Column: A turn of fortune for Jicarilla Apaches

"Following the U.S. occupation of New Mexico in 1846, the Jicarilla Apaches engaged in sporadic warfare with Americans for the next 50 years or so.

Finally, after much shifting about, the tribe was permanently settled on an isolated reservation in the upper reaches of the territory, just below the Colorado line. Dulce, with a newly established Indian agency and trading post, became the unofficial "capital" of the Jicarilla domain.

Initially, the Indians suffered from poverty, neglect and despair. When Chester E. Faris received a federal appointment in 1918 as superintendent of the Jicarilla Agency, he found conditions on the reservation deplorable.

Tribal historian Veronica Velarde Tiller has written that after Faris took charge, "a new era of hope" began for her people.

The superintendent soon developed means to attack major problems in all aspects of reservation life. He quickly teamed up with the sympathetic owner of the trading post, Emmitt Wirt, who knew the Indians well.

Together they worked to get Jicarilla funds released from the Indian Bureau in Washington. These were used to purchase large numbers of sheep they distributed to individuals. Suddenly families had the beginnings of an independent livelihood."

Get the Story:
Marc Simmons: A change of fortune for Jicarilla Apaches (The Santa Fe New Mexican 3/8)