September 08, 2011 at 14:28 PM EDT
Fort Sill Apache Applaud Interior's Landmark Gaming Decision
Northern Pueblo's Attempt to Put Casino in Southern New Mexico Apache Territory Rejected

AKELA, N.M., Sept. 8, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Fort Sill Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache Tribe today applauded the decision of the Interior Department's Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs denying the Pueblo of Jemez' application to take 70 acres of land in trust in or near Anthony, New Mexico in Dona Ana County.

Jemez' aboriginal territory was set out in Pueblo De Zia, Pueblo De Jemez and Pueblo De Santa Ana v. The United States of America, 33 Ind. Cl. Comm. 1 (1974). These legally defined homelands were located hundreds of miles from the casino site.  The Fort Sill Apache Tribe agrees that the Pueblo of Jemez did not and most assuredly could not provide any aboriginal, historical or modern day connections to the proposed trust site and thus lacked any ability to claim any type of jurisdiction over it.

The proposed trust site is located within the former legally defined homelands and Indian title lands of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe*.

"We are greatly relieved that the Interior Department has put an end to a plan that would have been very bad precedent," said Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Houser. "Our ties to Southern New Mexico run deep and the very idea that a Tribe from hundreds of miles away might buy land in our back yard, put it into trust status, and then put up a casino was shocking to us."

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe supports the Pueblo of Jemez' development of a casino on its current Reservation and/or within its clearly defined aboriginal territory. To have allowed this project to move forward would have set a bad precedent of allowing Tribes to develop projects in other Tribe's aboriginal territory. The Fort Sill Apache Tribe believes the Assistant Secretary's decision in this case was narrowly enough focused as to allow future consideration of land acquisitions by Tribes within their former aboriginal or reservation lands.

"We applaud the Bureau of Indian Affairs discretion in not reinstituting a blanket rule that forecloses tribal opportunities without focus on the cultural, historical and modern day connections a Tribe may have to a particular geographical region," said Houser.

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is successor to the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache people that lived in Southern New Mexico until 1886, when they were forcibly removed and held as prisoners of war of the United States for 28 years. The Fort Sill Apache are descendents of those people who, upon their release in 1914, remained in Oklahoma and maintained their status as independent Chiricahua Warm Springs Apaches until the Tribe was restored years later as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. The Tribe has long expressed its desire to return to its legally defined homelands.

*See Fort Sill Apache Tribe et. al v. United States, 19 Ind. Cl. Comm. 212; 25 Ind. Cl. Comm. 382; 26 Ind. Cl. Comm. 198; and United States v. Fort Sill Apache  480 F.2d 819; and 533 F.2d 531

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