New Mexico Orders Governor to Recognize Apache

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (l.) has insisted for years that the Fort Sill Apache tribe is indigenous to Oklahoma, not New Mexico. Now the state Supreme Court has ordered Martinez to formally recognize the tribe, which received federal acknowledgement and a 30-acre reservation in 2011.

That makes 23 tribes in the state

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ordered Governor Susana Martinez to recognize the Fort Sill Apache as a New Mexico tribe. The ruling will compel Martinez to open the annual tribal-state summits to the Apache, and force the state Indian Affairs Department to include the tribe on the agency’s website as part of a contact list for all tribes and pueblos in New Mexico.

“It provides an opportunity for us to have a seat at the table with the other 22 tribes. As the 23rd tribe in the state now, we can be involved and have government-to-government relationships with the state in a way that we did not have before,” tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous told reporters after the court ruling last week.

State recognition also will allow the tribe to apply for state financing for tribal capital improvement projects, according to the Associated Press.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the tribe will continue to develop its 30-acre reservation near Deming.

Martinez had refused to recognize the tribe, saying the Fort Sill Apaches are an Oklahoma tribe.

“The state believes that these limited resources are more appropriately reserved for those tribes that serve a population base here in New Mexico,” said Enrique Knell, Martinez’s press secretary. “The federal government has not recognized Fort Sill as a New Mexico tribe, finding that they lack any government structure or population base in New Mexico.” Martinez’s legal team maintains that Fort Sill Apaches are effectively interlopers motivated by the prospect of profits from slot machines and card tables.

“The federal government recognizes Fort Sill as being located in the state of Oklahoma. Fort Sill does not maintain communities, government facilities or a population base in New Mexico,” the governor’s lawyers wrote in their brief to the New Mexico Supreme Court.