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Visiting Santa Fe

Tribes and Nations

New Mexico is home to the Jicarilla Apache Nation in the north and the Mescalero Apache Reservation in the south as well as part of the vast Navajo Nation in the northwest. In this section, you'll read about the history and contemporary cultures of these tribes and find contact information and links to their websites.


Jicarilla Apache Nation
Located deep in northern New Mexico's majestic mountain and mesa country, close to the Colorado border, the Jicarilla Apache Nation has nearly 3,000 tribal members and most of them live in Dulce. Their ancestors were one of six southern Athapascan groups that traveled out of Canada between 1300 and 1500. The Jicarilla Apache people, whose name means "little basket maker" were nomadic before European contact, and they traded with Taos and Picuris pueblos.

The Jicarilla Apache people are known for their traditional beadwork, basketry and micaceous clay pottery, which you'll see at the Jicarilla Arts and Crafts Shop Museum. The Jicarilla Apache Nation offers fishing, camping and other outdoor activities in beautiful wilderness with seven mountain lakes.

Annual events include the Little Beaver Celebration on the third weekend in July and the Go-Jii-Yah Feast on Sept. 14-15.

Directions and Contact Info
Located about 130 miles northwest of Santa Fe via U.S. 84 to U.S. 64.
(505) 759-3242
Jicarilla Apache Nation website


Mescalero Apache Reservation
The early Mescalero Apache people, whose name is derived from the mescal plant, were nomadic hunters and gatherers in the Southwest before U.S. President Ulysses Grant established the Mescalero Apache Tribe in 1873.

Located in southern New Mexico near Ruidoso, the reservation today operates the famous Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino and Ski Apache. The tribe offers visitors plenty of outdoor recreation in their mountainous lands. Annual events include the Coming of Age ceremony for girls, held during the 4th of July weekend celebrations.

Directions and Contact Info
Located off U.S. 70 near Ruidoso.
(505) 464-4494
Mescalero Apache Reservation's resort and casino website


Navajo Nation

chacoCovering more than 27,000 acres from northwestern New Mexico into northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah, the Navajo nation is the largest Native American tribe in the U.S., with a population of nearly 300,000. About 100,000 members of the tribe live in New Mexico.

The Navajo people refer to themselves in their own language as Diné, which means "The People." Historians believe that when the Spanish arrived in the Southwest, they started using the term Navajo. In 1860, the U.S. Army forced the Navajo to relocate during the infamous Long Walk. More than 8,000 members marched under insufferable conditions to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner, where they were kept for more than four years until the Treaty of 1864 freed them to go back to their homelands.

The Navajo nation is rich with contemporary culture and ancient ruins, including Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley and Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Visitors can learn more at the Navajo Museum, located in Window Rock, Ariz., the tribal headquarters.

Today, the Navajo are revered for their rugs, jewelry, sand paintings and other traditional arts sold at trading posts on the reservation and at the Navajo Arts & Crafts Enterprise stores, owned by the tribe. Monthly auctions held on the third Friday in Crownpoint feature silversmithing, rugs and wall hangings.

Annual events include the Northern Navajo Fair and Nightway Chant (Yei be Chei Healing Ceremony) in early October and the Navajo Nation Fair, called "The World's Largest American Indian Fair," held Wednesday through Sunday following Labor Day. The fair includes an intertribal pow-wow, an All-Indian rodeo, the Miss Navajo Nation pageant, traditional Navajo songs, dances and food, and more.

Directions and Contact Info
The Navajo Nation encompasses 27,000 square miles. See the Navajo Tourism Dept. website link below for directions.
(928) 871-6436
Navajo Tourism Dept. website


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