Monument to the Pioneers in Dulce
The Jicarilla Apache lived a semi-nomadic existence for several thousand years, slowly making their way southward from the area of the Bering Land Bridge since the time of the last Ice Age. In the beginning, the tribe was part of a greater group that included all of those now known as Apache and Navajo. As they migrated southward, the group began to split into smaller groups based on how peaceful or warlike the members of each might be. Generally, the Navajos were considered more peaceful, the Apaches more warlike. And among the Apaches there were similar differences with the Jicarillas being among the most peaceful.
Population pressures in the 1700's began to force them out of their more traditional territories in the southern and western plains. They had lived peacefully during most of that time, learning farming and pottery techniques from the Puebloan people with whom they traded and the Plains tribes taught them how to survive on the Great Plains.
The arrival of the Spanish and the westward push of the United States slowly forced them to move further and further into countryside not suited for their way of life. The mid-1800's were particularly bad for them as European diseases took a massive toll on their population.
Attempts to relocate the tribe onto a set reservation began in the 1850's but the lands being allocated to them were not suitable for agriculture. Finally President Grover Cleveland created the Jicarilla Apache Reservation by Executive Order in 1887. The piece of land the President set aside for the tribe held timber that they could sell, enough timber to finance the purchase of large tracts of land in the area more suitable for their traditional way of life.
In 1914 it was calculated that up to 90% of the tribe had contracted tuberculosis and in the 1920's it was feared the tribe might become extinct. After World War II oil and gas were discovered on the reservation and the royalties from that have made most of their lives more comfortable.
The Jicarilla have a long history of pottery making with some of their pots being found as far away as Kansas, Nebraska and the Black Hills of South Dakota. For hundreds of years they have gotten their clay from sacred sites near Taos and Picuris Pueblos.
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