Jicarilla History

Cacique2.JPG (202097 bytes)PREHISTORY

Jicarilla Apache history in the American Southwest is short but complex.  Prehistorically, they were one of several Athapascan groups that migrated southward from a Canadian homeland over several hundred years starting at around A.D. 1200 (Harrington 1940).  The people later termed "Xicarilla" by the Spanish in the 1600s probably arrived in Northern New Mexico via the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains at approximately AD 1500.   Despite this late arrival, they quickly situated themselves as itinerate traders, linking Rio Grande Pueblo and Plains Indian economic and ecological spheres.  With increased Spanish settlement of New Mexico during the 1600s, the Jicarilla expanded these traditional trading roles while still maintaining a semi-nomadic lifestyle that included bison hunting on the Southern Plains, the transport of other Plains products and ideas into the Southwest, and part-time farming and pottery production at the base of what is now known as the  the Santa Fe Trail. 

tipicamp.JPG (43174 bytes)THE HISTORIC PERIOD

During the latter 1800s, the Jicarilla were divided into two pseudo-moieties, the Ollero or mountain sand people (sáidìndé) who were semi-sedentary farmers, and the Llanero or plains people (gù gàhén) who spent portions of each year hunting bison in the southern Plains. The creation of the Llanero and Ollero is eluded to in Jicarilla myth (Opler 1938:86).   The pseudomoietiy system represents borrowed concepts from Puebloan moiety and ritual integrative practices (Opler 1947a, 1947b). Intermarriage between the two pseudo-moieties was frequent such that different bands of the Jicarilla shared a common bond through cultural practices, social organization, kinship and mythology, but   lifestyle and possibly even linguistic distinctions between them give clues to tribally recognized but abstract ethnic and historical differences among members.

The nature of Jicarilla tribal organization and economic lifestyles during the 1800s was heavily influenced by specific historical events beginning in the 1700s.  Driven by the burgeoning economic opportunities provided by Euroamerican contact, the Comanche Indians began their expansion into the Southern Plains during the early 18th century, leading to major social changes among many Plains Indian tribes.  In the Southern Plains, the Comanche expansion caused the movement of the Cuartelena and Carlana Plains Apache southward into New Mexico where they took refuge in the Spanish-based Nueces Mission System during the 1770s.   Prompted by a series of small pox epidemics in 1771 and 1772, the Cuartelena Apache   left the missions and took up residence with the Guhlkainde band of the mountain-dwelling Jicarilla Apache living and farming among the Rio Grande Pueblos (Schlesier 1972:128). 

By the 1800s, the Jicarilla represented an amalgam of closely allied and closely related Apache groups with a short history together.   Despite these rapid changes, the Jicarilla adapted as a group by actively continuing their traditional roles as traders, bison hunters, pottery producers and farmers.  When the territory of New Mexico was annexed by the U.S. government in 1846, these roles were drastically truncated, and a new era of conflict and negotiation began, both internally among the Jicarilla; and externally between the Jicarilla and other Euroamerican settlers and government agents. 

Upon annexation of the New Mexico Territory, the U.S. government immediately implemented the ration system among the Jicarilla and attempted several times to relocate them away from expanding Euroamerican frontier settlement.   Official government correspondence from this period documents the political interactions of the Commission of Indian Affairs and their agent representatives in New Mexico, and different band leaders of the Jicarilla.  These records testify to competing and divergent responses by different Jicarilla band leaders to government assimilation policies. Many of the Ollero attempted to disappear into mountain Hispanic communities, buy property and farm the land, or they made repeated requests to live with their Ute relatives to whom they were intermarried with in Colorado. The Llanero openly defied government containment policies, repeatedly leaving their agencies to hunt the dwindling bison herds on the Plains or visit their Mescalero Apache relatives to the south.  The Llanero declared war against the U.S. government twice during the 1850s. The Ollero joined the battle only after they were mistaken as Llanero and attacked by U.S. soldiers. After their defeat, the U.S. government made repeated efforts to settle the Jicarilla on reservation land, but band leaders struggled to agree on a suitable location that would satisfy the lifestyle and ethic of all band members. Finally the Jicarilla were settled at the Dulce Reservation in the northwest corner of New Mexico in 1890.  They were the last U.S. territory tribe to be settled on a reservation. 

Today, the majority of people descended from the historic Jicarilla Apache live at the Dulce Reservation, but documentary records and oral histories demonstrate that many Jicarilla were able to avoid forced resettlement by assimilating into remote New Mexican Hispanic communities. 


       The Americanist period of Jicarilla Apache history is amenable to archaeological analysis since government documents provide excellent information regarding Jicarilla band movements and activities.  Not only were agents very concerned about keeping track of the Jicarilla through ration rolls and scouting patrols, but agency locations were changed several times, forcing the Jicarilla to move in order to obtain their much-needed rations.  Many sites from this time period are distinctive since they are located near Jicarilla agencies and contain (1) tipi rings, (2) Jicarilla-style micaceous pottery, (3) evidence of micaceous pottery production,  and (4) datable historical artifacts.  Public documents that pinpoint the locations of Jicarilla camps and camp activities help to identify and interpret such sites.    Micaceous clay pottery collected from these sites can be source analyzed to learn more about how the Jicarilla obtained clay and how they adjusted to changing economic patterns during the latter 1800s.