from http://www.jicarilla.net/Origins.htm - Jicarilla Apache Cultural Affairs Office website


SPANISH PERIOD 1541 - 1821


The first historical document of Apache period apparently is in reference to groups known as Querecho and Teya. The Coronado expedition of 1540-41 mentioned nomad people utilizing dogs as pack animals on the Plains, east of the Rio Grande Pueblos. The Spanish called them "Querechos", and this term was still in use after the more common term became Vaqueros (in reference to the people's dependence on bison).

In 1540-41, Querechos were only reported east of the Pecos River; in 1583, Espejo noted their presence in the vicinity of Acoma Pueblo, and they were found there again in 1599. Morris Opler holds an earlier Apachean arrival in the Southwest than do the Gunnersons, albeit not by much - he suggests an arrival circa AD 1400. Opler reasonably points out that as soon as the Spanish entered an area with the Southwest, they found Apaches.

It is possible that the Western Apache bands, including the Navajo, began arriving in the Southwest via an intermontane route leading through the San Luis Valley to the San Juan (Governador) area circa 1400 AD, while the Eastern bands not long afterwards began moving back onto the Plains where they would leave the Dismal River remains (see Haskell 1987:93-94).

Reference to "Apaches" is first found in Spanish records from 1598 (Hammond and Rey 1953:1:345). The origin of the word is disputed. A widely accepted idea is that it was derived from the Zuni word 'a pacu, referring to the Navajo and meaning "enemies" (see Hodge 1907-1910). Opler (1983:385) objects to this, as well as to a Yavapai word for Apaches, on the basis that Onate had not encountered either Zuni or Yuman people when he used the word.

Spanish knowledge of Apache people gradually increased during the seventeenth century, and specific band names replaced the more generic terms in government documents. Bands noted in the San Luis Valley area included the Quinia (mentioned in a 1630 report by Benevides, an earlier report by Onate by Zarate Salmeron in 1601, and perhaps another report in 1599) and the Acho (first mentioned in 1680 as allies of Taos and Picuris) (Indian Claims Commission 1974a:17, 19; Schroeder 1974:247-248).

The aboriginal territory of the Jicarilla Apache people spanned more than 50 million acres and was bounded by four major rivers. Within this geographic area a wide variety of terrains and ecosystems provided game, agricultural lands, water, fish, wildlife, and opportunities for intertribal trade. While there were dry and wet years, the region provided sustenance for the Jicarilla Apache and other tribal people for centuries. The people lived with the environment, acting as instructed by the Creator in observing the use and management of the land and resource base.

Beginning in the late 1600's, pressure on the Jicarilla aboriginal land base shifted the location of the Jicarilla people. At this time, the Comanche were migrating out of the Great Basin toward the Texas Gulf Coast, while other Apache people were pushed out of southwest Kansas and merged with the Jicarilla.

Trade and French exploration of the region, enabled the Comanche to obtain guns. However, due to Spanish policy, the Apache were forbidden to obtain guns. The lack of weapons forced the Apaches to remain close to the foothills year-round and to reduce the use of the fertile plains and river valleys. This left the Apache people more vulnerable and further disrupted the traditional pattern of subsistence by altering the seasonal pattern of migration and resource pursuits, and limiting access to the rivers and mountains the Tribe deemed sacred. In addition, agricultural lands formerly used by the Tribe were appropriated by others.


During the period of 1821-1846, the Mexican government awarded numerous land grants to Americans and occasionally to Indians. The Jicarilla Apache were allowed the largest land grant, consisting of 1.7 million acres east of the Taos Pueblo, by the Mexican government in 1841.



The land grant awarded by the Mexican government was purchased by an American in 1847 following the annexation of the territory of the United States in 1846. Subsequent competition for land among whites and the Jicarilla caused increasingly strained relations, and the Jicarilla continued to be dispossessed from their sacred lands. This caused increased raiding that intensified clashes between the Jicarilla and the U.S. military.

By 1850, most of the Jicarilla Apache people were located in New Mexico in the upper Rio Grande Valley and in the foothills bordering the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico. The Jicarilla were practicing small-scale agriculture as well as limited grazing. In 1851, a treaty was signed between the United States and the Jicarilla Tribe, and plans were further developed to move the Jicarilla Apache away from the predominantly white settlements in northern New Mexico, locating the Tribe west of the Rio Grande River closer to present-day Abiquiu. In exchange for the relinquishment of sacred lands farther east, the United States agreed to provide ". . . such donations and implements of husbandry and other gratuities as a proper and sound humanity may demand . . . "in order for the Tribe to cultivate the land."

While the Jicarilla made many attempts to establish small farms on the newly reserved Tribal territory, the Tribe's efforts were continuously disrupted by pressures from non-Indian settlers. First, fertile lands were forcibly appropriated, as were key water resources. Forest resources, while extensive at the time, were utilized without impunity by non-Indian settlers. These settlers also put pressure on local governing officials to ignore efforts to secure a firm Tribal land base.

In order to rectify these problems, the government created a number of Executive Order reservations for the Jicarilla between 1874 and 1900. However, these Executive Order lands were subsequently rescinded as a result of pressure from non-Indian settlers.

The United States eventually proposed to move the Jicarilla entirely and merge them with the Mescalero Apache through Congressional legislation in 1883. This move was also doomed to failure, as all of the land of the Mescalero was being irrigated by Mescaleros or non-Indian settlers. Gradually, the Jicarilla people began to wander away from Mescalero and back to northern New Mexico.

Finally, in 1887, President Grover Cleveland issued and Executive Order that delineated the present boundaries of the northern portion of the Reservation. While this tract of land was deemed to have adequate surface water supply and ample agricultural lands, non-Indian settlers again monopolized water and land use and for the first decades of the reservation life, the Tribe's efforts to develop a self-sufficient economy were thwarted.

Tribal members made sincere efforts to develop agricultural and range land. Individual Tribal members had livestock, for example. Some efforts were undertaken by the Bureau if Indian Affairs to develop domestic water supplies and stock ponds. Within the constraints of non-Indian appropriation of the best lands; possible overgrazing in the region as a result of a restricted land base; and lack of water distribution. It was apparent that the Tribe needed additional lands in order to develop a sustained economy.

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed another Executive Order establishing what is now the southern portion of the Reservation. Government officials were looking for a way to provide additional grazing and arable lands with which the Tribe could build its economic base. The government was unaware at this time of the oil and gas potential of this portion of the Reservation; hence the focus of effort in these early years was on finding forage, land, and groundwater for stock supplies.

Thus, only in 1907 was a reservation fully established for the Jicarilla Apache people. The creation of a reservation finally put to rest the wandering the Tribe had been forced to undertake for nearly two hundred years. With generally abundant water, timber, wildlife, and agricultural lands, and with a seemingly more supportive federal government, the Jicarilla Apache was poised to undertake the development of a contributing reservation economy.



Native American Texts | Apache Texts


Apache texts

Navajo texts

Pueblo texts

Ute texts