Fort Sill Apache Suing NM Governor For Recognition - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Fort Sill Apache Suing NM Governor For Recognition

LAWTON Okla_ The Fort Sill Apache tribe is suing the governor of New Mexico along with its state Supreme Court.

The tribe's population is currently split between southwest Oklahoma and their native southwest New Mexico. However, officials say New Mexico refuses to recognize Fort Sill Apaches as an official state tribe.

Southwest New Mexico is the Fort Sill Apache's original home, and they own land there. New Mexico still does not consider them as an official state tribe though, for unknown reasons to officials. They say they're grateful for the Oklahoma recognition but say that recognition in New Mexico is the true link between the Fort Sill Apaches and their legacy.

In the late 19th century, the tribe, along with famous outlaw Geronimo, was moved out of New Mexico and eventually placed at Fort Sill as prisoners of war.

"If they were forced to leave their homeland, which they were, they would be returned in two years," Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Haozous said.

That didn't happen. Flash forward 120 years, and the Fort Sill Apaches are ready to call New Mexico home once again. After several years of deliberate opposition, the tribe has had enough.

"There's no question as to our legitimacy in the state," Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Haozous said. "So, we can't really understand why we're not included. This is about fairness. This is about following the law, and we would just like to participate in the communities that we're involved in."

Haozous said being recognized means economic growth, new homes, and new lives built on their land. Despite their presence though, even current New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has made it clear that the tribe solely belongs to Oklahoma. Chairman Haozous said that attitude only hurts the pride of the Fort Sill Apache people.

"It's just really great to be there and think, ‘This is where our people worked. This is our home,'" Haozous said. "It means a great deal not just to us, not just to me. Thinking about my grandfather, my grandparents, and all the prisoners of war that were removed, it would be a redemption to be back in our home and say the Chiricahua Apaches have returned to our homeland."

7News contacted the office of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, but nobody would comment on the lawsuit. Haozous said there's no timeline on the suit, but they hope the outcome will end over a century of discrimination.




Powered by Frankly