Jicarilla Apache Pottery

The Pioneers Monument in the heart of Dulce on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation
Monument to the Pioneers
in the center of Dulce

Somewhere between 1000 and 1500 CE, small bands of Athabaskan people began arriving in the southern Rocky Mountains. These are the people who sorted out into Comanche, Kiowa, Diné and Apache. They have all been linked to a common source known as the Dismal River culture.

That first found Dismal River site (and others found since in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota), was occupied up until about 1750 CE. The people had been separating out and moving off in different directions for years. Some went to the Black Hills and merged with Kiowas there to become the Kiowa Apache. Others went south along the eastern flanks of the mountains and eventually wrapped in a circle around the Rio Grande pueblos. Others merged with the Utes and Comanches. Where I'm going though, is this: micaceous pottery made by the Jicarilla Apache has been found in Dismal River culture sites from Colorado to South Dakota.

There were Jicarilla Apache living in the mountains and forests around Pot Creek Pueblo when it was abandoned around 1320 CE. Some of the folks from Pot Creek merged into a group where Taos is now. Some went southeast and built Picuris. Others preferred to live in the forests and mountains around those pueblos. When the 1680 Pueblo Revolt happened, these people were in the forefront of it. After the Spanish had been escorted back to El Paso, their warriors returned home and many packed up their families and headed northeast again, knowing the hated Spaniards would come back. It was several generations before the Jicarilla fully returned.

An area north of the Arkansas River in eastern Colorado called El Quartelejo is where most of them went. It was just north of the boundary line of Spanish-claimed lands. Spanish troops would visit the area regularly and try to convince folks they should return to Spain's good graces but that didn't happen until population pressure from the east (forced by Anglo colonists moving westward from the eastern seaboard) pushed them back southwest in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The Spanish first referred to them as Xicharilla in 1698 and identified them as troublemakers who participated in the Revolt. But they never got them nailed down to a set location. The Spanish authorities did force a Jicarilla Enclave at Taos, and they formed a quasi-government that stayed at Taos until they were finally given a reservation of their own by an Executive Order from President Grover Cleveland in 1887.

Jicarilla Apache pottery is generally a golden micaceous pottery, with fire clouds. They dig their clay in the forest, in the mountains west of the Rio Grande and north of the Rio Chama. It is entirely possible that it was their ancestors who taught the people of Pot Creek Pueblo how to make micaceous pottery.