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Political standoff between Apache tribe and allegedly recalled tribal officials

Anadarko_The doors of the Apache Tribal Building in Anadarko are boarded up.  The tribal chair and vice chair - who say the recall was not legal -  took over the building by force on Tuesday morning, after hiring a private firm that smashed out the windows of the administration building.  One side of the conflict says that they recalled the tribe's chair and vice chair on Saturday because of alleged corruption and misuse of tribal funds.  However, the two leaders deny any corruption.

The recall group says that by a vote of 74-0 in a weekend general election, the chair and vice chair were voted out of their positions.  The group claims according to their constitution that vote is all that was needed to remove an elected official.  Vice Chair Mary Rivera says there is more to it than that.  She says the group must circulate a petition, and hold a hearing, among other things.  Both the chair and vice chair refused to appear on camera.

On Tuesday, members of the Apache tribe's recall group sat and waited for other members of the tribe, the Anadarko Police Department, the Caddo County Sheriff's Department, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Recall group member Austin Klinekole says they ousted the two leaders on Saturday.  "That's why we had took over the building and had our own security - unarmed security - there guarding the building day and night since Saturday," he said. 

Tuesday morning, a private armed security force firm from Oklahoma City arrived.  "They had cuffed our security guards, here at the tribe, and held them at gunpoint," said Security Manager Lyndrith Satepeahtaw.  Jonathan Scott, one of the security guards, was inside the building when it happened.  "They ‘bum-rushed' us through the door, and we turned around and ran out the door," he said.  "We were hiding, and they just threw us down out the van, and they just held us at gunpoint and handcuffed us."  Scott and another security guards have the marks to prove the violence. 

Rivera says that the reason they took over the building by force was that they hadn't been legally recalled, and the recall group had shut down the office.  She says that if the building is closed, the tribe isn't doing its job - serving tribal members - which gives the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) the authorization to take tribal programs away.  She says the reason they broke windows is because the other side had chained the doors shut.

Currently, no agreement has been reached, and local law enforcement does not have the authorization to act on tribal land - they have no jurisdiction because of internal tribal politics.  Only federal authorities can intervene.  Some members of the tribe are attempting to file charges of breaking and entering, but the Caddo County District Attorney's Office says charges have yet to be filed. 

The tribal members who voted for recalling the chair and vice chair intend to continue with steps to remove them.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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