Tribe celebrates cultural preservation with communitywide cultural events
MESCALERO, N.M._ Unlike many tribes during the reservation period when the U.S. government rounded up American Indians to address the “Indian problem,” the Mescalero Apache made their journey back to their homeland what is now Southern New Mexico 150 years ago.
“Upon returning to our homelands within the four sacred mountains, the Mescalero Apache have thrived and will continue to thrive for centuries to come. Our ancestors spoke of this place where our language and our prayers were born, a land where we’ve been since time immemorial,” said President Edward Martinez commenting on President Ulysses S. Grant designating 463,000 acres of land by executive order on May 29, 1873, to the Mescalero who were living in Oklahoma Indian Territory.
“Let May 29 not be marked in history as a time of tragedy and mourning but celebrated as the beginning of tribal resilience,” Martinez said.
The Mescalero Apache Tribe held a two-day communitywide honoring of the creation of its present-day reservation boundaries on May 28-30 with cultural activities. The 150th Sesquicentennial Commemoration included an early morning blessing, a parade showcasing the various tribal departments, and a teepee and frybread making contest, among other events.
The Mescalero Band, who were named by the Spanish after seeing this group harvest the sweet, savory mescal hearts, was one of several bands of Apaches who were taken to Oklahoma. The Mescalero, whose traditional homeland exceeded far into Northern Mexico, Arizona and Texas, are part of three bands of Apaches that make up the Mescalero Apache Tribe today.
The Lipan Apache were forced from their homelands in Texas and Northern Mexico and held as prisoners of war until 1905 when they joined the Mescalero on the Mescalero Apache Indian reservation.
In 1913, the Chiricahua Apache were released as prisoners of war from the Fort Sill military reservation near Lawton, Okla., after Geronimo and 300 Chiricahua Apache were taken by the U.S. military in 1886. The 240 Chiricahua POWs were given a choice to either return to their homelands by joining the Mescalero band or staying in Oklahoma to establish a new tribe.
Approximately 163, two-thirds of the Chiricahua, chose to return to their homelands in New Mexico. Those who returned to Mescalero included all the descendants of the great Apache warriors Geronimo, Naiche, and Cochise.
“Our three bands – the Mescalero, Lipan and Chiricahua – have worked diligently to preserve our ancestral homelands, traditions and culture while striving to develop both the reservation and Southern New Mexico economy by providing jobs through economic enterprise and outdoor recreation,” Martinez said. “Though the reservation era was catastrophic for many Indigenous people, it countered the U.S. government’s attempt at assimilation and instead led us on the path of preservation.”
The tribe, under the late legendary Wendell Chino who led the tribe for more than 40 years, asserted its tribal sovereignty to purchase land to develop the first tribally-owned ski resort in 1963. The tribe later developed the Inn of the Mountain Gods and the first tribally-owned golf course in the U.S. in 1975. These tribal enterprises, including gaming operations, gas and retail stores, public campgrounds, big game hunting and sustainable forestry management, continue to benefit families throughout New Mexico and across the U.S.
“The Mescalero Apache Tribe provides sacred history and culture to the people of New Mexico and travelers near and far. Their impeccable management of the land and forest is a testament to their long tradition of respecting Mother Nature. Along with their deep roots in New Mexico’s history, the Mescalero tribe adds an important element of economic development to the area that is an engine for our gaming industry and attracts millions of dollars of investment from patrons all over the world. I am proud to represent the area that is home to the Mescalero Tribe and all of its people,” said Rep. Harlan Vincent (R-Ruidoso Downs), who was one of five legislators who authored House Memorial 47 recognizing the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation this past session.
A copy of Mescalero Apache Tribe Resolution 23-41 can be seen here https://mescaleroapachetribe.com/18508/tribal-council-declare-a-new-tribal-holiday-to-honor-the-apache-people/. The parade can be seen on the Tribe’s Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/mescaleroapachetribe.
Statements of Support
“The Mescalero Apache Tribe endured unthinkable tragedy and trauma throughout years of conflict, forced displacement, and captivity far from home. Since formally reestablishing their sovereignty in their traditional homelands, the Tribe has been at the forefront of the fight for self-determination, cultural and language preservation, and stewardship of ancestral lands and natural resources,” U.S. Sen. Heinrich (D-N.M.) said.“I have deep respect for Mescalero Apache leaders like the late President Wendell Chino, whose influence and profound impact continues to inspire everyone striving to build culturally and economically strong Tribal Nations. Over the years, I have worked in close partnership with Mescalero Apache leaders to deliver federal resources to support housing, health care, public safety, agriculture, high-speed internet access, and install a mounted solar array project at the Mescalero Tribal Fish Hatchery. On this anniversary, we recognize the solemn history and honor the remarkable strength and resilience of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.”
“For generations, the Mescalero Apache people have called southern New Mexico home, contributing to the rich fabric of our state. I’m proud to wish a happy 150th anniversary to the Mescalero Apache Tribe on the establishment of the Mescalero Apache Tribe Reservation. As a U.S. Senator, it’s an honor to work alongside the Mescalero Apache Nation, and I look forward to continuing our work together to help Mescalero Apache thrive for generations to come,” U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said.
“This significant anniversary is a reminder of the importance of tribal sovereignty in New Mexico and a celebration of the Mescalero Apache people and their way of life,” U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) said. It is an honor to work with the Mescalero Apache Tribe and partner with them to prioritize investments and seize opportunities to enhance economic development, healthcare, education, and infrastructure resources.”
“The people of Mescalero Apache Tribe have lived on these lands since time immemorial,” Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) said. “I am honored to represent this cultural and economic powerhouse in the halls of Congress, and honored to extend my congratulations to Mescalero Apache Tribe on the 150th anniversary of the Executive Order recognizing their sovereignty.”