Monday, April 14, 2014

New Mexico high court orders tribal recognition

New Mexico's highest court ordered Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday to recognize the Fort Sill Apache as a New Mexico tribe. The federal government designated a 30-acre parcel in southern New Mexico as the tribe's reservation in 2011, but the Apache governmental offices are in Oklahoma. The ruling by the Supreme Court will force Martinez to invite the tribe to annual tribal-state summits called for under a 2009 law that requires sovereign government-to-government cooperation. The state Indian Affairs Department also must include the Fort Sill Apache Tribe on the agency's website as part of a contact list for all tribes and pueblos in New Mexico. State recognition also will allow the tribe to seek other benefits, such as state financing allocated yearly for tribal capital improvement projects. The tribe will consider building a governmental office on the land in southern New Mexico if it's able to get state infrastructure funding, Haozous said. There's a smoke shop and restaurant on the tribe's land along Interstate 10 between Deming and Las Cruces, but efforts to open a casino have been blocked. The tribe acquired the land in 1998. Haozous said the court ruling would have "absolutely no bearing" on separate legal questions of whether the tribe can open a casino on the New Mexico reservation. He said an appeal is continuing of a 2009 decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission against tribal efforts to operate a casino offering bingo games. The tribe currently operates a casino in Lawton, Okla. Members of the Fort Sill Apache tribe are descended from the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches, who lived in southern New Mexico and Arizona until removed by the federal government in the late 1880s. They were sent to Florida, Alabama and later to Oklahoma. Haozous said he envisioned tribal members returning to their ancestral homeland in New Mexico over many years...more

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