Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Jicarilla economy was based on hunting and gathering, but agriculture was also practiced and increased in importance over time. Animals hunted included large game such as bison, Mountain sheep, antelope, deer, elk, and small game such as Beaver, rabbit, squirrel, porcupine, and prairie dog. Antelope were killed in communal drives, and bison (after Spanish contact) were hunted on horseback and dispatched with bows and arrows and lances. Turkey, grouse, and quail were also hunted, and fish were taken in shallow pools, with the use of baited nooses and bows and arrows. Gathered foods included juniper berries, mesquite beans, yucca fruit, choke-cherries, prickly pears, acorns, and piñon nuts. Cultivation was practiced by the Jicarilla after the late 1600s and resulted from contact with the Pueblo Indians. Crops included maize, beans, squash, pumpkins, peas, and melons, which were planted in plots along river and stream banks. Over time agriculture increased in importance and became more sophisticated. By the time of the American occupation of the Jicarilla territory in the mid-1800s, irrigation dams and ditches were constructed and used to supplement the region's scanty rainfall. Agricultural tools included crude wooden plows and implements for clearing irrigation ditches. Sheep raising became popular in the 1920s, but was eclipsed in importance in the 1950s by revenues from tribal-owned oil, gas, and timber resources. Since that time nonagricultural wage labor has increased with the development of small businesses and industries subsidized by the tribe's natural resource revenues.
Industrial Arts. A chief Jicarilla industry was basket making, the products of which were an important item of barter in trade with other native groups. Some baskets were sealed with pitch and used as water vessels. The Jicarilla also made Pottery and ceremonial clay pipes.
Trade. Baskets, meat, salt, and tanned bison hides were traded to Pueblo Indians for maize and other agricultural products. The Indians of San Juan Pueblo, from whom the Jicarilla also obtained songbird feathers, were special trading partners.
Division of Labor. Men hunted and women gathered. In farming, men prepared the fields, worked the irrigation ditches, and helped with the harvest, and women were responsible for planting, hoeing, weeding, and harvesting.
Land Tenure. Local groups of homesteads maintained somewhat ill-defined territories or camping grounds associated with some familiar geographical landmark. In 1891 lands on the Jicarilla reservations were allotted on an Individual basis. In 1939 the allotted lands were returned to tribal ownership.