The Lipan Apache Language

Recreating a Bilingual Environment for the Lipan

Purpose Statement

This site is meant to display the reconstruction of a language that was lost as its use diminished. The Lipan Apache people speak English and Spanish and now, through this project, are in the process of adding another language, Lipan, which was once their primary language.

A History of the Lipan Language

A History of the Lipan Language.

The Lipan Language was once a thriving and vital language.

In 1805, the Lipan were reported to consist of three bands, of 300, 350 and 100 men.  During the Texan wars, which attempted an extermination of the Indians within the Texas border, the Lipans suffered greatly.  Most Lipan fled to Mexico, into the Santa Rosa mountains.  However, 19 survivors were taken to Chihuahua in 1903, and subsequently were moved to the United States in 1905 and placed at Mescalero in New Mexico.  In 1912, there were 25 Lipan in New Mexico, as well as one or two Lipan with the 54 Tonkawa at Oakland Reservation, Oklahoma, as well as a few with the Kiowa Apache, which according to Hodge (1912) makes the total population approximately 35 Lipan.

In particular, the events of 1873 can be called a turning point for the Lipan Apache people.  The events at Remolino are of great importance.  Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie led a force of approximately 370 U.S. forces across the U.S. border into Mexico, and on May 18, raided the small village of Remolino.  The effects were disastrous.  Over 180 dwellings were destroyed, 19 Indians were killed, 40 women and children were taken captive, and Chief Costelitos was taken prisoner.

At this point in time, the Lipan Apache chose to disperse.  According to Oral Tradition, the Lipans decided to live in Mexico and the United States as Mexican and American Citizens.  They decided to, "hide in plain sight," to preserve their culture and traditions, in secret.

More than two hundred years later, the Lipan Apache are once again a thriving people.  The Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas now has more than three thousand members.  The Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas has also achieved State Recognition on March 18, 2009.

However, of those thousands of speakers, not one is a fully fluent native speaker of the language.  Language is considered to be one of the most important aspects of cultural unity, if not the most important.  In order to promote cultural unity within the tribe, a program of language revitalization and language education is to be proposed, refined, and implemented.

Geographically, the area of the Lipan Apache has been much reduced.  A report from 1799 by the Engineer José Cortez placed the area of the Lipan from 29° North to 36° North, and from 99° West to 114° West, "(I)n other words, from central Texas nearly to the Colorado River in Arizona, where they met tribes of the Yuma stock.  The Lipan occupied the eastern part of the above territory, extending in Texas from the Comanche country (about Red River) south to the Rio Grande.  More recently both Lipan and Apache have gradually moved southward into Mexico, where they extend as far as Durango."  (Pilling, 1892:VI)


Lipan Apache was once a thriving and widespread language, and has now been reduced to the point of extermination.  Given that this is the current situation, this page and the links therein are dedicated to the revitalization of the Lipan Apache Language.


Hodge, Frederick Webb (1912)  Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico.  Washington Government Printing Office.

Pilling, James (1892)  Bibliography of the Athapascan Languages.  Smithsonian Institution.  Washington D.C.


Hodge, Frederick (1912)  Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico.

Pilling, James (1892)  Bibliography of the Athapascan Languages.