Manataka American Indian Council







Lipan Apache Tribe

of Texas








The myths and tales of this volume are of particular significance, perhaps, because they have reference to a tribe about which there is almost no published ethnographic material. The Lipan Apache were scattered and all but annihilated on the eve of the Southwestern reservation period. The survivors found refuge with other groups, and except for a brief notice by Gatshet, they have been overlooked or neglected while investigations of numerically larger populations have proceeded. It is gratifying, therefore, to be able at this late date to present a fairly full collection of Lipan folk-lore, and to be in a position to report that this collection does much to illuminate the relations of Southern Athabaskan-speaking tribes and the movements of aboriginal populations in the American Southwest.


Lipan Apache Chief

Before the beginning of the 18th century the Lipan were already in the northern part of the present state of Texas, and were being forced southward by hostile Comanche. By the middle of the 18th century we find them in south central Texas, where the Spanairds sought to protect them from their persistent enemies by the erection of the Mission of San Sab?. Following the destruction of this mission, two others were established to the south and west to administer to these Apache. They met a like fate in 1767. In 1796 the Lipan are reported to have reached the Gulf Coast in the vicinity of the lower Rio Grande. For the next half century they lived on or in the vicinity of the coast and made a partial adjustment to that environment. The hostilities between the Texans and Mexicans during the last part of this period involved the Lipan as allies of the latter. Then part of the Kickapoo, who had ceded their lands in Illinois, invaded Texas and were added to the list of Lipan enemies. A serious epidemic of smallpox decimated the tribe further. The Lipan, wasted by warfare and disease, were forced northward and westward. Part of them found a retreat in the southern spurs of the Guadalupe Mountains, where they made contact with the southernmost settlements of the Mescalero Apache. These people, whom I have called the Northern Lipan in the tales, have become known as the "No Water People." Another section of the tribe crossed the Rio Grande and settled in the neighborhood of Zaragoza, Coahuila. I place the date of the permanent removal of these Lipan to Old Mexico (raiding expeditions had penetrated into Old Mexico on previous occasions, of course) at about 1860 or shortly thereafter. This section of the tribe, the Southern Lipan of the tales, has become known as the "Big Water People." The "Big Water People," because their fate has been less involved with that of the Mescalero Apache until quite recently, are prone to consider themselves the true representatives of Lipan culture.

From 1860 on the Northern Lipan became increasingly amalgamated with the Mescalero. When attempts were made to concentrate the Mescalero at Ft. Stanton in 1870, many Lipan were gathered into the net. At this same time the Southern Lipan were having difficulty with the Mexican military and a group of them were happy to find protection to the north. Thus it was that in 1903, when a handful of Lipan who had survived a war of extermination which had been waged against them in Coahuila, were brought to Chihuahua, it became known that they had relatives on the Mescalero Reservation. Efforts were made to unite them with their kin living in the United States. In that year a small band of nineteen individuals was brought to Mescalero. This event has given rise to the impression that the Lipan were never anything more than an offshoot of the Mescalero tribe whose members somehow became separated from the main group and who were finally restored to their relatives.

Apache Encampment in the Texas Hill Country by George Nelson. The Lipan Apache were among several Plains tribes pushed southward as pressure for land and resources mounted across the western frontier. Image courtesy of the artist and the Institute of Texan Cultures, University of Texas at San Antonio.


Evidence is accumulating which suggests a different historical origin and other ethnic relationships for the Lipan, however. In an analysis of Southern Athabaskan kinship systems I have tried to show that the Lipan system resembles the Jicarilla and not the Chiricahua-Mescalero type, and the Lipan kinship stands closer to Jicarilla in respect to form, terms, and behavior patterns than to kinship usages of any other Southern Athabaskan-speaking tribe. Dr. Harry Hoijer?s scholarly analysis of the relationships of Southern Athabaskan languages demonstrates that Jicarilla and Lipan together constitute a sub-group of the eastern linguistic group, quite apart from Mescalero, which is classified in the other or western group. The conclusion seems inescapable that the affiliation of the Lipan and Mescalero is a recent and secondary one and that more ancient and fundamental connections must be sought to the north.

It is of interest and importance to consider whether the myths and tales yield materials which offer further insight concerning the place of the Lipan in Southwestern cultures. The results of such an inquiry have proved so gratifying that it is doubtful whether the value of mythology for purposes of ethnological analysis has ever been better vindicated.

A glance at the table of contents of this volume is enough to reveal one of the major differences in myth and conception which divides the Lipan from the Mescalero; the Lipan have a myth of emergence. This gives a definite cast to Lipan mythology which Mescalero mythology does not share, for a number of other Lipan stories take their inspiration from events which transpired in the underworld before the emergence (Section I, C). The myths of all Southern Athabaskan tribes (with the possible exception of the Kiowa Apache) include a story of a culture hero who slew the foes of the race. The Navaho, Western Apache, and Jicarilla name the chief protagonist Killer-of-Enemies and have him attended by a subordinate (a younger brother, relative, or friend) who is ordinarily known as Child-of-the-Water. By a curious twist the Mescalero and Chiricahua have reversed the positions of these two; for them Child-of-the-Water becomes the intrepid hero and monster slayer and Killer-of-Enemies his weaker companion. The Lipan lean towards the northern and western usage. Killer-of-Enemies is their culture hero. They use the term Child-of-Water seldom, and then only as a synonym for Killer-of-Enemies. In the Lipan tales a younger brother of the culture hero called Wise One appears, and to him are attributed the characteristics usually associated with the less important of the divine pair.

One of the monsters with whom the culture hero has difficulty is known as Big Owl by the Jicarilla and Western Apache. The Mescalero and Chiricahua think of him as a giant. He appears as Big Owl in Lipan mythology, again indicating the orientation we have remarked.

The Lipan names for important concepts or supernaturals of the myths show marked departures from Mescalero usage. The Mescalero call masked dancers and the supernaturals they impersonate gahe. The Lipan know them as hashchi (hactci) and therefore agree in this respect with the Jicarilla who refer to comparable supernaturals as hashchin (hactcin), and with the Navaho who use the cognate term haashch'èèh (hactce).

There are a number of myths of diagnostic value which the Lipan relate but which could not be found for the Mescalero. One such is the tale of the man who traveled down the river in a hollow log (Section V, A, 1). This story has been recorded for the Jicarilla, Western Apache, and Navaho also. Another tale of significance for our purpose is that of the race around the world (Section VIII, B, 1). This story, unknown to the Mescalero but common to the Lipan and Jicarilla, has been expanded to ceremonial importance by the latter.

As has been implied in the materials surveyed, the sharp differentiation of Lipan from Mescalero mythology contrasts vividly with the many parallels between Lipan and Jicarilla mythology. In addition to the myths and themes which have been identified as belonging to the joint stock in trade of the Lipan and Jicarilla but which are not shared by the Mescalero (such as the emergence myth), there are a number of others which deserve mention, for their weight lends a decided Jicarilla cast to Lipan folk-lore. One such is the hint of Lipan traditions concerning a people who live to the north in a land of darkness (p. 15). Another is that of the boy who aids in the capture of his twin (p. 23). Still another has to do with the attempts of a malign being to chop up and cook the culture hero and his companion (pp. 23-24). The vitalization of a person or animal by the entrance of wind into the body (p. 29) is one of a number of themes of like character. We are fully justified in saying tha between the legends of the Lipan and Jicarilla the correspondences are impressive in respect to themes, names, and terms as well as story outlines. Most of these resemblances will be noted in the text.

But the myths also contain ethnographic items which attest to the cultural gulf between the Mescalero and Lipan and to the unmistakable relation of Lipan to Jicarilla culture. It may be useful to call attention to one or two examples of such materials here. In Section VII (Tales Connected with Death) mention is made of the ghost or vakosh (vakoc) ; vakosh is a term descriptive of the material remains of the dead as distinguished from the breath or spirit. The term and description are applied by the Lipan and Jicarilla and, as far as I have been able to discover, by no other of these Apache tribes. In the same section of the volume the Lipan conception of the underworld or land of the dead is described. The underworld is said to be divided into north and south compartments, inhabited by the spirits of the sorcerers and of the good respectively. Fire and fog harass the wicked, and snakes and lizards are their only food. The Jicarilla have an identical picture of the afterworld, and, as far as I have been able to determine, they are the only other Apache group to entertain such a set of beliefs. In one of the warpath stories of this volume a Lipan who had been made captive by the enemy and escaped, refrains from entering the encampment before a purifying ceremony has been held over him. There is no trace of such a ceremony for the Mescalero and Chiricahua, but this duplicates exactly the Jicarilla procedure. A systematic review of the contents of this volume would reveal scores of elements which might be similarly compared and interpreted. A more comprehensive comparison will not be attempted now, however, for it can be more profitably pursued after the publication of the volumes of Chiricahua and Mescalero mythology which are now being prepared.

Enough evidence of various kinds has been submitted, nevertheless, to establish with high probability that the Lipan are an offshoot of a Lipan-Jicarilla group, that their line of migration took them east to the plains and south to the gulf, and that they were lately forced westward and northward, to be finally located with the Mescalero.


Opler, Morris E. (1940). Myths and legends of the Lipan Apache Indians. Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society (Vol. 36). New York: J. J. Augustin.




The Lipan Apaches of Texas and Northern Mexico and the Early Settlers of
San Antonio and Zaragosa (Coahuila)

Presented by: Nancy McGown Minor, Bergheim, TX


TIMELINE 1600 − 1900
ca. 1600− Lipan Apaches enter Texas from Great Plains; claim area around San Antonio as homeland and call it “Many Houses;” Lipans develop a tribal identity−Lipan means “Light Gray People.”
ca. 1650− Lipans develop a trade route to the Pecos Pueblo by following Rio Grande upriver to the Pecos. Lipans call Pecos Pueblo “White House.”
ca. 1670− In response to severe drought, Lipan tribe splits into 2 divisions: Plains Lipans (who move into upper Colorado River region) & Forest Lipans (who return to San Antonio area). Plains Lipans acquire horses from Jumanos and pueblos of New Mexico. Forest Lipans acquire horses from pueblo of La Junta (Presidio, TX).
1674− Mission San Ildefonso de la Paz founded on Rio Escondido of Coahuila near later site of villa of Zaragosa. San Ildefonso soon abandoned.
1700− Comanches enter Texas and begin to contest the Plains Lipans for control of the high plains of Texas.
1703− Mission San Francisco Solano revived on site of older San Ildefonso mission (Coahuila).
1708− San Francisco Solano moved to the Rio Grande.
1716− Presidio San Antonio de Béxar and small church founded at San Pedro Springs (Texas) but both burn down within 2 years.
May 1718− Béxar presidio moved to a site west of the San Antonio River. The Solano mission on the Rio Grande is dismantled and moved to the San Antonio River; renamed Mission San Antonio de Valero.
1715−1720 Comanches and Lipans fight epic 9-day battle in Red River Basin. Lipan corpses are “left in piles like leaves.”
1720−1725 Lipans begin sporadic raids against San Antonio; horse thefts escalate- up to ¼ of presidio’s saddle horse herd stolen at one time. Presidio troops begin retaliatory military campaigns. Nicholas Flores y Valdez follows Lipan horse thieves to Brazos River, attacks a ranchería, captures Lipan prisoners and recovering horses.
1726−1730 All quiet at San Antonio; no raids.
1730− 56 Canary Island settlers arrive at San Antonio; are offered land west of presidio but deem area too exposed to Lipan raids. Settle between presidio and mission. Found villa of San Fernando de Béxar.
1730− Lipan Apaches declare war on San Antonio; attacks escalate on anyone who ventures out of villa.
1731− On Sept. 18th, over 500 Lipan warriors ambush and attack 20 Spanish troops. Just when Spaniards think the end is near, Lipans break off attack.
1745− On the night of June 30th, over 300 Lipans attack the Béxar presidio, setting fire to many buildings; when soldiers fire guns, Lipans break off and run down side streets seeking to attack from another direction; the Apache attackers are run off by a large body of mission Indians.
1749− The Lipan Apaches and Spanish at San Antonio celebrate a grand peace; Apache hostages are released and a large pit dug in Military Plaza. A live horse, war club, arrows and lance are placed in the pit and covered with dirt to signify the end of a state of warfare.
1750− Smallpox breaks out in Lipan camps along Guadalupe River. Lipans are convinced that epidemic was caused by mission clothing worn by newly-released hostages. Lipans move their camps to upper Nueces River. Lipans establish stolen- horses-for-guns trade with east Texas tribes.
1751− A large group of Lipan traditionalists who wish no contact with Spanish other than raiding, and led by Bigotes (Whiskers or Mustached One), break away and cross the Rio Grande into Coahuila. This break-away group calls itself Kuné tsa (Big Water People) and camps along Rio Escondido and Rio San Rodrigo (Coahuila).
1753− On Feb. 1st, villa of San Fernando de Austria is founded on Rio Escondido (Coahuila); first settlers come from families of San Juan Bautista
1754− First mission dedicated to converting the Lipan is founded at the site of the old mission of San Ildefonso (Rio Escondido, Coahuila) on Dec. 21st. Mission San Lorenzo lasts one year; during night of Oct. 4, 1755, Lipans revolt, burn mission and ride away.
1757− Second Lipan mission established on San Saba River of Texas near Menard. Mission San Sabá is burned down in 1758 during an attack by Comanches and Wichitas.
1761− Third Lipan mission is founded on upper Nueces near Camp Wood, Texas- San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz. A second small mission is founded several miles south near Montell, Texas- Nuestra Señora de la Candelaría; both missions abandoned by Lipans within 4 years.
1763− In March, Lipans attack villa of San Fernando de Austria (Coahuila), entering town by a ruse; 7 settlers killed, 40 horses stolen.
1780− Terrible smallpox epidemic ravages Lipan camps in Texas and then spreads to camps in Coahuila. so many Lipans die that priests a la Bahía fear the numerous corpses will cause other disease. Lipan shamans, seeking an herbal cure for small- pox, adapt the use of peyote from Carrizo Indians.
1760−1800 Lipan Apaches raid intensely in south Texas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon. A series of military campaigns fail to “tame” them until 1800.
1814− Lipan Apaches fight along side rebels fighting for Mexican independence at Battle of Medina.
1827− Villa of San Fernando de Austria changes name to San Francisco de Rosas.
1836− Lipans watch Battle of Alamo unfold and want to assist Alamo defenders. Lipan proposed aid is based on friendship with Hispanic Tejano defenders, not on ties with Bowie and Travis, and dates back to Royalist-Republican battles of 1814, particularly the Battle of Medina.
1840−1880− Lipans from both sides of Rio Grande raid in Texas and drive stolen stock into Mexico to sell in border towns.
1850− Villa of San Fernando de Rosas changes name to Zaragosa (Coahuila).
1850− Zaragosa “adopts” the Lipan Apaches, offering them a settlement area at Hacienda Patiño. Villa of Musquiz (Coahuila) “adopts” Kickapoo, who had crossed into Mexico ca. 1850. Lipans and Kickapoo begin to fight each other in Coahuila.
1850− Smallpox epidemic in Texas drives many Texas Lipans into Mexico or New Mexico.
1869− Mexican troops from Monterrey brought to Zaragosa to eliminate Lipan Apaches, who are blamed for causing trouble. Troops attack many Lipan camps; survivors flee to the Mescaleros in New Mexico.
1873− US Army commander Ranald Mackenzie crosses Rio Grande with his troops and attacks Lipan camps at El Remolino (Coahuila).
1872−1875 US Army in New Mexico begins to force Mescalero Apaches and some Lipan Apaches onto a reservation in New Mexico.
1875−1876 US Army troops undertake joint military campaigns with Mexican Army to eliminate Lipans from Coahuila.
1881− Large campaign by Mexican Army’s Diaz division (assisted by US troops) runs all Lipans out of Coahuila and into Chihuahua State.
1884− A small number of Texas Lipans are transferred to a reservation in Oklahoma (Oakland Agency).
1903− About 30 Lipans are redeemed from a cattle pen in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua (where they were held as prisoners). This group is brought to New Mexico.





The Tribal Shield


This Tribal Shield heralds all that is Lipan, all that was Lipan, and all that will be Lipan and all these Truths reside with in the Sacred Hoop of Life.


Fourteen bones each engraved with an arrow, separated by four colored beads form a circle. Our Ancestors are represented by the bones.


Mountains, river, sky, desert, plants and a buffalo with calf are with in the confines of this circle.


Four Eagle feathers are carefully wrapped and hang in quiet eloquence from this Circle of Life.


To our Grandmothers and Grandfathers we owe honor and reverence.


Arranged in a ring, this speaks to the Circle of Life.


Fourteen arrows signify fourteen bands and the arrows track in a circular motion from East to West, a pathway Sacred to our People.


The beads that unite our Ancestors and clans together are painted in the colors of the East (black), the West (Yellow), the South (Blue), and the North (White).  The pattern is of life and blessing prayers with smoke.


The People of the Forest and the People of the Plains, all of the Nde are seen as one family under the Great Sky of blue. Nopalito and Yucca plants reveal how the land gives life as food, medicine, and provides for gifts of shelter and daily needs.


At the very center of all is the Buffalo, for he represents the hunt and the knowledge that Creator will provide for His People. Standing within the Buffalo is a white and pure calf, a symbol of rebirth and strength of a new generation. Here is the promise to teach the children of the old ways, to preserve the traditions, language, and culture of all that is Lipan Apache.


In prayers to the Creator for all that has past, all that is, and all that will be are four Eagle feathers. The ties that unite the Feathers to the Sacred Hoop of Life are red for the blood of the People and are wrapped in sinew four times, as the number four is a metaphor that names the Lipan Apache. The Feathers are the gift of Creator for prayer and through His Will; the Lipan Apache People will endure. And having been prepared, the Lipan Apache will walk in Beauty.



The Chairman's Corner

August 2008





Bernard F. Barcena Jr.
General Council Chairman

First I must apologize for having been quiet for so long, but this is my way. My silence does not mean that the Council and I have not been hard at work. As a Nation we must build a strong foundation upon which to grow and now is the time to share all of the good things that are now upon us.


Our intent is to address the issues that will craft the framework that will bring us together as one, and proclaim to the outside world that we, the Lipan Apache, are here; that we have always been here, and that we will always be here. There are four points that we as a serious people must speak to as we move forward with the acknowledgement process.  These four corners are genealogy, history, participating in the political process, and public awareness.


First of these four is genealogy. We are fortunate to have Kathy Harmon as the Tribal Genealogist. Kathy is Cherokee and learned her craft at the genealogy center for the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah. She is a very educated and accomplished individual. It is very important that we have a credible and independently verified Tribal census.


Membership is based on verifiable facts and supported to some degree by oral history. Some have failed to make the threshold for enrollment - this does not mean you are not Lipan Apache; it means we have more work to do in building our archives and research center so that we may bring those folks into the Tribe. Our Homeland Administrator, Tom Castillo, has an article on the website describing how approved applicants can get their Tribal ID cards and Certificates. Many thanks to Tom and his family on this effort.


Second up is history. Our Tribal historian, Nancy Minor, is a well respected and published author on Lipan Apache history. This particular part of four is one of the most paper-intensive and factual aspects to our agenda for acknowledgement. Our research center will have a great deal of this information for Lipans to come and review.


Third is participating in the political process. We have made many inroads on this item and we will announce these details as soon as we can. What I can say is that from the Federal level on down to State and Local, we have made many friends who are helping.  May Creator bless these many people for their good and honest hearts.


Fourth is public awareness. Ninety-nine percent of Texans have no idea who the Lipan Apache are, and the few that do know about us believe we are but a footnote in past history. We will be opening a Tribal Museum and Cultural Center in Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi on October 11, 2008.


Our Museum/Cultural Center will tell our story from the day of Creation to the present time. There is so much to share and I ask that anyone who wishes to contribute stories or artifacts, please contact me so I can forward the information to the Museum committee.


The Cultural Center component of this project will serve as a research facility and a place to gather to hear Elders speak, such as Gilbert Tellez, and other special guests. Again, I ask for your thoughts and ideas on this project because this is about you, the Lipan Apache Nation, and now is the time for you to speak.


We will also have a Tribal store where flags, T-shirts, coffee mugs and other such memorabilia with the Tribal Shield can be purchased. The Tribal store is how we plan to fund this project, so please enjoy your time shopping. All of these items will also be on the website.


Our intent is to move our Nation forward in a good way.


Bernard F. Barcena Jr.
General Council Chairman





State Recognition of The Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas

March 18, 2009


     Representatives, members, and supporters of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas entered and assembled at 8:00 am. At 9:30 am, they were escorted to the gallery of the Texas House of Representatives. The House came to session at 10:00 am. At approximately 10:26 am, House of Representative HR 812 bill, recognizing the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, was introduced by Representative Todd Hunter, Republican State Representative from District 32. Bill HR 812 is a resolution to acknowledge the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas as a recognized Native American tribe. The 150 to 200 Lipan Apache and supporters gathered in the gallery cheered.

      Representative Hunter escorted the tribe’s representatives to the Senate where they came under the chair of Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, Democratic State Senator from District 20. Members of the tribe assembled in the upper gallery. On the floor, Senator Hinojosa recognized and introduced to the Senate representatives of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas Chairman Bernard F. Barcena, Vice-Chairman Robert Soto, Treasurer Juan Soliz, Clerk of the Nation Alma Cruz, and Tribal Administrator William Larew. Senator Hinojosa introduced State Senate Resolution 438 at 11:15 am. The senate unanimously adopted Resolution 438 to the thunderous applause from those present. Each and every senator shook hands with the tribe’s representatives. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst also congratulated the tribe’s representatives and the gathered tribe on the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas recognition.

      Immediately following, the tribe assembled in the Capitol Rotunda to celebrate in song and dance. The South Texas Indian Dancers along with the Huisache Creek Singers led by Ruben Soto sang an Honor song in honor of our veterans and our ancestors who desired to see this day, but died never seeing this unforgettable day. Following the honor song, three victory songs were performed by the South Texas Indian Dancers and other members of the Lipan Apache Tribe. Special thanks to Teresa Velasquez and her family who came to represent the Chickasaw tribe and also joined the celebration in dance. Afterwards, the group moved to the exterior of the building on the east side where Robert Soto performed a hoop dance in gratitude and thanksgiving for the special occasion.

      Chairman Barcena and William Larew presented to Representative Hunter, Senator Hinojosa, and Bobby Gonzalez a special tribal proclamation and gifts of tobacco and sage provided by Tom Castillo, Homeland Administrator of the Tribe. The proclamation was well received by the honored guests.

      In the House of Representatives, thanks to Chief of Staff Bech Bruun and Administrative Assistant Caleb McGee who were helpful in working with Senator Hinojosa’s office to pass the resolution in the middle of a very busy session. In the State Senator’s office, thanks to Legislative Aide Carlos Gutierrez, and Legislative Assistant Oscar Garza. Thank you to Judge Bobby Gonzalez who has been working hard the last year and a half to see this day come to pass. Special thanks to Our Tribe's Clan mothers and Our Elders.

      We ask people present at the proceedings to email stories describing their feelings on this historic event. Please email any contributions to Sandra Mendoza at



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