Chiricahua Apache Nation does not appear on the BIA list of United States federally recognized entities, but remains federally recognized according to the judicial branch of the U.S. government. There is only one band of the Chiricahua Apache Nation on the BIA list. It is the Tsi-he-nde “Ojo Caliente/Warm Springs” Band of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. The Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma is comprised of descendants of 88 Chiricahua prisoners of war, including a mix of all four bands. The Mescalero Apache Tribe of eastern New Mexico invited and accepted the survivors of the Lipan Apache Nation and 176 freed Chiricahua prisoners of war. The Lipan and the Chiricahua were distinct nations and not sub-bands of Apaches. The small number of Lipan survivors and freed prisoner of war Chiricahua consolidated on the Mescalero Apache reservation by federal decree. Today, these former nations do not identify as separate nations or bands on the U. S. Federal Register.
It is important to remember that the 1,200 or so Chiricahua prisoner of war descendants of the Fort Sill and the Mescalero Apache Tribes are not the only Chiricahua survivors of the Apache wars. Thousands of free Chiricahua Apache descendants survived into the 21st century in Mexico and the United States by going underground. This is the greater part of the Chiricahua Apache Nation, which the Chiricahua Apache Nation seeks to unify as its primary goal. The myth that there is only one group of Chiricahua people has been perpetuated by the dominant cultures since Geronimo’s surrender in September of 1886 to placate the fears of encroaching non-Indian populations to the Southwest during the westward expansion of the United States.
The Chiricahua Apache Nation is negotiating international and state recognition. Their organization believes strongly that federal governments, particularly as reflected by the history of United States American Indian policy, do not dictate American Indian identity.