As the most recent federally recognized tribe of the country, the Apache tribe of Fort Sill is made up of the legitimate descendants of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches who lived in southwestern New Mexico, southeastern l Arizona and northern Mexico. My mandate as President of the Apache Tribe of Fort Sill is to restore our people to their rightful lands, rightful homes and rightful place in the world – which is in our homeland in southern New Mexico and Arizona.
We have experienced centuries of systemic oppression from the federal government, and now our biggest challenge is to continue as a self-sustaining and self-sustaining tribe.
With that in mind, nearly ten years ago, we engaged the law firm Dentons to conduct litigation in our attempt to further develop and enhance our historic reserve in New Mexico. Dentons participated in a lawsuit against the National Indian Gaming Commission regarding the legal status of the tribal reserve lands at Akela Flats, New Mexico.
Instead of making a good faith effort to provide the legal services our tribe needed to revitalize our reservation, Dentons, one of the largest law firms in the world, with 10,000 lawyers in 78 countries, billed us for 2 $ 640,186.14. Today, we are suing Dentons for violating his fee contract and his fiduciary duty to our tribe. It is through the prism of our history as victims of systemic exploitation that we must see our trial against Dentons.
From 1886 to 1914, the Chiricahua and Apaches of Warm Springs were the object of a systematic ethnic cleansing of our people at the hands of the government of the United States of America. Hundreds of Chiricahua men, women and children were removed from our ancestral home in present-day Arizona and New Mexico and, resisting relocation to reservations, were taken to Florida and Alabama as as prisoners of war in 1886. 119 of us have died in three and a half years. time, and the rest of our tribe, 27 years later, made up of survivors and children born in captivity, were finally transferred to the Fort Sill military base after Congress authorized the relocation. While at the Fort Sill military base, we were held as prisoners of war for another 19 years only for, as official Congressional documents indicate, “because of the offenses committed by their fathers.” One hundred and eight years later, our ancestors suffered emotionally, socially and economically. And to date, we have not received any compensation for these atrocities.
Today, 794 tribal members remain.
The average annual income per capita of the citizens of the Fort Sill tribe is $ 14,000. At Dentons, the highest paid executives earn over $ 700,000 per year; this does not include Elliott Portnoy, the company’s global chief executive, whose salary is not public but is estimated to be exponentially higher than that of the company’s highest paid executives.
Dentons’ actions amount to economic imprisonment. We urge the public, the legal system, and lawmakers in the state of New Mexico to pressure the Dentons law firm and call on them to compensate our tribe for their wrongdoing.
Our tribe has suffered tremendous hardship both historically and in the recent past. We want nothing more than to have the opportunity to return to our homelands in New Mexico, to participate in our tribal and historic culture and to have the ability to grow our economy, in partnership with the State of New -Mexico, for the betterment of our people and our communities. We had placed our faith and hope in Dentons to help us in our goals. Six years later, we are still waiting to develop our homeland, while Dentons has benefited from the tribal money that was dedicated to this development.
Lori Gooday Ware is President of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe.