Linguistically, the Jicarila Apache's belong to the Athabaskan language family. The white man believe that the Athabaskans trickled down from Canada around 1300 A.D. Included in this language group are the Navajo (Dine') Indians. Other Apache tribes today consist of, the Lipan, the Kiowa, the Mescalero, the Chiricahua, and the Western Apache.

Photo: Jicarilla Apache Encampment 1900's, Gojiiya Feast held in September.
Unidentified Jicarilla Apache potter.

Photo:  From the 1920's

Micaceaous water storage pot to the left of the lady with a tin cup on top.
There are two groups of Jicarilla Apache's: the Olleros or the "potters" and the Llaneros or the "plainsmens". These terms came from the Spanish who first arrived in the region in 1540 A.D.

While Jicarilla Apache basketry stood out, as witnessed by the name "Jicarilla", pottery also impressed the earlier Spanish, who dubbed some of the apache people that lived near or in the mountains, "Ollero", meaning potters.

Like our Pueblo neighbors who are more widely known for their use of mica clay, the Jicarilla in Northern New Mexico made our cooking ware from the land's unique deposits of mica filled soil. Micas's special heat-retentive qualities make this clay particularly efficient for cooking.

Photo: Jicarilla Apache Encampment 1900's, Gojiiya
The making of pottery by Jicarilla Apache people goes back to prehistoric times prior to the coming of the Spanish into the Southwest. Throughout our aboriginal ranges, of North Eastern N.M., Southeastern Colorado, West Kansas, and the Western Panhandle of Oklahoma.

Photo: Jicarilla Apache Encampment, 1900's Dulce rock in the back ground.

The last person to to make micaceous pottery in my family was my great, great, grandmother, "O' Ha Montoya". She was born a "free" nomadic Jicarilla Apache, living on the plains and mountains in the area of Cimmaron, N.M. Eventually She along with other Jicarillas were forced to settle on our present reservation.

As a child I was always attracted to the old blacken used micaceous vessels stored in my grandmother's curio cabinet. The mica flecks were pretty and shiny. At that time my grandmother could only remember her grandmother making pottery. No one in our family knew how to make pottery anymore. I had a calling at age 13 and was determined to make pottery. By chance I got a summer youth job working at the old Cultural Resource Center in Dulce. I learned how to make micaceous pottery from Mrs. Lydia Pesata a well known Jicarilla Traditonal Artist, and with guidance from Felipe Ortega, who is also a well known Micaceous Potter of Jicarilla decent.

Photo: My great, great, grandmother O' Ha Montoya and her husband Meridan Vicenti. Photograph was taken in the 1950's, O'Ha lived to be around 100, until her death in the early 1960's .
My grandmother the late Thelma Velarde holding her grandmother's (O'ha) pottery, and myself with some large Micaceous Pottery.
Jicarilla Apache Reservation, Dulce, New Mexico
Jicarilla Apache Reservation, Archuleta Mesa and San Juan Mountains
In the beginning many people I encountered at shows made the indistinguishable statements like, " I didn't know Apaches made pottery." and " it looks like Taos and Picuris". I constantly and patiently educated the onlookers about our history of pottery making.
Raw micaceous clay.
Sifting the water sludge in to screens.
In the summer months I like to teach fellow Jicarilla Apaches how to make pottery. We are digging the clay.
Preparing to make a pottery.
Sanding dried pottery with sandstones and sandpaper.
Hand coiling method.
The firing process. Cedar or pine wood is used.

Living in the northern N.M. mountains, I have to fire my pottery in the dead of winter with few problems.

"Wall of Pots" , ASU Museum, Tucson, AZ.
The friendship pottery, made by Shelden, is in the permanent collection " Wall of Pots", ASU Museum, Tucson, AZ
The next generation of Jicarilla Apache potters.
My talented Nephew. Mr. Emanuel Vigil, Pictured here on his first pottery debut at the 2007 Santa Fe Indian Market, age 9. He sold out the first day.
My beautiful Cousin. The reigning 2008/2009 Miss Jicarilla Apache, Ashley Leah Julian. Ashley has been making pottery since she was the age of 8. I hope she continues making pottery in the future.

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