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Diné (Navajo) Oral Histories: Share Your Story

Ndé (Mescalero Apache)


Ndé (Mescalero Apaches’) traditional knowledge begins with the emergence story, which says that the people have lived in what is now New Mexico and Texas since time immemorial. Oral traditions teach that the ancestral Mescaleros traveled the world, always starting from their mountain homelands. Ancestors spoke of White Mountain, or Sierra Blanca, where White Painted Woman gave birth to sons Child of Water and Killer of Enemies. When they grew up, they slayed the giant monsters who roamed the Earth and saved humankind. The four sacred mountains—Sierra Blanca, Guadalupe Mountains, Three Sisters Mountain, and Oscura Mountain Peak—represent the direction of everyday life for the Ndé.

When the earth had been made, Killer of Enemies put us down right here in the vicinity of White Mountain. "That which lies on this mountain will be the land of the Mescalero," he said... We are still here.

Fred Pelman Ndé


The Ndé lived a nomadic lifestyle, roaming freely across the Southwest. Men hunted in the plains, prairies, and mountains. Women gathered wild plants, nuts, and seeds. The mescal plant provided a staple food source. Upon their arrival in the area in the late sixteenth century, the Spanish named the Ndé "Mescalero," for "the people who eat mescal." Conflicts with Spanish, and then Mexican, settlers led to cycles of violence for the Mescaleros. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Mescaleros faced increased instability with continued American settlement of the Territory of New Mexico. Mescalero leader Cadete appealed for respect and mercy from American military forces, but to no avail.

We have fought you so long as we had rifles and powder; but your weapons are better than ours. Give us weapons and turn us loose, and we will fight you again; but we are worn out. We have no more heart. We have no provisions, no means to live. Your troops are everywhere... You have driven us from our last and best stronghold, and we have no more heart.

Cadete Ndé

Present Day Community

Between 1863 and 1868, the U.S. government attempted to eradicate Mescalero Apaches. The U.S. government’s experiment at Bosque Redondo ultimately failed and these peoples were able to eventually return to their homelands. But the lasting impacts of the Long Walk continue to be experienced by the community today. We encourage you to visit the Mescalero Apache Reservation to learn about the Mescalero Apache community and culture.


Ndé Resources