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Gorgonia, Mescalero Medicine Man

Mescalero (or Mescalero Apache) is a Native American tribe of Southern Athabaskan heritage currently living on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation in southcentral New Mexicomarker. The Mescaleros opened their doors to other Apache bands, the Chiricahua who were imprisoned at Fort Sillmarker, Oklahomamarker, and the Lipan Apaches. The Reorganization Act of 1936 consolidated the tribes onto the reservation.


Originally established on May 27, 1873, by Executive Order of President Ulysses S. Grant, the reservation was first located near Fort Stantonmarker. The present reservation was established in 1883. It has a land area of 1,862.463 km² (719.101 sq mi), almost entirely in Otero Countymarker, but there is a tiny unpopulated section which spills over into Lincoln Countymarker just southwest of the neighboring city of Ruidosomarker. It had a 2000 census population of 3,156.

Ranching and tourism are major sources of income. U.S. Route 70 is the major highway through this reservation, which lies on the eastern flank of the Sacramento Mountains and borders the Lincoln National Forest. The mountains and foothills are forested with pines, and commercial development is restricted. However, the reservation has invested, for example, in a ski resort called Ski Apachemarker, on a mountain, Sierra Blanca, and a hotel in its shadow, the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino.

Sierra Blanca is sacred ground for the Apache. A cultural center near the tribal headquarters on U.S. Route 70 in the reservation's largest community of Mescaleromarker contains some historical information. Another museum on the western flank of the Sacramento Mountains, in Dog Canyon, south of Alamogordo, New Mexicomarker contains more information.

Tribal organization

Mescalero painted boy, this image is often misclassified as Mescalero because it was taken during the time of "Long Walk" in which the Navajo were marched over in the winter of 1864 and incarcerated at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico with the Mescalero Apache.
Most of the elderly, young children and pregnant women did not survive this march.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe was headed by Wendell Chino, President of The Mescalero Apache People for 43 years, until his death on November 4, 1998. Soon after his death late Sara Misquez took place as president. Not too long afterwards his son, Mark Chino also served as the president of the tribe. The tribe holds elections for office of president every two years. The eight Tribal Council members hold their positions for two years. Election for Council is held every year, when one half are up for reelection.

Carleton Naiche-Palmer was sworn in as the new president of the Mescalero Apache tribe on January 11, 2008.

Culture and language

The Mescalero language is a Southern Athabaskan language which is a subfamily of the Athabaskan and Na-Dené families. Mescalero lies on the southwestern branch of this subfamily and is very closely related to Chiricahua and more distantly related to Navajo and Western Apache.

Origin of name

The Mescalero own appelation for themselves was Shis-Inday (="People of the Mountain Forests") or Inday / Indee (="The People"). To neighboring Apache bands the Mescalero were known as Nadahéndé (="People of the Mescal"), because the mescal agave (Agave parryi) was a staple food source for them. In times of need and hunger they depended and survived because of stored mescal.


  • Natahéndé (Natages) (= "Mescal People", lived between Rio Grandemarker and Pecos River in central New Mexicomarker with local groups wandering on the southern and western edge of the Llano Estacadomarker onto the southern Panhandle)
  • Guhlkahéndé (Cuelcajenne) (= "People of the Plains", lived east of the mountains and the Pecos River, on the High Plains from the Texasmarker Panhandle to the Pecos Valley , between Amarillomarker, Tucumcarimarker, Lubbockmarker and the Llano Estacado, along the Sandia and Tijeras Mountains westward to Santa Femarker, from Nogal Canyon to the north to Las Vegasmarker, from the Organ Mountains eastwards to El Pasomarker, in Oklahoma they had kinship ties per marriage with the Comanche)
  • Dzithinahndé / Tsilnihéndé (Chilpaines) (= "Mountain Ridge Band People", lived in the mountains west and south of the Pecos River, extending in northern Chihuahuamarker and Coahuilamarker)
  • Ch`laandé / Tslahahéndé (= "Antelope Band People", lived west of the Pecos west to the Rio Grande in the mountains of central and south New Mexico and the Tularosa Basin)
  • Nit?ahéndé (= "People Who Live Against the Mountains", "Earth Crevine (Deer) People", lived in the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico and the Guadalupe Mountains in western Texas)
  • Tsehitcihéndé´ (= "People of Hook Nose", several bands, who lived in the Guadalupe Mountains, the adjacent Plains of Texas and in northern Coahuila and Chihuahua)
  • Tsebekinéndé (= "Rock House People", often called by the Spanish and Americans "Agua Nuevas" or "Nortenos", have had their center around Nuevo Casas Grandesmarker in Chihuahua, wandering north toward the Sacramento Mountains and south in Chihuahua Citymarker, also on both sides of the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ojinaga, Chihuahuamarker; some local groups lived in the Guadalupe and Limpia Mountains)
  • Tahuundé / Tá ´huú´ndé (= "Mountains Extending into the River People", lived on both sides of the Pecos River in southern New Mexico and wandering into southwestern Texas)
  • Tuintsundé / Tú sis Ndé (= "Big Water People", a band of the Lipan, who lived in southcentral Texas and in northern Coahuila, camping with several bands of the Mescalero together on the Plains for hunting and raiding; they merged with the Mescalero forming a Mescalero band)
  • Tuetinini / Tú é diné Ndé (= "No Water People", "Tough People of the Desert", a band of the Lipan, who was wandering in northern Coahuila and Chihuahua and eventually merged with some southern Mescalero bands)

Chiefs and headmen

  • Gomez (Chief of a Mescalero band in the Davis Mountains before the Civil War)
  • Espejo (Chief of a Mescalro band in the Plains east of the Davis Mountains, late 1860)
  • Alsate (Chief of a Mescalero band in the Davis and Chisos Mountains, late 1860)
  • Nautzili (="buffalo", also known as Natzili, Chief of the Guhlkahéndé, moved to reservation in 1876)
  • Nicolas (Chief)
  • San Juan (Chief)
  • Santana (War Chief)
  • Cadette (in Apache: Zhee-es-not-son, Chief)
  • Gian-na-tah (War Chief)
  • Kutbhalla (War Chief)

See also


St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Mescalero, New Mexico c.1975 Mountain Spirit Dancers painted on altar


  • Castetter, Edward F.; & Opler, Morris E. (1936). The ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache: The use of plants for foods, beverages and narcotics. Ethnobiological studies in the American Southwest, (Vol. 3); Biological series (Vol. 4, No. 5); Bulletin, University of New Mexico, whole, (No. 297). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Hoijer, Harry; & Opler, Morris E. (1938). Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache texts. The University of Chicago publications in anthropology; Linguistic series. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Reprinted 1964 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; in 1970 by Chicago: University of Chicago Press; & in 1980 under H. Hoijer by New York: AMS Press, ISBN 0-404-15783-1).
  • Opler, Morris E. (1933). An analysis of Mescalero and Chiricahua Apache social organization in the light of their systems of relationship. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1935). The concept of supernatural power among the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apaches. American Anthropologist, 37 (1), 65–70.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1936). The kinship systems of the Southern Athabaskan-speaking tribes. American Anthropologist, 38 (4), 620–633.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2002) Conquest and Concealment: After the El Paso Phase on Fort Bliss. Conservation Division, Directorate of Environment, Fort Bliss. Lone Mountain Report 525/528. This document can be obtained by contacting
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2003) Protohistoric and Early Historic Temporal Resolution. Conservation Division, Directorate of Environment, Fort Bliss. Lone Mountain Report 560-003. This document can be obtained by contacting
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2003) The Cerro Rojo Complex: A Unique Indigenous Assemblage in the El Paso Area and Its Implications For The Early Apache. Proceedings of the XII Jornada Mogollon Conference in 2001. Geo-Marine, El Paso.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2004) A Ranchería in the Gran Apachería: Evidence of Intercultural Interaction at the Cerro Rojo Site. Plains Anthropologist 49(190):153-192.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2004) Before the Spanish Chronicles: Early Apache in the Southern Southwest, pp. 120 –142. In "Ancient and Historic Lifeways in North America’s Rocky Mountains." Proceedings of the 2003 Rocky Mountain Anthropological Conference, Estes Park, Colorado, edited by Robert H. Brunswig and William B. Butler. Department of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2007) Sexually Based War Crimes or Structured Conflict Strategies: An Archaeological Example from the American Southwest. In Texas and Points West: Papers in Honor of John A. Hedrick and Carol P. Hedrick, edited by Regge N. Wiseman, Thomas C. O’Laughlin, and Cordelia T. Snow, pp. 117-134. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico No. 33. Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2007) Apache, Spanish, and Protohistoric Archaeology on Fort Bliss. Conservation Division, Directorate of Environment, Fort Bliss. Lone Mountain Report 560-005. With Tim Church
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2007) An Archaeological Perspective on the Hohokam-Pima Continuum. Old Pueblo Archaeology Bulletin No. 51 (December 2007):1-7. (This discusses the early presence of Athapaskans.)
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2008) Despoblado or Athapaskan Heartland: A Methodological Perspective on Ancestral Apache Landscape Use in the Safford Area. Chapter 5 in Crossroads of the Southwest: Culture, Ethnicity, and Migration in Arizona's Safford Basin, pp. 121-162, edited by David E. Purcell, Cambridge Scholars Press, New York.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2008) A Pledge of Peace: Evidence of the Cochise-Howard Treaty Campsite. Historical Archaeology 42(4):154-179. With George Robertson.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2008) Apache Plain and Other Plainwares on Apache Sites in the Southern Southwest. In "Serendipity: Papers in Honor of Frances Joan Mathien," edited by R.N. Wiseman, T.C O'Laughlin, C.T. Snow and C. Travis, pp 163-186. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico No. 34. Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2008) Surfing Behind The Wave: A Counterpoint Discussion Relating To “A Ranchería In the Gran Apachería.” Plains Anthropologist 53(206):241-262.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2008) Pre-Differentiation Athapaskans (Proto-Apache) in the 13th and 14th Century Southern Southwest. Chapter in edited volume under preparation. Also paper in the symposium: The Earliest Athapaskans in Southern Southwest: Implications for Migration, organized and chaired by Deni Seymour, Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2009) Evaluating Eyewitness Accounts of Native Peoples along the Coronado Trail from the International Border to Cibola. New Mexico Historical Review 84(3):399-435.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2009) Distinctive Places, Suitable Spaces: Conceptualizing Mobile Group Occupational Duration and Landscape Use. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 13(3): 255-281.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2009) Nineteenth-Century Apache Wickiups: Historically Documented Models for Archaeological Signatures of the Dwellings of Mobile People. Antiquity 83(319):157-164.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2009) Comments On Genetic Data Relating to Athapaskan Migrations: Implications of the Malhi et al. Study for the Apache and Navajo. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139(3):281-283.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2009) The Cerro Rojo Site (LA 37188)--A Large Mountain-Top Ancestral Apache Site in Southern New Mexico. Digital History Project. New Mexico Office of the State Historian. Select: Place, Communities, Click on 'Cerro Rojo' on the map (orange square-dot NE of EL Paso, East of Las Cruces and Dona Ana ).
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2010) Cycles Of Renewal, Transportable Assets: Aspects of the Ancestral Apache Housing Landscape. Accepted at Plains Anthropologist.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2010) Contextual Incongruities, Statistical Outliers, and Anomalies: Targeting Inconspicuous Occupational Events. American Antiquity. (Winter, in press)

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