Identification. The Jicarilla are an American Indian group whose names for themselves, "Haisndayin" and "Dinde," have been translated as "people who came from below" and "people." The name "Jicarilla" was used first by the Spanish in 1700 in reference to a hill or peak associated with the location of the tribe at that time.
Location. The homelands of the Jicarilla were located in the high country of present-day southern Colorado and north-central New Mexico. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, ranging in height from two thousand to fourteen thousand feet, roughly bisect the former Jicarilla territory from north to south and are flanked on the east and west by high plains. The considerable variation in the topography of this region results in a varied climate, but one that is generally moderate with low annual precipitation. Summers are hot and dry and winters cold and snowy. The principal rivers in the region are the Rio Grande, the Arkansas, the Canadian, and the Chama. Spruce, fir, aspen, juniper, and piñon trees are found at the higher elevations, while short grasslands predominate on the high plains and in the intermontane basins.
Demography. In 1860 the Jicarilla numbered 860. By 1900 their numbers had declined to 815 and continued to decline to 588 in 1920. This decline in population was due most directly to tuberculosis, but the spread of the disease itself was the result of poverty and poor nutrition associated with limited employment and insufficient rations on their New Mexico reservation. In the 1920s government programs to improve health and economic conditions on the reservation helped reverse the population decline. By 1955 the number of Jicarilla exceeded 1,000 and in 1981 stood at 2,308 on the Jicarilla Reservation in north-central New Mexico.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Jicarilla language is a dialect of the Apachean group of Southern Athapaskan languages.