Lipan Apache Tribe|
Our Sacred History: Who We Are
Between the years of 1000 and 1400, a large group of Apache people moved south from Canada.
Some of this group settled in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Mexico. These groups which
separated became the Navajo Nation, Chiricahua Apache, Mescalero Apache, Jicarilla Apache,
and the Plains Apache. The Lipan Apache Tribe claimed the land farthest east of all the Apache tribes.
By the 1600s, the Lipan Apache lived on the grassy plains of North Texas. At that time,
the tribe split into two large groups (bands)—the Forest Lipan and the Plains Lipan.
The Forest Lipan settled in northeastern Texas from the Red River to the upper Brazos River.
The Plains Lipan chose land along the upper Colorado and Concho Rivers.
By 1700, the Comanche Indians had entered Texas. They were a fierce enemy in the century
and a half to follow with constant war with the Lipan. The Lipan Apache split into smaller bands.
They moved south to avoid the Comanche. Several bands settled around present-day San Antonio.
The Comanche drove other bands deep into central and southern Texas.
In the early 1800s, Anglo settlers came to Texas. The Lipan traded bison, venison,
hides, pecans, and other staples with them and, in general, they helped the newcomers adapt
to Texas. In 1836, Texans fought to cut their ties to Mexico; the Lipan supported the Texans.
Their friendship continued after Texas won its independence from Mexico. San Houston,
president of the new Republic of Texas, even promised that Texas would always be kind
to the Lipan Apache. But Houston was wrong.
In 1845, Texas became a U.S. state. The United States thought the Lipan stood
in the way of progress and they wanted the tribe to move from their land so setters
could live there instead. The Lipan were healthy people. But smallpox, attacks by other
American Indians and non-Indians, and war caused many deaths. Food shortages brought hardships
to the tribe. By 1880, the tribe had scattered with small groups living along the south Rio Grande
River on both sides of the border. A very few went to live with tribes in New Mexico and Oklahoma
and the U.S government forced some of those onto reservations; however, the majority of the surviving Lipan
Apache Tribe remained free. Lipans found outside their assigned
areas were called outlaws and Lipan people of all ages were marked for extermination.
The once-fierce hunters became the hunted.
The Lipan Apache fought to survive as a tribe for more than two hundred years.
Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. soldiers all tried to wipe them out. When then Comanche on
the north and soldiers on the south the Lipan became “the men in the middle.” In order
to escape from their enemies, many Lipans moved from Texas to Mexico and back again.
Sometimes they dressed in non-Native clothes to blend in with the Tejanos and Mexicans.
Some bands, like the Sun Otters, established successful niches for themselves and even
took in refugees from other less fortunate Lipan bands in an enclave in San Antonio
that in the early 1900s was known as Indian Town, which evolved from an old Lipan camp
at the junction of Apache and Alazan Creeks in what today is known as the West Side.
The Little Breech Cloth (or Poca Ropas) and the Tall Grass Bands also survived as district
historical communities, the former in the Southern Rio Grande Valley and the latter in the Big Ben Region.
Through the struggle to survive, elders reminded their children: “Never forget you are a Lipan Apache.”
Today, the Lipan Apache Tribe is made up of the Sun Otters, the Little Breech Cloth,
the Tall Grass, and the remnants of other bands, all fused together as one Indigenous community, the Lipan Apache Tribe.
Over the course of our history, after contact with European governments,
the Lipan Apache Tribe entered into formal treaties with Spain, Mexico, Republic of Texas,
and the United States, treaties which were all broken. Lipan Apache have served as scouts
for the U.S. Army. And Lipan men and women have severed the country that strove to exterminate
them by fighting in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They also fought in modern
wars such as Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many currently serve in the military.
Today, our tribe is led by a chairman and a tribal council. The top priorities of the
Tribal Council are promoting and preserving Lipan Apache culture and legacy, fostering unity
among the bands, strengthening liaisons with the nine surviving Apache Tribes, and winning
acknowledgement of our tribe by the U.S. Government. Recent significant events bolstering our
sacred history are:
Despite our struggles, we, the Lipan Apache Tribe (of Texas), have endured. Current registered population
of the tribe is 3,400 and about 8,000 if unregistered family members are included. The Lipan Apache Tribe continues
to weave our legacy into the fabric of America.
- In 2009, the Texas legislature—House and Senate--recognized the tribe through joint resolutions.
- In 2015, Robert Soto, the Vice-chairman of the tribe won in a case in federal court against
the U.S. Department of Interior whereby he and 230 other members of the Lipan Apache
Tribe (of Texas) gained the rights to have and get eagle feathers and feathers of other
protected migratory birds. Up to then, this was a right that previously had only been given
to members of federally recognized tribes.
- In 2016, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) admitted the Lipan Apache Tribe as a
state-recognized tribe under court-of-claims and, therefore, a full voting member tribe of American Indians.
As members of the NCAI, we actively support the mission of this important intertribal political organization to
(1) protect and enhance treaty and sovereign rights; (2) secure our traditional laws, cultures and ways of life
for our descendants; (3) promote a common understanding of the rightful place of tribes in the family of American
governments; and (4) improve the quality of life for Native communities and peoples.
- In 2019, the Texas legislature—House and Senate--recognized the tribe through concurrent resolutions, each signed
by the House, Senate, and Governor.
Learn more about Lipan Apache leaders in the past:
Strong Arm, Cuelgas de Castro, Flacco, Poca Ropa, Yulcha Pocarropa, Pascual, Magoosh, and Costalites.