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Tribe sues state for recognition

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The Fort Sill Apache on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against Gov. Susana Martinez for not recognizing them as a New Mexico tribe.

The tribe owns property at Akela Flats that was designated a reservation in 2011, although the majority of the tribe is located at Fort Sill, Okla. – a legacy of its removal from southwestern New Mexico in the late 1800s as prisoners of war.

In a statement on the lawsuit, the tribe alleges the governor and her administration “are discriminating against the tribe by excluding it from consultations with other tribes, barring it from the state’s annual state-tribal summit … and otherwise preventing FSA from obtaining access to state capital projects funding and other state programs and benefits.”

The Fort Sill Apache have been fighting to establish a casino on their 30-acre reservation near Deming, a business that could be an economic driver to bring their people to New Mexico, said spokeswoman Rachel Cromer.

Enrique Knell, spokesman for Martinez, said in an email that the tribe “is an Oklahoma tribe trying to capitalize on the gaming market in New Mexico. Those efforts began by acquiring a small parcel of land for the purpose of gaming, despite representations to the state it would not be used for that purpose. The federal government has repeatedly blocked the tribe’s gaming efforts in New Mexico, finding that they are an Oklahoma tribe and lack any government structure or population base in New Mexico.”

The lawsuit requests that the Supreme Court require Martinez to recognize the tribe under state law.

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