Native Cowboys – Mescalero Apache Tribe

Jul 17, 2022 716.5K Views 1.3K Comments

Join me as I venture out to the Mescalero Apache Tribe, to talk to the Native cowboys, in the mountains of Southern New Mexico.

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► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello
► Researched by: Kymberly Redmond

♪ country ♪
[door opens]
[door closes]
We’re here,
Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation.
And so it’s been about a
two week process to get a permit
to film on the reservation.
We’re gonna go in here,
hopefully it’s a quick process
and then get out to a ranch.
Thank you, guys.
All right, Dusty.
We got the permit, the approval.
Dusty, you’re in charge of
the ranching operation out here?
Yeah, I manage the ranch for the tribe.
So today we’re gonna go
out to the operation
and meet your cowboys?
Yeah, I’ll take you out there,
they’re moving some cows this morning
and then they’ll be
back in this afternoon.
♪ country ♪
[door closes]
Beautiful country, Dusty.
I don’t complain too much.
It’s even nicer when it’s green.
Are you the only
non-native on the reservation?
Yes, sir.
There’s other non-natives
on the reservation
but I’m the only one way out here.
And living here?
Yes, sir.
How long you been out here?
I’ve been here eight years now.
Okay, and so you’re here
because you have the expertise
with ranching
and running an operation.
So that’s why they want you here.
So you’ve always been the minority.
You said that you grew up in southern…
Southern Arizona.
I ran crews
in Arizona.
Being the minority has never
been anything new to me.
So we have the cowboys
at the back end there, right?
They’re just…
Pushing them up and then
we’re going where, out this gate?
[bull bellowing]
Are these angry cows?
I’ve never seen them so vocal.
They’re used to the feed truck.
[cattle mooing]
Here we go, got a cowboy coming through.
♪ country ♪
So for those that don’t know
this is a cattle grate.
When the cows hoof goes through
they can’t move any further.
So once they get ’em through here
it’s like they cleared a section.
Here ya go.
When you’re pushing cattle like this
how often’s that happen?
One just doesn’t wanna go?
[panting] Most of the time
’cause the mothers like to leave, so…
[music continues]
[cattle mooing]
Always lived out here?
When’d you start cowboying?
10, 11 years now, so…
Been out here a good little bit.
I’ve been out here three years.
Is it in the culture to cowboy
or is that sort of a newer thing?
It’s not newer.
It’s not a newer thing
but back in the day they had cattle
like back in the 70s.
-So it’s been around for a little bit.
They had a lot of white guys out here
and it was a lot more white people
and kind of less natives.
Everybody had a little share in it.
Now it’s more natives, less whites?
Yeah, yeah.
Now they keep the natives
in there a little bit more.
We got a couple managers
and everything.
It’s natives and Dusty?
Yeah, pretty much.
Does he know the native ways yet?
Try to keep that out of here a little bit.
Try to keep it out of the ranch
a little bit, you know?
The Apaches, they were
the strongest fighters
out of all the Native Americans, right?
300 years against the Spanish
and Mexicans?
40 years against the Americans, right?
Something like that, yes sir.
You guys are eating these cows
at your ceremonies?
Yeah, we have a pen
that we put away.
They get about two, three year olds
and they’ll be butchered
for the ceremonies.
Okay, so what’s the ceremony all about?
It’s for a young girl
coming of age ceremony.
So when she becomes a woman?
Each family comes out here
for their own ceremony
and butchers their beef.
They take it back and they…
They do what they do with it
and the cook it up.
I’m married and he’s been
with his lady for about 10 years.
-15 or so.
How does it work
with the Mescalero Apache?
How do you meet a woman?
How does that whole process take place?
Is it families get involved
or is it like you’re on your own?
We were kind of on our own when we met
and then it just grew from there.
Love at first sight?
Yeah, basically.
You’re on camera,
you gotta say…[chuckles]
I’m just joking.
It took a little longer for me,
I was kind of single a little bit longer.
Not too much family involved.
It was just me and her.
Our families knew each other.
What about on the reservation?
Is everyone in everyone’s business?
‘Cause there’s 5,000 people
out here, right?
Does everyone know everyone?
There’s a way
to get information for sure.
Somebody will know something out here
about somebody.
Are there many natives right now
that wanna get into cowboying
or is it tough to find people?
Tough to find ’em,
once they figure it out
it’s tough to keep ’em.
It’s not as movie like as…
It’s not Yellowstone?
Yeah, there ya go, that’s a good one.
It has to be bred into you.
I mean your family has to love it,
you have to love it
everybody has to want to do it.
You live in one of the most
beautiful places I’ve seen
Yeah, for sure, really.
This reservation.
Lot of different country
and a lot of country, yeah.
And the mountain,
what’s the big mountain called?
Sierra something?
-That’s Sierra Blanca.
-Sierra Blanca.
That holds like a spiritual…
Yeah, yeah.
Realm or something?
Yeah, there’s a lot of history to it
for our elders, for the tribe.
I was told, and excuse me
for the rookie questions.
But I was told you don’t wanna
look people directly in the eye
you sort of wanna look off.
Is that true or is that for elders?
Yeah, for elders for sure it has been.
It has been like that for a little while.
To an elder, I wouldn’t probably
burn ’em down with my eyes,
you know what I mean?
-But I mean…
I would at least look at ’em,
talk, and then look away.
Yeah, I wouldn’t burn ’em down, you know?
That’s kind of a big deal I bet.
And also pointing, right?
Yeah, just a lot of little stuff
that was kind of taught from back.
Back way young.
-That’s a lot of little stuff, yeah.
You guys ever go to the city
or not really?
When we have to.
I kind of got married
so now my wife likes to travel.
She likes to do that big city stuff.
Where do you go, Albuquerque?
Even a little traveling, we just went
to the Guadalupe Mountains.
-That’s kind of a little bit in Arizona.
-Oh, cool, yep.
Before that, never really traveled though.
[unclear] Yeah, yeah.
$1,200, okay.
-I’m like, “Wow.”
-Sounds good.
-Dang, yeah, that would be awesome.
-Sounds good.
This bad boy cost me $2,600.
-Yes, sir.
But is it a custom?
Authentic Billy Cook.
No, it’s not the custom Billy Cook.
Shoot, that one,
you’re looking at about three.
Closer to $3,000 if it was custom
but that one, it’s a Billy Cook
but it’s not custom.
It’s a little cheaper.
When you have your saddle
it’s like having the right boots?
You gotta have the right fit?
Yes, sir.
Oh, yeah.
If you’re gonna be in it all day
you better be comfortable.
Takes miles to break ’em in.
If they’re brand new.
You wanna keep your kids doing this?
-Yes, sir.
-Why is that?
It teaches you a lot of things.
Whether you realize it or not, you know?
-Hard work, dedication, discipline.
A lot of kids, they play sports
for those type of things
but I believe like if…
90% of kids, they ain’t gonna
go to the NFL.
They ain’t gonna go pro.
They’re gonna stop at some point.
But this, kids can do
’til they’re as old as they want.
As old as they choose to do it.
You’re continuously learning at this job.
The moment you think you
know everything and you figured it out
something throws you for a loop.
Do kids on the reservation here
have the same challenges as every kid?
Like social media is a big thing.
All that, I mean, same issues?
Oh yeah.
Yes, sir, they have…
They have it just as bad.
I would think that kids on
the reservation are a little bit more
restricted as opposed to
bigger town kids and stuff like that.
Just ’cause they can’t
access it as easily.
-So they try to find it.
They’re like any other kids,
they wanna be on it
-they wanna be in that world.
Do you notice what’s going on
in the states that much?
Like Washington DC, Hollywood,
all this bickering, all this noise
or are you sort of like in
your own world out here?
Me, I try to stay up to date on
current events.
Not only
locally, within our state, and nationally.
I mean to me it’s very important
to stay current with the times.
[horse sighs]
What about the Mescalero Apache Tribe?
Does it have its own drama, own…
Oh, yeah, yeah.
Every town has its own drama
but I mean, yeah we… Of course, yeah.
We’re not exempt from
that kind of thing unfortunately.
We’re all human.
Yes sir, we’re all human.
Let’s see it.
-You’re wanted.
Here we go, man.
Your great grandmother, 113 years old?
When she passed away.
When did she pass away?
Oh, it’s been back in the early 80s.
Did she have a lot of stories?
Oh yeah, she had a lot of stories.
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Now back to the story.
Did she ever tell when she grew up here
what was it like or…
“It was still pretty wild
in those days.” she said.
She always used to talk about
riding behind her dad
when she was a little girl.
Down towards the highway
there was a trading post down there.
-with the wagons and stuff.
With a team of horses
and stuff going down there.
So how you were raised here,
did your parents speak Apache or no?
My mom speaks Apache,
my dad is a Spanish…
-That’s where I get Chavez from.
-Okay, so you’re half and half?
This might be a rookie question.
It might be a silly question.
You don’t have to answer it but
do you feel more
Mescalero Apache or more American?
Like as your identity,
what would you say?
Is that tough one?
With the times,
the times are right now…
As we keep year by year goes by,
more American it seems like to me.
You’ve been all over the country?
Just about, yeah.
How’s it feel when you come back?
I can’t wait to get home.
The traffic out in those cities
is too much.
I’ve been to all the northern states.
Montana, and Green Bay,
Pennsylvania, all them places.
-You’re well traveled?
You said you’re going into
Montana and stuff?
Up there they have
a lot of missing women.
-Native women?
-Native women, yeah.
Why do you think?
Here, and I wanna say
in the Navajo Nation too.
New Mexico,
the nation goes into Arizona too.
New Mexico and Arizona
and some goes into Utah.
Do you know why that is?
I have no idea.
I think up in
like Montana and them places
’cause it’s close to the Canadian border.
Here, not bad.
I mean here…
I haven’t been on many reservations.
Is it fair to say this is
one of the nicer ones
as far as the landscape.
People say when they come in
from the Alamogordo side…
They’re in the desert and in another
20 minutes you’re in the mountains.
That’s because of Tularosa Basin.
It’s a beautiful part of the country.
‘Cause when I always thought
of New Mexico I thought of
the northern part of New Mexico.
Like Taos, I haven’t been there
but I heard that
or Santa Fe,
but I never thought down here.
Yeah, all the pueblos.
I forget how many pueblos
there’s a bunch of
pueblo tracks up there.
What are the pueblos like, do you know?
They still do a lot
of the ceremonial stuff too.
A lot of them still live
in them old houses.
They show pictures of them homes
that they live in.
With the ladders to get up on and stuff.
Yeah, they still live like that.
-So every tribe is totally different?
Everybody’s different, their own culture.
You can tell if someone’s
from a different reservation?
Yeah, you can tell.
Just facials, and just…
They’re different.
Even different Apache reservations
you can tell the difference?
Even the…
The Chiricahuas in San Carlos,
their language is a little different.
It’s almost the same as here
but it’s a little different.
Okay, but if they’re speaking English
-could you tell if they’re from there?
They’re from there, yeah, you can tell.
-You served overseas?
-Yes, sir.
What did you do?
I was a 7051, Aircraft Rescue Specialist
and I served two tours in Iraq.
Hell, it’s been so long now
I forgot the dates.
-But yeah…
-How was that?
It was awesome, I loved it.
How did it feel coming back home?
It sucked.
-It sucked coming back home ’cause…
You know, [sighs]
you get used to living that way
for so long
that it…
It becomes who you are and you know…
You come back here to a…
And not just here, but anywhere…
Veterans I feel have such
a big problem is…
It’s a big transition ’cause
nobody really looks out for each other
the way you look out
for each other there.
-You know?
You don’t…
It’s hard to build those
connections again I guess.
So when you have the
common threat of, like, your life?
-Yeah, exactly, yeah.
-Basically you come together?
Yeah and then…
Well, not even just the threat
but even just like when
you’re very first starting in boot camp
you call come from
different aspects of life
and you’re trying to obtain the same goal
so you have to learn
to depend on each other
to get there ’cause not one guy’s
gonna get there on his own.
You have to learn to work together.
You have to figure out people.
You have to learn what each person brings.
What’s their strength,
what’s their weakness
and how can I cover that?
You just end up getting so close
because your families, your teams
they all depend on you.
You depend on them and so you know…
That’s what makes it
real tough coming back
is that you just don’t find
that type of camaraderie.
Even on the reservation you’re not gonna
get that level of closeness?
Yeah, you’re not gonna…
And those who you served with
were people from all over the country?
-Oh yeah, yeah.
I served with guys from
all over the place.
How was that coming from the reservation?
You were probably young, right?
When you left?
Oh yeah, yeah.
You probably didn’t have much experience
around the country at that time?
No, heck no.
So how was that?
Meeting all these different guys,
was that cool or?
Oh yeah, heck, you meet your best friends.
You gotta fight ’em first.
You gotta butt heads
for a while, you know?
And then you end up…
But I mean good people
attract good people.
You figure out who works best
with you and, shoot…
I just met some of
the best guys I’ve know ever
and still know.
You stay in touch with them?
No, I don’t really too much anymore.
I tried to let that part of my life go
because I loved it so much
and I miss it so much
that if I dwell on it too much
I start taking it out on other people.
Yeah, it’s crazy that the danger
or the threat of your life
or your buddy’s life
brings everyone together.
Yeah, that’s kind of the hardest part.
Then out here people b*tch about,
or worry about things that, you know
being out there…
Sh*t, that’s nothing to worry about.
You know?
What the hell’s your problem?
The way these vets really open up
and the way they kind of deal with it
is like alcohol, and you know,
I try to stay away.
I drink but I mean
I was down that road myself to where
the only way I could cope
was with alcohol, you know?
It was just leading nowhere
and I had to…
I had to figure it out really fast.
Does this help, being on a horse?
Oh yeah, hell yeah, being out here
’cause I mean, sh*t, you’re way out there
all that matters is your safety,
the horse’s safety
working together, getting the job done
and you just got time to think.
You got time, you know?
Some days you get to relax.
Enjoy everything God gives you.
The birds, the trees, the grass, the…
Shoot, it’s…
Are you guys religious?
It depends who you’re talking to out here.
I’m spiritual
but I’m not overly religious.
I’m not gonna preach the word to you
and force it upon you.
I know there’s something
bigger than us out there.
I don’t know what it is
but I do have a sense of what it is.
I’m the same way.
You know, I…
I believe in good and evil, you know?
In Iraq, you had to see some…
-Some heavy evil, huh?
-Yeah, oh yeah.
And then you also see a lot of good too.
That’s what people don’t understand.
It’s like as much sh*t that their country
was going through
people still had smiles on their faces,
going to work
taking care of their families.
You know, just trying to live
and that’s why I came back here too.
Was another thing like,
“Man, you people b*tch about this
when you shoulda seen
what them folks were going through.”
You know what I mean?
I can put it to like mice
in a drowning ship.
They’re all trying to
climb on top of each other
Nobody’s trying to figure out
how to save the ship
they’re just trying to figure out
how to save themselves.
Right, in the military
it’s all about the ship?
Oh yeah, yes sir.
That was another big thing for me.
Out there, being in the service
everything you gain,
you get it by showing you know how
to take care of others.
You know how to lead others,
you know how to help other people.
And here you don’t…
So you got more of that skill
in the military
than you did on the reservation?
Well, no. Well…
I was actually lucky to be born
’cause I had my younger brother
and I grew up…
Who’s your younger brother?
He’s my younger brother right there.
And I grew up
taking care of him, you know.
I learned it naturally.
I guess how you’re supposed to.
Dusty, thanks for lining that up.
No problem.
Without Dusty this wouldn’t have happened.
It’s not like it’s easy access
to get in here.
Off-limits pretty much.
All right guys,
so some closing thoughts here.
Very interesting day out here.
The reservation has,
at least for me
a very different, unique, removed feel.
But the more I talk with the guys
it’s really interesting,
like the one guy that was in the military.
What he said about that.
And the guy I talked to that
traveled around the country a lot
and said it just feels like he’s home
when he comes back here.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful
part of the country and the world
and I just love the fact that
it really can’t be developed.
No one can buy this off
and in this world we’re in where
that countryside real estate is becoming
more and more sought after
more bought off, more broken up
this is my first reservation experience
but it’s pretty obvious that this is…
This seems to be well intact.
Days like today, it’s just like you
gain so much new knowledge
and experience
and it makes me so happy
about this country despite
all the negativity
being thrown at us lately.
It’s unbelievable that we have
what we have.
All these different people.
All these different landscapes.
All these different ways of living
and it works pretty well, considering.
the goal is to actually do
a Native American series
later this year.
I’ve been trying for quite some time but
COVID restriction have stopped that.
Hopefully this fall
I’ll be getting into
many different tribes.
This is part of a greater
rancher and cowboy series.
I have a link down below with a playlist.
Also should be here on the screen.
All the way from West Texas
up to Montana.
Capturing this culture
to the best of my ability.
Trying to hit it from
as many different angles.
This is obviously
the Native American angle.
I’m gonna be doing the cowgirl angle
the small ranching angle.
Many different perspectives on this
very unique and beautiful culture.
Thanks for coming along.
Until the next one.
♪ country ♪

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