valley.

Population Approximately 800 Jicarilla Apaches lived in their region in the early seventeenth century. Of roughly 25,000 Apaches nationwide, roughly 3,000 Jicarilla lived on their reservation in 1992.

Language Jicarillas spoke a dialect of Southern Athapaskan, or Apachean.

Historical Information

History Ancestors of today’s Apache Indians began the trek from Asia to North America in roughly 1000 B.C.E. Most of this group, which included the Athapaskans, was known as the Nadene. By 1300, the group that was to become the Southern Athapaskans (Apaches and Navajos) broke away from other Athapaskan tribes and began migrating southward, reaching the American Southwest around 1400 and crystallizing into separate cultural groups. Before contact with the Spanish, the Apaches were relatively peaceful and may have engaged in some agricultural activities.

In the mid-eighteenth century, the Apache asked for Spanish protection against the Comanche, who were pressing them from the north and east. Despite a promise to settle down and become Christian, the Spanish refused the request. The Comanche, who had acquired guns from the French (the Spanish did not officially sell or trade guns to Indians), so disrupted Apache agriculture and life on the plains that the Apache migrated into the mountains surrounding the Pueblo-held valleys. One Jicarilla group continued to live as far south as the Texas plains until around 1800.

Having acquired horses, the Apache increased their contact with Spanish and Pueblo settlements. This dynamic included trading as well as raiding and warfare, but the Spanish habit of selling captured Apaches into slavery led to Apache revenge and increasingly hostile conditions along the Spanish frontier, effectively establishing the northern limit of New Spain at about Santa Fe. After 1821, the Mexicans put a bounty on Apache scalps, increasing Apache enmity and adding to the cycle of violence in the region.

In an effort to settle its northern areas, Mexico in the early nineteenth century made large land grants to its citizens. In 1841, one such grant delivered 1.7 million acres of Jicarilla land to two Mexicans. U.S. recognition of this grant was to complicate the establishment of a Jicarilla reservation later in the century.

Following the war between Mexico and the United States (1848), the Apaches, who did their part to bring misery to Mexico, assumed that the Americans would continue as allies. They were shocked and disgusted to learn that their lands were now considered part of the United States and that the Americans planned to "pacify" them. Having been squeezed by the Spanish, the Comanches, the Mexicans, and now miners, farmers, and other land-grabbers from the United States, the Apache were more than ever determined to protect their way of life.

Increased military activity led to a treaty in 1851 that called for the cessation of hostilities on all sides and, in exchange for aid, bound the Jicarilla to remain at least 50 miles from all settlements. When U.S. promises of food and protection went unkept, however, the Jicarilla returned to raiding, and the region was plunged into a spiral of violence. Another treaty in 1855 created agencies: Options for the Jicarilla now included either begging for food at the agency or raiding.

In the 1860s, the tribe escaped confinement at the deadly Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner) only because the camp failed before they could be rounded up. By 1873 they were the only southwestern tribe without an official reservation. At about this time, leaders of the two Jicarilla bands, the Ollero and the Llanero, began consulting with each other, creating a new tribal consciousness. They sent a joint delegation to Washington, D.C., where they lobbied for a reservation, but in 1883 the tribe was moved to the Mescalero Reservation. Finding all the good land already taken, the Jicarilla began shortly to drift back north to their old lands. In 1887, the government granted them an official home.

Unfortunately, the climate on the new reservation was unfavorable for farming, and in any case non-Indians owned whatever good arable land existed. This, plus the existence of individual allotments and centralized government control, slowed economic progress. The tribe sold some timber around the turn of the century. In 1903, the government established a boarding school in Dulce, the reservation capital, but turned it into a sanatorium in 1918 following a tuberculosis epidemic (90 percent of the Jicarilla had tuberculosis by 1914). The Dutch Reformed Church of America opened a school in 1921.

A major addition to the reservation in 1907 provided the Jicarilla with land appropriate to herding sheep. They began this activity in the 1920s, and the tribe soon realized a profit. Livestock owners and the "progressive," proacculturation group tended to be Ollero, whereas the Llaneros were the farmers, the conservatives, and guardians of tradition. In the early 1930s bad weather wiped out most of the sheep herd, although by 1940 it had largely been rebuilt. Also by this time the people were generally healthy again, and acculturation quickened.

The postwar years saw a huge increase in tribal income from oil and gas development. With part of this money the tribe bought out most non-Indian holdings on the reservation. Education levels, health, and morale all rose. In the 1950s, a decline in the sheep industry brought much of the population to live in Dulce. The tribe began per capita payments at that time, partly to offset a lack of economic opportunities in Dulce. This action kept families going until more help arrived with the federal programs of the 1960s as well as an increasingly diversified economy. In the 1970s the tribe won $9 million in land claims.

Religion Apache religion is based on a complex mythology and features numerous deities. Most deities are seen as personifications of natural forces. The sun is the greatest source of power. Culture heroes, like White-Painted Woman and her son, Child of the Water, also figure highly, as do protective mountain spirits (ga’an). The latter are represented as masked dancers (probably a sign of Pueblo influence) in certain ceremonies, such as the girls’ puberty rite. Apaches believe that since other living things were once people, we are merely following in the footsteps of those who have gone before.

Supernatural power is both the goal and the medium of most Apache ceremonialism. They recognize two categories of rites: personal/shamanistic and long-life. In the former, power is derived from an animal, a celestial body, or another natural phenomenon. When power appears to a person and is accepted, rigorous training as a shaman follows. Shamans also facilitate the acquisition of power, which may be used in the service of war, luck, rainmaking, or life-cycle events. Power may be evil as well as good, however, and sickness and misfortune could be caused by the anger of a deity or by not treating properly a natural force. Witchcraft, as well as incest, was an unpardonable offense.

Long-life rites were taught by elders and connected to mythology. The most difficult was the bear dance, a curing rite that lasts for four days and nights and features a bear impersonator, shamans, songs, sacred clowns, and dancing. Another such ceremony is the (young boys’) relay race, actually a combined ceremony and harvest festival. It derives from mythological concepts of sun and moon and also the duality of the food supply. The race is between the Olleros—sun—animals and the Llaneros—moon—plants. Other important ceremonies include the four-day girls’ puberty ceremony, a five-day holiness or curing ceremony, and hunting, cultivation, and rainmaking ceremonies.

Government Traditionally, the Jicarilla knew little tribal cohesion and no central political authority. They were a tribe based on common territory, language, and culture. As much central authority as existed was found in the local group, composed of extended families. Local groups were loosely associated as bands, which made up the tribe. Local group leaders, or chiefs, enjoyed authority because of personal qualities, such as persuasiveness and bravery, often in addition to ceremonial knowledge. Decisions were taken by consensus. One of the chief’s most important functions was to mitigate friction among his people.

Beginning around the nineteenth century, the Jicarilla recognized two distinct bands. The Llanero lived in the eastern Sangre de Cristo Mountains in adobe houses with nearby farms. From the pueblos, especially Taos, they learned pottery and social and religious customs. The Ollero gave up plains life somewhat later. In addition to hunting buffalo, they had picked up some Plains technology, such as tipis, parfleches, and travois.

Customs Women were the anchors of the Apache family. Residence was matrilocal. Besides the political organization, society was divided into a number of matrilineal clans. Apaches in general respected the elderly and valued honesty above most other qualities. The Jicarilla more than most Apaches were influenced by the Plains and Pueblo tribes.

Gender roles were clearly defined but not rigidly enforced. Women gathered, prepared, and stored food; built the home; carried water; gathered fuel; cared for the children; tanned, dyed, and decorated hides; and wove baskets. Men hunted, raided, and waged war. They also made weapons, were responsible for their horses and equipment, and made musical instruments. For boys, training for the hunt began early; the first hunt was roughly equal to a puberty ceremony.

Girls as well as boys practiced with the bow and arrow, sling, and spear, and both learned to ride expertly. Although actual marriage ceremonies were brief or nonexistent, the people practiced a number of formal preliminary rituals, designed to strengthen the idea that a man owed deep allegiance to his future wife’s family. Out of deference, married men were not permitted to speak directly with their mothers-in-law. Divorce was unusual though relatively easy to obtain. The mother’s brother played an important role in the raising of his nephews and nieces.

All Apaches had a great fear of ghosts. Jicarilla who died were buried the same day. Their personal possessions were burned or destroyed, including their house and favorite horse. They pictured the afterworld as divided into two sections, a pleasant land for good people and a barren one for witches.

Dwellings Jicarilla Apaches lived in dome-shaped, pole-framed wikiups, covered with bark or thatch and with skins in cold weather. They also used hide tipis when on a buffalo hunt.

Diet Jicarilla Apaches were primarily hunters and gatherers. They hunted buffalo into the seventeenth century, and afterward they continued to hunt deer, mountain sheep, elk, antelope, rabbits, and other game. They did not eat bear, turkey, or fish.

Wild foods included agave shoots, flowers, and fruit; berries; seeds; nuts; honey; and wild onions, potatoes, and grasses. Nuts and seeds were often ground into flour. The agave or century plant was particularly important. Baking its base in rock-lined pits for several days yielded mescal, a sweet, nutritious food, which was dried and stored.

In the late 1600s they learned farming from pueblos, and by the early nineteenth century they farmed river bottomlands and built irrigation ditches, growing some corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, peas, wheat, and melons. When supplies ran low, crops were obtained from the Pueblos by trade or raid.

Key Technology Items included baskets (pitch-covered water jars, cradles, storage containers, and burden baskets); gourd spoons, dippers, and dishes; and a sinew-backed bow. The people made musical instruments out of gourds and hooves. The so-called Apache fiddle, a postcontact instrument, was played with a bow on strings. Moccasins were sewn with plant fiber attached to mescal thorns. The Jicarilla used a sinew-backed bow, which was more effective than the Pueblo wooden bow.

Trade Trading partners included Pueblo and Hispanic villages, as well as some Plains tribes, especially before the seventeenth century.

Notable Arts Traditional arts included fine basketry, pottery, and tanned hides. The Jicarilla also excelled in beadwork, buckskin tanning, leather work, pottery, and making ceremonial clay pipes.

Transportation The horse was introduced into the region in the seventeenth century.

Dress The Jicarilla traditionally wore buckskin clothing decorated with beadwork and whitened, Plains-style moccasins. As they acquired cotton and later wool through trading and raiding, women tended to wear two-piece calico dresses, with long, full skirts and long blouses outside the skirt belts. They occasionally carried knives and ammunition belts. Girls wore their hair over their ears, shaped around two willow hoops. Some older women wore hair Plains-style, parted in the middle with two braids. Male hairstyles included a middle part, braids, and bangs with a back knot, Pueblo-style. Men also liked large earrings.

War and Weapons Historically, the Apache made formidable enemies. Raiding was one of their most important activities. The main purpose of raiding, in which one sought to avoid contact with the enemy, was to gain wealth, such as horses, and honor. It differed fundamentally from warfare, which was undertaken primarily for revenge. Jicarilla war leaders occasionally took scalps but only after the leaders had been ritually purified. Formal warrior societies did not exist. Like hunting, raiding and warfare were accompanied by complex rituals and rules, to which boys were introduced early. The Jicarillas’ traditional enemies included the Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Navajo; allies included the Utes and Pueblo peoples.

Contemporary Information

Government/Reservations The Jicarilla Reservation, established in 1887, is located in northwest New Mexico, west of Chama. It contains about 742,000 acres of land. The 1992 population was 3,100. The reservation headquarters is in Dulce. The tribe organized a formal government and adopted a constitution in 1937. Its first elected tribal council consisted mostly of traditional leaders.

Economy Oil and gas resources, which the tribe is moving to buy, still provide much income. Other important economic assets include sheep, timber, and big game. The tribe and the government provide some employment opportunities.

Legal Status The Jicarilla Apache are a federally recognized tribal entity.

Daily Life Roughly 70 percent of Jicarillas still practice some form of traditional religion. Fewer than half speak Jicarilla, and most who do are older. There has been some revival of traditional pottery and basketry arts, but Dulce and the reservation are increasingly part of the regional economy. Recreation facilities include an Olympic-sized, heated indoor pool. A large number of Jicarillas are Christian. Indians in Dulce live in relatively modern homes or trailers, with water and sewer hookups. Most tribal members live on the reservation.

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