Michael Webster
Where is Geronimo now?
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By Michael Webster
March 26, 2015

Headlight File Photo in 2008, Governor Bill Richardson ordered the New Mexico State Police to form a blockade at the Apache Homelands Casino property in

By Michael Webster: Syndicated Investigative Reporter

AKELA, N.M., Governor NewMexico.jpg One year after the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled to force Governor Susana Martinez t o recognize the Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Tribe (FSA) as a New Mexico Tribe, After waiting for the response by the Governor , the tribe again had to return to the Courts for justice and asked that the Governor be compelled to follow New Mexico State Law.

Jeff Haozous, Chairman of the Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Tribe told this reporter the Governor was granted a delay by the court again yesterday. "

The FSA Tribe are continued victims of colonial era politics and back room deals at the hands of the New Mexico Governor. Subjugation continues 200 years later.

FSA filed a lawsuit against Governor Martinez and her administration in the New Mexico Supreme Court, requesting she comply with the State Compact Negotiation Act and sign two Class III gaming compacts it had submitted to her in 2013. A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

The bottom line is the Tribe is only seeking fair and equal treatment by the State.

Jeff Haozous, Chairman of the FSA said "It has become urgent that these compacts are signed now that the Administration has become openly opposed to our return, authoring a new compact that explicitly prevents our tribe from participating,"

The window of eligibility for the Tribe to sign onto the existing compacts expires in June 2015. The new compact submitted by the Governor recently and was approved by the New Mexico State Legislature includes language that specifically excludes FSA. This approved compact by the legislature, could deny the Tribes ability to offer Class III gaming on its sole and federally recognized reservation in southwest New Mexico. Either way the Tribe is being treated unfairly. This legislation prevents only this Tribe from the compact even though they are a federally recognized sovereign nation. It appears to be deigned solely to keep them out of the gaming business. That is illegal, discriminatory and with further investigation could prove criminal.

"The Governor is required by law to sign the Tribe's proposed compacts," said Chairman Haozous. "It is unfortunate that the Administration's continued discrimination against our tribe has once again forced us to turn to the Court for relief. We may be the smallest tribe in the state, but our rights are equal to every other tribe and pueblo. Until this administration recognizes and respects this fact, we will not rest."

The FSA are often compared to Israel a people returning to there homeland. The descendants to the Chiricahua & Warm Springs Apache Tribes they occupied vast lands in the territory in Southwestern New Mexico estimated to be 14 million plus acres of land, much of it in Southwestern New Mexico. For millennium the tribe long defended their homeland from western invaders from the Spanish Consistories to the United States Calvary.

Fort Sill Apache Tribe at church, 1930s.

1886, their land was taken and the entire tribe of men, woman and children were removed and were taken as prisoners of war by the U.S. Army and removed from their rightful homelands of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Families were separated some were taken to Florida, others to Alabama and Oklahoma, they were held as prisoners of war in concentration camps for 28 long years. Even than, they were forbidden to return to there terrestrial homelands. They were released from prison in the foreign lands of Oklahoma where the few that did survive were left without a reservation and virtually homeless .

Many years later they organized as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe after a Federal Court affirmed their claim for the loss of over 14.8 million acres of their homeland. The Tribe has always maintained both its independence as Chiricahua – Warm Springs Apaches and its desire to return to its rightful Mother land.

After receiving an invitation from the Governor of New Mexico in 1995 and again in 2000 to return to New Mexico, the Tribe purchased the property at Akela Flats in 1998 from the owners of Arco-Seco Racetrack. It is a tiny parcel of 30 Acers between Deming and Las Cruces New Mexico. It became tribal trust land in 2002 and designated a Reservation in November 2011. It is the first and only reservation granted to the tribe since before Geronimo surrendered in the Chiricahua Mountains of South Central Arizona.

According to New Mexico State Senator John Arthur Smith" the Supreme Court also has ruled the Fort Sill Apaches are a New Mexico tribe. There is no disputing it. They are like every other sovereign nation in the state. And they should be treated like it. "

The tribe while waiting on the Governor to comply with the law is operating their popular open to the public travel center on its reservation at Akela Flats, 17 miles east of Deming on interstate 10. There is a full service café, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. While you are there check out The Indian jewelry, tobacco, beer and wine and other tax free liquor. There's a boutique museum featuring old photos of Geronimo and early history of the tribe.

Chairman Haozous says he would like to participate like all other tribes in trible gaming to help provide needed funds for trible government infrastructure, and programs for our people. The tribe would like to build a cultural center and housing and other trible government operations. Although they are being treated like outsiders by the Governor, many other tribes and pueblos are allowed to have gaming."

The governor continues to put road blocks up. Many citizens ask why? What is she hiding from the public? What special interests is she protecting? What roll does Stanly Fulton owner of Sunland Park Racetrack play and what are his interests? Fulton's racetrack just happens to have a Casino. Are they contributors to her campaigns or worse?

Many of the people around Deming want and need the casino, they point out that Luna County has some of the highest unemployment in the state, and the 3rd poorest in the country. The Governor's actions or lack thereof are blowing jobs for locals. Its estimated that the casino would employee 250 people year round, and a 100 or more during construction. All of these jobs according to Gary Myers operations Manager would be good jobs, high paying with, complete benefits including hospitalization, dental and eye care.

Band of Apache Indian prisoners at a rest stop beside the Southern Pacific Railway, near Nueces River, Texas, on Sept. 10, 1886. Among those on their way from New Mexico to exile in Florida are Natchez, center front, and, to the right, Geronimo and his son in matching shirts. They would eventually be settled in Fort Sill, Okla. National Archives No. 523549

Geronimo's last wishes to the President of the United States was to return with his people to their rightful homeland.

Milan Simonich reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican that Martinez's legal team maintains that Fort Sill Apaches are effectively interlopers motivated by the prospect of profits from slot machines and card tables.

"The federal government recognizes Fort Sill as being located in the state of Oklahoma. ... Fort Sill does not maintain communities, government facilities or a population base in New Mexico," the governor's lawyers wrote in their brief to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Haozous said, one reason that the tribe has not been able to better develop its reservation in New Mexico is that it has been denied access to the state tribal summit and money allocated for structural improvements.

He said the Fort Sill Apaches see New Mexico as home, both historically and as the place they are most comfortable.

"It's just not fair to be painted with the broad brush of gaming as our interest in New Mexico.

That's not what's driving the lawsuit," Haozous said. "We've asked for years to be included."

In its court filing, Martinez's administration said that, as long ago as 1999, then-Gov. Gary Johnson sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior objecting to Fort Sill Apaches using their land in New Mexico for a casino. The tribe's interest in gambling as a business has not diminished, the state says.

Haozous, who lives in Oklahoma, said Martinez's opposition to Fort Sill Apaches only makes it more difficult for tribal members to rebuild a population base in New Mexico. A similar argument was made by the tribe's lawyers in their brief to the Supreme Court.

"That the majority of the population of the tribe has not yet returned to its aboriginal territory is not surprising, given respondents hostility and the relatively recent recognition of the tribe's reservation in the area of its ancestral homeland," they said.

Haozous said, some of the arguments made against his tribe are specious, notably that it maintains its office in Oklahoma. The Navajo Nation's headquarters is in Arizona, but that never stopped New Mexico from recognizing that tribe, nor should it, he said.

For more information and updates on the Tribe, please follow on on Twitter (@FortSillApache) and Facebook (Fort Sill Apache Tribe New Mexico).

Sources:

Fort Sill Apache Tribe (FSA)

Court documents

Santa Fe New Mexican

Milan Simonich ringside Seat column and blog at santafenewmexican.com.

Other news out lets

Various Citizens of Luna County

© Michael Webster

 

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Michael Webster

Michael Webster's Syndicated Investigative Reports are read worldwide, in 100 or more U.S. outlets and in at least 136 countries and territories. He publishes articles in association with global news agencies and media information services with more than 350 news affiliates in 136 countries... (more)

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