History of the Jicarilla Apache Nation


The Jicarilla Apache people are a proud people.  Cultural traditions are grounded in the ties to the land, natural resources, and ways of teaching.  To understand the Jicarilla Apache people today, it is important to comprehend a difficult history and story of cultural survival.

The aboriginal homelands of the Jicarilla Apache spanned four states, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas which represent over 50 million acres of land.  Oral stories relate that the Jicarilla Apache traveled as far north as Wyoming citing Jicarilla names for mountain ranges in the area.   Before the coming of the Europeans, an estimated 12 – 14 thousand Jicarilla Apaches lived upon the land, living with the environment and acting in accordance with the Creator’s instruction to honor and respect what was given to them.  Between the 1600s and 1800s, after the westward expansion of Spanish, Mexican and white settlers, prospectors and the trade enterprises, the number of Jicarilla Apaches dwindled to less than 1,000 due to warfare and disease.

As a result of political pressure to remove the Apaches from their homelands, the Jicarilla Apache Reservation was established in 1887 by Executive Order signed by President Grover Cleveland and subsequently President Theodore Roosevelt signed another Executive Order in 1907 establishing the southern portion of the Reservation totaling over 875,000 acres of land.  The Reservation is located in the upper reaches of the San Juan River Basin and the Rio Chama in north central New Mexico.  The northern boundary abuts the Colorado border.  The western boundary is about 15 miles east of the Navajo Reservoir.   Dulce, NM is the heart of the reservation and is home to the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s tribal headquarters. 

The Jicarilla Apaches are characterized by their Athapaskan language and are known for their prowess for hunting buffalo, elk, deer and other animals of the area.  Two clans exist today, the Red Clan (Llanero) and White Clan (Ollero).  Although the people have endured loss of their land base, sacred sites now in the control of private land owners, and rapidly losing elders who are the carriers of traditional knowledge, the people are hopeful.  In the spirit of holding on to what is left, the Jicarilla Apache Nation supports the initiatives of  the Jicarilla Apache Heritage Center and is grateful that it can satisfy a need for preserving and revitalizing the arts, stories and history.

Cultural Arts & Heritage Center

“Weaving our past into our future.”

The forerunner, the Jicarilla Buckskin and Leather Craft Industry, became the Jicarilla Apache Arts & Crafts Museum in 1965. And in 2017 became the Jicarilla Cultural Arts & Heritage Center. The new industry was created to preserve the traditional and modern arts and crafts of the tribe.

The Jicarilla Cultural Arts & Heritage Center is here to preserve the Jicarilla cultural arts, employ tribal members, generate revenue for the Nation, preserve and store historical museum items and educate our visitors about the history and cultural arts of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

We have 11 artisans employed with our center who produce a wide range of cultural crafts such as basketry, beadwork, moccasins, micaceous pottery, and sewing clothing.

Our artisans sell and demonstrate at Native art markets, trade shows, state fairs, conferences and museum exhibitions.


Basketry, beadwork, and micaceous pottery are the three foundational arts of the Jicarilla Apache people. Since the 1800’s these arts have been an income-producing industry throughout northern New Mexico settlements and continues today on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation.

llkida hadoo gazhish I ashi da ko gazhish i iLka aya.

Jicarilla Cultural Arts & Heritage Center
P.O. Box 507 
Dulce, New Mexico 87528

Highway 64 located next to the
Jicarilla Shopping Center at the
4 way stop

Monday – Friday
8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m
Weekend hours call for hours.

Follow Us:

Jicarilla Apache Nation Council
Jicarilla Apache Archives
Lorene Willis
Vernon Petago
Mary Velarde
Shelden Nunez-Velarde

Copyright 2023 Jicarilla Apache Cultural Arts and Heritage Center