According to the Albuquerque Journal, the court, following a hearing, unanimously ordered Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration to invite the tribe to the annual tribal summit, put it on the Indian Affairs Department’s list of tribes, and consult with its leaders as required by the state-tribal collaboration act.
The Martinez administration had argued that the Fort Sill Apaches are not a New Mexico tribe, despite their 30-acre reservation in Luna County. A lawyer for the administration told the high court the tribe lacks a governmental presence and a population base here.
The tribe has its governmental offices in Oklahoma, where nearly half of its enrolled members live.
Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous said after the hearing the court’s ruling was a “first step” in allowing the tribe to explore what sort of infrastructure funding and other assistance might be available under state law. He said economic development could pave the way for tribal members to return to New Mexico.
The Fort Sill Apaches are descendants of the Chiricahua Apaches, who lived in New Mexico before they were removed by the U.S. government and held as prisoners of war.
Martinez’s office has said the effort for recognition is all about gambling, because the tribe wants to open a casino on its reservation at Akela in Luna County.
Currently there is only a restaurant and smoke shop at the site, and no tribal members live there.