Identification. The Lipan Apache had ceased to exist as a separate tribe by 1905, when the last of them moved to the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation in south-central New Mexico. Anthropological fieldwork with Eastern Apache did not begin until Morris Opler's work in the 1930s, by which time the Lipan were virtually extinct. See the entry on the Mescalero Apache for all contemporary information. The following is a brief historical sketch reconstructed from archival documents and secondary sources. Usually, the name "Lipan" is said to have come from the name of a grand chieftain with a version of the suffix -ndé, "The People," appended. Archival documents, however, lead to an equally plausible explanation, since early mention (eighteenth Century) of Lipans is often spelled with one of the variations of "Lipiyane." L í í is the Apachean word for "horse," and ' iyane is the word for "bison"; thus, their name could well have referred to their primary subsistence pattern: that of following bison herds on horseback.
Location. In the early eighteenth century, Lipan Apache were in central and western Texas, from approximately the Trinity River (east of present-day Waco, Texas) westward to the Pecos River, where they joined their Mescalero Apache "cousins." They were reported as far north as the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle and as far south as the Santander area of Mexico. Most reports of Lipan place them either in the vicinity of bison herds or occupying river bottom lands. Like most Apachean groups, they roamed over vast areas, but always they were reported in desert or coastal plains sites rather than in mountains, as were some other Apache groups. In general they lived in very warm to hot climates; night in desert areas, however, is usually cool and can be cold in the winter.
Linguistic Affiliation. Lipan Apache, still spoken by Perhaps two dozen or so people on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, is a Southern Athapaskan language. As such it can be understood by speakers of other Apachean languages, although most of them maintain that Lipan speakers speak more slowly and with broader vowels than do speakers of other Apachean languages. The Southern Athapaskan Languages are related to other Athapaskan languages spoken on the north coast of California and in the Pacific Northwest, and through parts of northern Canada and Alaska. Despite attempts to record Lipan Apache, it remains largely unknown in a scholarly sense. The contemporary speakers are adamant that it not be recorded or written, believing that if the Language is meant to survive them, then it will do so, but that it is inappropriate for people to interfere with a process directed by the Creator.
Demography. Currently numbered with the Mescalero and Chiricahua, it is difficult to obtain precise numbers of Lipan. A reasonable estimate is that there are fewer than fifty people alive today claiming Lipan ancestry as their primary ethnicity. At their height, they probably numbered no more than five thousand, divided into about a dozen bands.