Lipan Apache people

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Lipan Apache Tribe
Total population
5000–8000 (2013)[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States
Texas, New Mexico
English, formerly Lipan Apache
Related ethnic groups
other Apache peoples

Lipan Apache are Southern Athabaskan (Apachean) Native Americans whose traditional territory includes present-day US states of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, and the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas, prior to the 17th century.

Present-day Lipan live mostly throughout the U.S. Southwest, in Texas, New Mexico, and the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, as well as with the Mescalero tribe on the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico; some currently live in urban and rural areas throughout North America (Mexico, United States, and Canada). On March 18, 2009, the Texas Legislature passed resolutions HR 812 and SR 438 recognizing the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.[2][3][4] They are members of the National Congress of American Indians as a state-recognized tribe under courts of claims.[5] The Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas is headquartered in McAllen, Texas.


The name "Lipán" is a Spanish adaption of their self-designation as Hleh-pai Ndé or Lépai-Ndé ("Light Gray People") reflecting their migratory story. The Lipan are also known as Querechos, Vaqueros, Pelones, Nde buffalo hunters, Eastern Apache, Apache de los Llanos, Lipan, Ipande, Ypandes, Ipandes, Ipandi, Lipanes, Lipanos, Lipanis, Lipaines, Lapane, Lapanne, Lapanas, Lipau, Lipaw, Apaches Lipan, Apacheria Lipana, and Lipanes Llaneros. The first recorded name is Ypandes.[citation needed]


By about 1720, the Apache were driven from the southern Great Plains by the Comanche and their allies, the so-called Norteños and those migrating to southern Texas were called the Lipan. The Lipan divided into several regional groupings/divisions comprising several bands - the Forest Lipan division (Chishîìhîî, Chishį́į́hį́į́, Tcici, Tcicihi – "People of the Forest") or Western Lipan, and the Plains Lipan division (Goãgahîî, Golgahį́į́, Kó'l kukä'ⁿ, Kó´l Kahäⁿ - "Tall Grass People", "High Grass People", "Prairie Men") or Eastern Lipan.

Eastern Lipan / Lipanes de Arriba / Upper Lipan / Northern Lipan / Plains Lipan[edit]

  • Tséral tuétahä, Tséral tuétahäⁿ ("Red Hair People"): merged later with the Tche shä and Tsél tátli dshä, lived south of the Nueces River in Texas, about 1884 extinct.
  • Tche shä, Tche shäⁿ ("Sun Otter People"): lived from San Antonio, Texas, south to the Rio Grande.
  • Canneci N'de, Connechi, Chawnechi Nde' ("People Of The Pines", "Red Clay People", "Tall sticks in a row stand"): made up of many bands and ENIMES groups that joined together after being forced into and escaping slavery. Lived from Louisiana to East Texas along the Red River.
  • Kó'l kukä'ⁿ, Kó´l Kahäⁿ, Cuelcahen Ndé ("Tall Grass People", "High Grass People"): lived on the Central Plains of Texas along the upper Colorado River and its tributaries southward to the Pecos River.
  • Tchó'kanä, Tchóⁿkanäⁿ ("Pulverizing People", "Rubbing People"): merged later with the Tcha shka-ózhäye, lived west of Fort Griffin, Texas, along the upper Colorado River towards the western side of the Rio Grande, about 1884 extinct.
  • Kóke metcheskó lähä, Kóke metcheskó lähäⁿ ("High-Beaked Moccasin People"): lived south of San Antonio as far as northern Mexico.
  • Tsél tátli dshä, Tsél tátli dshäⁿ ("People of the Green Mountain"): merged later with Kóke metcheskó lähä, lived east of the Rio Grande along the lower Guadalupe River and Nueces River in Texas.
  • Ndáwe qóhä, Ndáwe qóhäⁿ, Ndáwe ɣóhäⁿ ("Fire People", "Camp Circle People"): lived southeast of Fort Griffin, along the Colorado, San Saba and Llano Rivers towards the upper Nueces River and its tributaries the Frio River and Atascosa River in Texas.
  • Shá i'a Nde, Shá'i'ánde, Nde 'Shini, Shä-äⁿ ("Northern People"): most northern group of the Lipan, sharing contacts with the Kiowa-Apache. They were forced to relocate 1884, when 300 people were moved to the Washita Agency in Oklahoma)
  • Tsés tsembai ("Heads of Wolves People", "Bodies of Men People"): lived between the upper Brazos River and the Colorado River towards the west.
  • Te'l kóndahä, Te'l kóndahäⁿ ("Wild Goose People"): lived west of Fort Griffin in Texas, along the upper Colorado River and its tributaries, were renowned and fierce warriors.

Western Lipan / Lipanes de Abajo / Lower Lipan / Southern Lipan / Forest Lipan[edit]

  • Tu'tssn Ndé, Tùn Tsa Ndé, Tú sis Ndé, Kúne tsá, Konitsaii Ndé, Kónitsàà, Kónitsàà-hîî ("Big Water People", "Great Water People"): formerly a Natage band, they lived in the Gulf Coastal Plains towards both sides of the Rio Grande into Coahuila; in 1765 the greater part of them left San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz mission (near Camp Wood in modern-day Texas) and went into Mexico. Their territory stretched deep into Coahuila, and was called Konitsąąįį gokíyaa ("Big Water People Country"). Magoosh's band Tú sis Ndé would later merge with the Mescalero as the "Tuintsunde".
  • Tsésh ke shéndé, Tséc kecénde ("Painted Wood People"): perhaps lived formerly along the upper Brazos River, later moved down to live near Lavón, Mexico, about 1884 extinct.
  • Tindi Ndé, Tú'e Ndé, Tüzhä'ⁿ, Täzhä'ⁿ ("People of the Mountain", "Uplanders"): lived along the upper Rio Grande, in southern New Mexico and in northern Mexico; about 1850 they were in close contact with the Mescalero.
  • Tcha shka-ózhäye, Tchaⁿshka ózhäyeⁿ ("Little Breech-clout People"): lived along the eastern shore of the Rio Pecos in Texas, were close allies of the Nadahéndé or Natage (who later became the Mescalero and Salinero).
  • Twid Ndé, Tú’é'diné Ndé ("Tough People of the Desert", "No Water People"): moved north and therefore away from the gulf area, later they lived between the Rio Grande and the Pecos River, near the juncture of the two. There they became much mixed with the Mescalero and merged later as Tuetinini with the Mescalero. The Tú sis Ndé ("Big Water People"), who tried to remain nearer their old territory on the Gulf but who were finally driven over into Mexico, are sometimes quite critical of the Twid Ndé because of their apostasy and mixture and classify them as a Mescalero or part-Mescalero group.[6]
  • Zit'is'ti Nde, Tséghát’ahén Nde, Tas steé be glui Ndé ("Rock Tied to Head People"): wearing a red turban-like headdress like the neighboring Mescalero, lived in the deserts of northern Mexico.

In addition, these bands were recorded:

  • Bi'uhit Ndé, Buii gl un Ndé ("Many Necklaces People"): lived in the deserts and high plains of New Mexico and northern Mexico.
  • Ha'didla 'Ndé, Goschish Ndé ("Lightning Storm People"): lived from the lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas into the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, today Dene Nde' descendants are still living in the Lower Rio Grande area (El Calaboz Rancheria)and a branch re-settled in British Columbia, Canada.
  • Zuá Zuá Ndé ("People of the Lava Beds"): lived in the lava beds of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas and their descendants live today in Mescalero as well as South Texas.
  • Jumano Ndé, Suma Ndé (Jumano Apache – "Red Mud Painted People"): have continued to live in the lands of the Lower and Middle Rio Grande, the Nueces River, the Frio River, and the Conchos River watersheds; today descendants live in the Middle-Upper Rio Grande, West Texas (El Polvo (Redford), El Mesquite, El Conejo, El Mulato Chihuahua).
  • Indantųhé Ndé, Nakaiyé Ndé ("Mexican Clan People"): Mexicans who intermarried with Lipan bands who sought refuge in Mexico.

The Spanish associated these groupings with the Lipan:

  • Lipiyánes (also Lipiyán, Lipillanes): a coalition of splinter groups of the Nadahéndé, Guhlkahéndé and Lipan of the 18th century under the leadership of Picax-Ande-Ins-Tinsle (Strong Arm), who fought and withstood the Comanche on the Plains.
  • Natagés (Nah-tah-hay, also Natagees, Apaches del Natafé, Yabipais Natagé, Natageses, Natajes, from Nadahéndé – "People of the Mescal"): original Apachean group who would become the Mescalero and Salinero; were often called by the Spanish and Apaches themselves true Apaches, which[clarification needed] had had a considerable influence on the decision making of some bands of the Western Lipan in the 18th century.
  • Ypandes (Ypandis, Ipandes, Ipandi, Lipanes, Lipanos, Lipaines, Lapane, Lipanis, Lipan): they once travelled from the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico to the upper Colorado River, San Saba River and Llano River of central Texas across the Edwards Plateau southeast to the Gulf of Mexico, were close allies of the Natagés, therefore it seems certain that they were the Plains Lipan division (Golgahį́į́, Kó'l kukä'ⁿ – "Prairie Men"), not to be confused with Lipiyánes or Le Panis (French for the Pawnee). They were first mentioned in 1718 records as being near the newly established town of San Antonio, Texas.
  • Llanero (Spanish meaning "plains dweller"): the name was historically used to refer to several different groups who hunted buffalo seasonally on the Great Plains, also referenced in eastern New Mexico and western Texas. (See also Carlanas.)
  • Pelones (Bald Ones): lived far from San Antonio and far to the northeast of the Ypandes in the Red River of the South country of north central Texas. Although able to field 800 warriors, more than the Ypandes and Natagés together, they were described as less warlike because they had fewer horses than the Plains Lipan. Their population was estimated between 1,600 and 2,400 persons. The Forest Lipan division (Chishį́į́hį́į́, Tcici, Tcicihi – "People of the Forest"): after 1760 the name Pelones was never used by the Spanish for any Texas Apache group. The Pelones had fled the Comanche south and southwest, but never mixed up with the Plains Lipan division, retaining their distinct identity, so that Morris Opler was told by his Lipan informants in 1935 that their tribal name was "People of the Forest".

Their kin, west and southwest of them, sometimes allies and sometimes foes, the Mescalero, called them after their location and living conditions:

  • Tú'édìnéõde[7] or Tuetinini ("The People of No Water", "No Water People"), called by the Lipan Twid Ndé, Tú’é'diné Ndé ("Tough People of the Desert", "No Water People"), "Western Lipan", because they lived most of the time in deserts, steppes and Mountains.
  • Túntsaõde or Tuintsunde ("The People of Big Water", "The Big Water People"), called by the Lipan Kónitsàà, Kónitsàà-hîî ("Big Water People", "Great Water People"), "Eastern Lipan", because they lived in the river valleys of the southern Texan Plains against the Gulf of Mexico.


A Lipan Apache warrior

The Lipan are first mentioned in Spanish records in 1718 when they raided Spanish settlements in San Antonio. The Lipan likely had become established in Texas during the latter half of the 17th century. They moved southward during the 18th century; a Spanish mission for these people was built in Coahuila in 1754 and another on the San Sabá River in 1757. Both missions were burned and deserted; the San Saba mission was destroyed by the Comanche and their allies. During 1757, the Lipan Apache were involved in fighting with the Hasinais.[8] The Lipan participated in a Spanish expedition against the Wichita and Comanche in 1759, but were defeated in the Battle of the Twin Villages.

Their territory ranged from the Colorado River of Texas to the Rio Grande. Two Lipan local group chiefs had a total of 700 people in 1762. Since at least 12 other local groups existed, Morris Opler estimated that the population was around 3,000–4,000. He estimated a total of 6,000 in 1700.

The Spanish and Lipan frequently were in conflict, as Spain tried to invade and colonize the Texas territory. The Spanish tried to thwart the Lipan through alcohol, provoking conflict between the Lipan and Mescalero, making them economically dependent on Spanish trade goods, and converting them through missionaries. If the Lipan ever lived on the Spanish missions is uncertain, but by 1767, all Lipan had completely deserted them.

In the same year, Marquis of Rubí started a policy of Lipan extermination after a 1764 smallpox epidemic had decimated the tribe. Shortly after that, the Lipan entered an uneasy alliance with Spain in the fight against their traditional enemy, the Mescalero. The alliance fell apart before 1800. Another serious enemy of the Lipan was the Comanche, who were also opposing Spanish colonists. Many historians cite Comanche aggression as a factor leading to the Lipan's southerly migration. At the beginning of the 19th century, by contrast, the Lipan formed an alliance with the Comanche to attack the Spanish.

In 1869, Mexican troops from Monterrey were brought to Zaragosa to eliminate the Lipan Apache, who were blamed for causing trouble. Troops attacked many Lipan camps; survivors fled to the Mescaleros in New Mexico.

From 1875 to 1876, United States Army troops undertook joint military campaigns with the Mexican Army to eliminate the Lipan from the state of Coahuila in northern Mexico.

In 1881, a large campaign by Mexican Army’s Díaz division (assisted by US troops) forced all Lipan out of Coahuila and into Chihuahua.


  • Bigotes (="Mustached One") (middle of the 18th century) (1751 he left Texas and crossed with his Kuné tsa the Rio Grande into Coahuila. About this date they lived along the Rio Escondido and Rio San Rodrigo in Coahuila)
  • Poca Ropa (="few or scant clothes") (ca. 1750 – ca. 1790) (Chief of the Tcha shka-ó´zhäye along the lower Pecos River)
  • Cavezon (="Big Head") (ca. ? – ca. 1780) (Chief of the Ndáwe qóhä, one powerful band of the San Saba River towards the upper Nueces River)
  • Casimiro (18. Jhd.) (Chief of one band in southern Texas, perhaps of the Ha´didla`Ndé)
  • Yolcna Pocarropa (ca. 1820 – ca. ?) (Chief of several bands of the Tcha shka-ó´zhäye in western Texas, in 1830 he led them across the Rio Grande into Tamaulipas in Mexico downriver of Laredo)
  • Cuelgas de Castro (ca. 1792 – ca. 1844) (Chief of the Tche shä in the territory of San Antonio across the Rio Grande in Tamaulipas)
  • Flacco (ca. 1790 – ca. 1850) (Chief of the Kóke metcheskó lähä east and southeast of San Antonio)
  • Costalites (ca. 1820 – 1873) (Chief of one band, that was wandering from Coahuila into southwest Texas)
  • Magoosh (Ma´uish) (ca. 1830 – 1900) (Chief of the Tu' sis Nde of southeastern Texas, because of a severe epidemic one part of this band went to Zaragosa in Coahuila, the other part of Magoosh took refuge by the Mescalero and accompanied them in 1870 onto the Mescalero Reservation)
  • Coco (Chief of the Cannesi N'de of Louisiana, ca.1810–1860)


Lipan Apache is a Southern Athabaskan language. Two people in 1981 living on the Mescalero Apache reservation were native speakers.[1] As of 2013, a concerted effort by Lipan-speaking members living off reservation throughout North America strives to keep the language and traditional culture alive.


  1. ^ a b "Lipan Apache." Ethnologue. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  2. ^ "State Recognition of The Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas." Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  3. ^ "HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 812." "Texas Legislature Online." Retrieved 4 December 2017
  4. ^ "SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 438." Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  5. ^ "Tribal Directory, L listing" "National Congress of American Indians" Retrieved 32 December 2017
  6. ^ The use of Peyote by the Carrizo and Lipan Apache tribes, Dr. Morris Edward Opler, American Anthropologist April-June 1938, New Series 40(2):271-285
  7. ^ Nde-Language-Phrase-Handbook
  8. ^ Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007) p. 47

Further reading[edit]

  • Carlisle, JD. Dissertation. "Spanish Relations with the Apache Nations East of the Rio Grande". The University of North Texas, May 2001
  • Dunn, William E. "Apache relations in Texas, 1717-1750." Texas State Historical Association Quarterly, 14.
  • Dunn, William E. "Missionary activities among the eastern Apaches previous to the founding of the San Sabá missions." Texas State Historical Association Quarterly, 15.
  • Dunn, William E. "The Apache mission on the San Sabá River, its founding and its failure." Texas State Historical Association Quarterly, 16.
  • Galindo, Mary Jo. Dissertation. "Con Un Pie En Cada Lado: Ethnicities and the Archaeology of Spanish Colonial Ranching Communities Along the Lower Río Grande Valley" The University of Texas at Austin, 2003
  • Opler, Morris E. (1936). "The kinship systems of the southern Athabaskan-speaking tribes." American Anthropologist, 38, 620-633.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1938). "The use of peyote by the Carrizo and the Lipan Apache." American Anthropologist, 40 (2).
  • Opler, Morris E. (1940). Myths and legends of the Lipan Apache. Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society (Vol. 36). New York: American Folk-Lore Society, J. J. Augustin Publisher.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1945). "The Lipan Apache Death Complex and Its Extensions." Southwestern Journal of Anthropology. 1: 122-141.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1959). "Component, assemblage, and theme in cultural integration and differentiation." American Anthropologist, 61 (6), 955-964.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1968). "Remuneration to supernaturals and man in Apachean ceremonialism." Ethnology, 7 (4), 356-393.
  • Opler, Morris E. (1975). "Problems in Apachean cultural history, with special reference to the Lipan Apache." Anthropological Quarterly, 48 (3), 182-192.
  • Opler, Morris E. (2001). Lipan Apache. In Handbook of North American Indians: The Plains (pp. 941–952). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

External links[edit]