Mescalero Apache history within the Tularosa Basin

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Corinna Diaz
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

November 1st marks the first day of National Native American Heritage month, a time for the nation to celebrate the contributions of Native Americans and to recognize the injustices that have been committed against indigenous people.

Holloman Air Force Base is located in Otero County, which sits within the Tularosa Basin in Southern New Mexico. The Tularosa Basin became home to a tribe of nomadic hunters and gatherers, known as the Mescalero Apache, in the early 1500s.

According to the “History of Alamogordo Army Air Field” journal, the tribe were the first-known permanent occupants of the area, inhabiting much of the surrounding lands, including the Sierra Blanca, Three Sisters, Oscura Mountain Peak and Guadalupe mountain ranges.

As European settlers encroached on these lands, warriors from the Apache tribe fought back in defense of their land and against forceful removal from the colonial settlers. This resulted in the battle of Hembrillo Basin in 1880, in which the Mescalero Apache tribe, led by warriors such as Geronimo and Victorio, battled the United States Army's 9th Cavalry.

According to the official website of the Mescalero Apache tribe, they were ultimately removed from their ancestral homeland and forced to move to what is now known as the Mescalero Apache Reservation, located in Mescalero, New Mexico, almost 40 miles from where Holloman Air Force Base now sits.

Over 140 years have passed since this battle and in spite of this violent history, the Mescalero Apache tribe have upheld their rich culture, and continue to pass on important traditions, language and ceremonial practices to future generations of tribal members.

“In the Apache way of life, there is a belief that a dark side of life is present, as well as a light side,” states the official website of the Mescalero Apache tribe. “In the dark side of life there is misery, and nothing progresses for the Apache. Here in the light of life there is happiness; a world God created of peace and harmony. In this world of peace and harmony, everything progresses for our people.”

Today, the Mescalero Apache tribe is a sovereign nation, governed by a tribal council, which often works closely with military bases in the surrounding areas.

Members of Holloman have made a concerted effort to bolster the relationship between the base and the tribe. Through shared decision-making among base and tribal leaders, Holloman remains committed to forming a positive and lasting partnership with the Mescalero Apache people.

As we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, we must also recognize the long and unjust history of acts committed against the people who are indigenous to the land we call home here at Holloman Air Force Base. By doing this, we also honor the land and the continued contributions of the Mescalero Apache tribe to our home and way of life.

For more information about the Mescalero Apache tribe and the history of the Tularosa Basin, visit