For the Mescalero Apaches, the Guadalupe Mountains were the last stronghold. War with the Comanches forced bands of Apaches to retreat from the plains into these inhospitable mountains. They survived here by learning to utilize the native plants and animals. The Mescaleros, or Nde (In-deh) as they called themselves, hunted mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, and harvested plants including, agave, sotol, and bear grass.
The agave, or mescal formed the major staple in both their diet and culture. In addition to supplying fiber for ropes, blankets, and sandals, agave hearts were roasted in large cooking pits and eaten or made into cakes for later consumption.
The Mescaleros were constantly on the move, ranging over vast areas and following the changing seasons. Though the Mescaleros learned to adapt to this rather harsh environment, they were unable to contend with the rapid and unwelcome advance of settlers into the area. Suddenly, their bounty of resources and precious water sources were being taken away. While they tried desperately to defend their lands by raiding and attacking stages and settlements, the Mescalero Apaches were defeated by soldiers and cavalrymen in a series of brutal skirmishes. By the late 1800's, the Mescaleros had, for the most part, been driven from the Guadalupes.
Today, the Guadalupes still represent an important cultural and spiritual sanctuary for the Mescalero Apaches. Each year members of the tribe come to the area to harvest agaves for ceremonial purposes.
Did You Know?
More than 300 bird species are known to frequent Guadalupe Mountains National Park; there are more than 40 species alone that nest in McKittrick Canyon. With several unique life zones and a myriad of habitats, the park is a birder's paradise.