The Mescalero Apache were the the first Native Americans to be incarcerated at Bosque Redondo. General James H. Carleton was in command of the military in New Mexico and made it his first priority to conquer the Apaches and bring them under submission. He ordered Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson to kill any Apache man who resisted and take all women and children prisoner. Mescalero Apache Chief Cadete surrendered, rather than face being wiped out, and all 500 members of this proud tribe were brought to Fort Stanton then on to Bosque Redondo at Fort Sumner in 1862.
The N’de (Mescalero Apache) have always been a nomadic, hunting and gathering society. Their land is the mountains of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas. They traveled seasonally living off the plants and animals that their land provided. The Mescalero were ill-equipped to become farmers, and, worse, slave laborers that life at Bosque Redondo imposed upon them.
The name Mescalero means “mescal makers.” The mescal is a large desert agave plant which was a main food staple. Apache women would dig the root out of the ground and roast it. It was easily carried and played a large role in their survival when other food sources were scarce. There was neither hunting or mescal sources available to them at Bosque Redondo.
General Carleton was unable to keep his promise to protect, feed and house them at Bosque Rodondo, so in 1865, the proud and strong Mescalero Apache people escaped in the night, deserted their imprisonment at Bosque Redondo, and returned to their homeland in the Sacramento Mountains. The military never caught them again.
We'll learn more about the N’de in THE HISTORY.
“All Indian men of the Mescalero tribe are to be killed whenever and wherever you can find them. The women and children will not be harmed, but you will take them prisoners and feed them at Fort Stanton until you receive other instructions about them.”
—General Carleton to Colonel Carson