DALLAS -- New Mexico must recognize the Fort Sill Apache tribe, according to a state Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Susana Martinez's administration fears will lead to the opening of a casino.
The Fort Sill Apaches, forced from New Mexico in 1886, have acquired 30 acres in southern New Mexico near the town of Deming. Lawyers for the tribe said 147 self-identified members were identified as New Mexico residents in the 2010 census.
The tribe, based in Apache, Okla., won the right to establish a reservation in New Mexico in 2011. The Fort Sill Apaches were recognized as a tribe by the federal government in 1976.
Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous called the state Supreme Court "a turning point from being opposed by state governments to being allowed to return."
Gov. Martinez's administration stood by its contention that the tribe was not part of New Mexico.
"The Supreme Court's ruling ignored the fact that the Fort Sill Apache tribe is not actually located in the state of New Mexico," Enrique Knell, Martinez's spokesman, said in a prepared statement. "The ruling will require the state to include Fort Sill in discussions on education, health care, water and natural resources, and capital outlay, even though the tribe has no community or tribal members on its lands in New Mexico."
A 2012 letter to the governor from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs identified the tribe's property as the proposed site of a casino.
The tribe, a branch of the Chiricahua Apaches, operates Fort Sill Apache Industries and the Fort Sill Apache Casino in Lawton, Okla., along with its own housing program.
The tribe operates a 24-hour diner and smoke shop on its 30 acres in Akela, N.M., on Interstate 10 about 20 miles east of Deming, where it plans to add a casino.Martinez's predecessor Gov. Bill Richardson said he accepted the tribe's return to New Mexico but opposed a casino.