Legendary New Mexico: The three Apache Tribes of New Mexico

There are three Native American Apache tribes in New Mexico: the Jicarilla Apache, located in northern New Mexico near the Colorado Border; the Mescalero Apache, located near Ruidoso; and the Fort Sill Apache near Deming.

Jicarilla Apache

There are approximately two thousand seven hundred members of the Jicarilla tribe with most of them living in the town of Dulce. The term Jicarilla, which means “Little Basket”, comes from Mexican Spanish.

The Jicarilla were considered nomads and went as far east as Kansas trading goods before settling in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the 1720’s.

The tribe runs Horse Lake Mesa Game Park, which is the largest single elk enclosure in the country.

The Jicarilla are renowned for their fine basket making of diamond, cross, or zigzag designs and usually include representations of deer, horses or other animals weaved into them.

Mescalero Apache

President Ulysses S. Grant established the Mescalero Apache Tribe in 1873 by presidential order.

Three tribes make up the Mescalero tribe: the Mescalero Apache, the Chiricahua Apache, and the Lipan Apache. Each tribe consisted of nomadic hunters and warriors, only staying in one place for a short time in shelters known as a wickiup.

A wickiup is a short rounded dwelling made of twigs and covered in elk or buffalo hides.

The Mescalero roamed through Texas, Arizona, Mexico and New Mexico. They were experts in guerilla warfare, and the women were known for their ability to find and prepare food.

Fort Sill Apache

The Fort Sill Apache lived in southern New Mexico until 1886 when the United States government took them into custody as prisoners of war and seized their land.

The US Army forcibly removed 400 members of the tribe from reservations in present-day Arizona and moved them to Oklahoma in 1894.

In 2011 the tribe won a legal fight and the right to establish a reservation back in New Mexico. The Fort Sill Apache now have 30 acres near Deming.