Michael Webster
Gov Susana Martinez petitions court to reject Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Tribe's legal request
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By Michael Webster
March 27, 2015

Gov. Susana Martinez through her attorneys petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court to reject the Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Tribe (FSA) legal request, filed last month, to order the governor to sign gambling agreements.

The Martinez lawyer's argument to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday was that due to the Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Tribe (FSA) lacked federal approval for casino gambling on their reservation.

The Governor feels she is not required to sign a compact with them.

The FSA lawyers assert that Gov Martinez has a duty to sign gambling compacts with the tribe that are identical to those signed by other tribes in 2001 and 2007. The FSA says that while they may not be able to operate a casino now, having compacts would preserve its interest in gambling in the future.

Lawyers for Martinez said in their latest response filed with the court was that the tribe had "overstated and misrepresented" the effects of the governor's refusal to sign anything now, even though last year the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled to force the Governor t o recognize the Chiricahua 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.

The Chiricahua FSA tribe successfully asked the state Supreme Court last year to order Martinez to list the tribe on the Indian Affairs Department website and invite Chiricahua FSA to the annual state-tribal summit.

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.

That compact has language that would specifically preclude the FSA Apaches from signing it because of when their reservation in Southern New Mexico was acquired. The pending petition in the Supreme Court does not involve the new compact just approved by the Legislature, which any tribe already operating casinos could sign onto once it's approved by the U.S. Department of Interior. Martinez has said she would negotiate a separate compact with FSA tribe once they get the go-ahead from the federal government.

Jeff Haozous, Chairman of the Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Tribe says, it doesn't matter that the tribe hasn't been federally approved yet for gambling.

But Martinez's lawyers say the FSA argument "puts the process exactly backward." The tribe first has to have eligible lands, The FSA ,no question are descendants of the Chiricahua Apaches.

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 in Luna County. 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.

After obtaining the land that later become their tribes reservation the National Indian Gaming Commission determined a decade later the land was not eligible for a casino under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The tribe sued the NIGC, and that law suite is still pending in the courts.

Meanwhile, according to the governor, the tribe has attempted to use state actions to persuade the federal government to change its mind.

Martinez said the FSA Apaches "have been systematic in their effort to leverage and manipulate state law and state courts against the federal government.

Chairman Haozous says " I 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."

Modern day Chiricahua Apache

According to Wikipedia, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe is composed of Chiricahua Apache, who were made up of 4 bands:

• Chihende (Chinde, Chihenne – 'Red Painted People,' known as Warm Springs Apache Band or Gila Apaches, Eastern Chiricahua)

• Chukunende (Chokonende, Chokonen – 'Ridge of the Mountainside People,' known as Chiricahua Band, proper or Central Chiricahua)

• Nde'ndai (Ndénai, Nednai, Ndé'ndai – 'Enemy People,' 'People who make trouble,' sometimes known as Pinery Apache Band, known as Sierre Madre Apaches, Southern Chiricahua)

• Bidánku (Bedonkohe – 'In Front of the End People,' Bi-da-a-naka-enda – 'Standing in front of the enemy,' sometimes known as Bronco Apache Band, known as Mogollon Apaches or Gila Apaches, Northeastern Chiricahua)

The Apache are southern Athabaskan-speaking peoples who migrated many centuries ago from the subarctic to the southwestern region of what would become the United States. The Chiricahua settled in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico of the present-day United States, and northern Sonora, and northern Chihuahua of present-day Mexico. By the late 19th century, the Chiricahua Apache territory encompassed an estimated 15 millions acres.[3]

Chiricahua Apache warriors at home on their ancestral lands

In 1886 to break up the Apache Wars and resistance to European-American settlement, the US federal government took the Chiricahua into custody as prisoners of war and seized their land. The Army forcibly removed 400 members of the tribe from the Fort Apache and San Carlos Reservations in present-day Arizona,[3] and transported them to U.S. Army installations in Alabama and Florida.[2] Some warriors were held at Fort Pickens in Florida. Their ledger drawings are held in a collection by the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1894, the US Congress passed a special provision to allow the Chiricahua to be relocated to Indian Territory. They were the last Indian tribe to be relocated into what is now Oklahoma.[2] When the Chiricahua arrived at Fort Sill, they had been promised the lands surrounding the fort as theirs to settle. Local non-Indians resisted Apache settlement, and the tribe was pressured to leave. Many wanted to return to their traditional lands in the Southwest, and the Mescalero Apache offered them land on their reservation.

A third of the Chiricahua stayed in Indian Territory, demanding that the US fulfill its promise to give them the Fort Sill lands. As a compromise, the government gave the remaining Chiricahua land which it had classified as surplus after allotment of tribal lands to individual households under the Dawes Act, on the nearby Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation. In 1914, the US government finally released 84 individuals from prisoner status and granted them household allotment lands around Fletcher and Apache, Oklahoma.[2]

The Fort Sill Apache struggled for survival in the ensuing years in the economically depressed areas of southwestern Oklahoma. The tribe seized the opportunity afforded by Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936. Persevering through the difficulty of satisfying documentation requirements for tribal continuity, they were recognized by the federal government (Department of Interior) as a tribe in 1976.[2]

The first chairperson, elected in 1976, was Mildred Cleghorn, one of the last Chiricahua Apache born under "prisoner of war" status.[2] She was an educator and traditional doll maker, and was regarded as a cultural leader among the elders.[8] She served as tribal chairperson until 1995 and focused on sustaining history and traditional Chiricahua culture.[8]

Allan Houser was the first Fort Sill Apache child to be born free. He became one of the most celebrated Native American sculptors of the 20th century. His sons, Bob Haozous and Philip Haozous, are successful sculptors today and are both enrolled members of the tribe.

Sources:

New Mexico Supreme Court records

Wikipedia

Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Tribe

www.indiangamingjournal.com

© 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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