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Indian Times: Ft Sill Apache try return to New Mexico (Nov 23, 2012)

The Native Times newspaper report that the Oklahoma based Fort Sill Apache tribal members and leaders last week celebrated  the one-year anniversary of the tribe’s reservation designation granted by the U.S. Dept. of Interior. Attendees also watched Apache ceremonial dancing and singing while hearing an update on their return-to-New-Mexico plans.  A year ago, the Fort Sill Apache reservation declaration barely fit a one-page notice in the Federal Register, but to the tribe the official public designation was huge.  It symbolized getting their own back, officials said. They decided to put up a literal sign to reflect the solid commitment to return to New Mexico, according to Jeff Haozous, Apache chairman.  Hazous went on to say that “Without the sign, people could think that it is just a restaurant and smokeshop because that’s all that is there now, but it’s much more than that to us,” Haozous said.  “It is the first step in the repatriation of our tribe to its rightful home.”  A lot of thought went into what to put on the sign, officials said. Adding on “Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache,” reflects a shift in their identity from Fort Sill Apache back to their original name. The 697-member tribe is the successor to the Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache bands, who were removed to Oklahoma after Geronimo’s capture in the 1880s.  An unconditional claim to their former reservation area has been elusive for the Apache band. After buying the land, a Fort Sill Apache smokeshop/restaurant was shifted into a Class II casino that was shut down in 2009 by then New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, who said the land was not eligible for gaming. The tribe is seeking a two-part determination on the matter from the U.S. Department of Interior, officials said. Their reservation anniversary ceremony also unveiled a new flag without the words Fort Sill and with the words, Chiricahua/Warm Springs. An official tribal name change is also in the works.
The steps they are taking to regain their place in their original territory don’t mean every tribal member is all in for going west. Tribal business committee member, Loretta Buckner, said she sees the tribe’s affiliation with New Mexico as historical but has divided loyalties.  Buckner said “When we were set free all those years ago, some of us chose to stay,” she said. “Oklahoma is home. I was born here. My mother was born in 1913. She was the last allottee and the youngest prisoner of war.”  The tribe arrived by train in Fort Sill from St. Augustine, Florida to be prisoners of war and later received land allotments in the early 1900s. Photo by Mark Holm of the New York Times.

A Custer County District Court judge denied an application Monday to access frozen Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal funds.  Citing an appeal pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Judge Doug Haught declined to allow three tribal programs access to frozen contract funds.  “I don’t know how long it will be until the (Oklahoma) Supreme Court rules, but I will not grant any requests until then,” Haught said during Monday morning’s hearing. “When and if they take action, then that will obviously change.”  The appeal comes on a previous decision by Haught  to place the tribes’ bank accounts under the supervision of the Custer County District Court due to an ongoing leadership dispute between Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell and Leslie Wandrie-Harjo. Officials from either government attempting to withdraw funds must contact the court and the other government in writing before any removals are allowed. Prairie Chief-Boswell’s administration has filed the Supreme Court appeal and maintains that the district court does not have the jurisdiction to hear the bank’s suit since it involves as sovereign nation.  Using figures from the tribes’ 2008 budget, Thomas Ivester, a Sayre, Okla.-based attorney representing the Wandrie-Harjo recognized legislature, filed the request last month to access federal contract funds for the tribes’ elder nutrition program, emergency youth shelter and Indian Child Welfare office. “These three programs were chosen in part because we thought they would be universally accepted,” he said. “The 2008 budget was chosen because that was the last universally accepted budget.  These are all programs funded by federal contracts and are monitored by the BIA.”  Had the application been allowed, Ivester also asked that the Western Oklahoma regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Anadarko, Okla., be notified so the office can closely monitor the drawdowns.  Judge Haught said that he knows there is a” need to set a hearing to determine whether either legislature has legal standing,”but that he won’t do that until “the Oklahoma Supreme Court gets a look at this case.”  Excluding the workers at their five western Oklahoma casinos, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes employ about 500 people. More than 12,000 people are enrolled in the constitutionally-bound tribes, including about 5,000 who live within the tribes’ nine-county jurisdictional area.



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