Colorado Indian Tribes

Apache Indians. A number of the Apache bands extended their raids from time to time over the territory of what is now Colorado, but only one of them, the Jicarilla, may be said to have been permanent occupants of any part of the State within the historic period. This tribe is considered under the name Jicarilla below; for an account of the other Apache tribes except the Lipan, see New Mexico. The Lipan are treated under Texas.

Arapaho Indians. The Arapaho hunted and warred over parts of eastern Colorado.

Bannock Indians. This tribe and the Shoshoni roamed over the extreme northwestern corner of the State.

Cheyenne Indians. The same may be said of the Cheyenne as of the Arapaho.

Comanche Indians. Like the Arapaho and Cheyenne, this tribe hunted and warred in the eastern parts of the State.

Jicarilla Indians. A Mexican Spanish word, meaning “little basket,” given to the tribe on account of the expertness of Jicarilla women in making baskets. Also called:

Bĕ’-χai, or Peχ’-gĕ, Navaho name.
Kinya-inde, Mescalero name.
Koop-tagúi, Kiowa name, signifying “mountain Apache.”
Pi’-ke-e-wai-i-ne, Picuris name.
Tan-nah-shis-en, by Yarrow (1879) and signifying “men of the woodland.”
Tashi’ne, Mescalero name.
Tinde, own name.
Tu-sa-be’, Tesuque name.

Connections. The Jicarilla were one of the so-called Apache tribes, all of which belonged to the great Athapascan linguistic stock, but with the Lipan (see Texas) constituted a group distinct from the Apache proper. (See New Mexico.)

Location. Within historic times the homes of the Jicarilla have been in southeastern Colorado and northern New Mexico, though they have ranged into the adjacent parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.


Mooney (1928) gives the following:
Apatsiltlizhihi, who claim the district of Mora, N. Mex.
Dachizhozhin, original home around the present Jicarilla Reservation, N. Mex.    Golkahin, claiming a former home south of Taos Pueblo, N. Mex. Ketsilind, claiming a former home south of Taos Pueb,u, N. Mex.
Saitinde, claiming the vicinity of present Espanola, N. Mex., as their original

History. There is little doubt that the Jicarilla traveled southward at no very remote period from among the Athapascan tribes in northwestern Canada, very likely by way of the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains. They were probably among the Querechos met by Coronado in 1540-42, the same people known to the later Spanish explorers as Vaqueros. They first received mention under their own name early in the eighteenth century. In 1733 a Spanish mission was established for them near Taos, N. Mex., but it did not last long, and their relations with the Spaniards were generally hostile. In 1853 the governor of New Mexico induced 250 of the tribe to settle on the Puerco River, but failure to ratify the treaty he had made with them caused them to go on the warpath, and they continued hostile until their defeat by United States troops in 1854. In 1870 they resided on the Maxwell grant in northeastern New Mexico, but the sale of it necessitated their removal. In 1872 and again in 1873 attempts were made to move them to Fort Stanton, but most of them were permitted to go to the Tierra Amarilla, on the northern confines of the territory, on a reservation of 900 square miles set aside in 1874. Their annuities having been suspended in 1878 on account of their refusal to move southward in accordance with an Act of Congress of that year, they resorted to thieving. In 1880 the Act of 1878 was repealed, and a new reservation was set aside on the Navajo River, to which they were removed. Here they remained until 1883, when they were transferred to Fort Stanton. On February 11, 1887, however, a reservation was set aside for them in the Tierra Amarilla region by Executive Order. They removed to this territory and there they have now been allotted land in severalty.

Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that there were about 800 Jicarilla in 1845. In 1905 they numbered 795; according to the Census of 1910, there were 694; the Report of the United States Indian Office for 1923 gave 608, and that for 1937, 714.

Connection in which they have become noted. The name Jicarilla is given to mountains and a post village in Lincoln County, N. Mex.

Kiowa Indians. Like the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Comanche, the Kiowa formerly hunted and warred across parts of eastern Colorado.

Kiowa Apache Indians. This tribe always accompanied the Kiowa.

Navaho Indians. The Navaho lived just south of the Colorado boundary, entering that State only occasionally.

Pueblo Indians. Most of the Pueblo tribes trace their origin to some place in the north and there is no doubt that the ancestors of many of them lived in what are now the pueblo and cliff ruins of Colorado. In historic times the principal dealings of Colorado Indians with the Pueblos have been with the Pueblo of Taos, which was once a trading point of importance. Many of its people intermarried with the Ute.

Shoshoni Indians. Together with the Bannock, the Shoshoni roamed over the extreme northwestern part of Colorado. (See Idaho.)

Ute Indians. The Ute formerly occupied the entire central and western portions of Colorado.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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2 thoughts on “Colorado Indian Tribes”

  1. Hello,
    I just took the Ancestral DNA test and found out I’m
    Indegenious Americas-Mexico
    * Northern New Mexico & Southern Colorado
    Indigenous Americas North
    Do you know how can find my tribe?

    1. You have to do your genealogy through records, not DNA. Start with yourself and work backwards and place your people in the area and see what people’s were in the area at that time. If you can go past the 1800s you doing good.

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