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Fort Sill Apache Tribe

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Title: Fort Sill Apache Tribe  
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Subject: Chiricahua, Comanche County, Oklahoma, Lawton, Oklahoma, Walters, Oklahoma, Wilma Mankiller, Fort Sill, Blood quantum laws, Mildred Cleghorn, Death of Osama bin Laden, Naiche
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Fort Sill Apache Tribe

Fort Sill Apache Tribe
Allan Houser
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 United States,
( Oklahoma,  New Mexico)
English, Apache language
Christianity, Native American Church, traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
Kiowa-Apache, Jicarilla Apache, Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, Western Apache, Navajo

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is the federally recognized Native American tribe of Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache in Oklahoma.


The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is headquartered in Apache, Oklahoma. Tribal member enrollment, which requires a 1/16 minimum blood quantum (equivalent to one great-great-grandparent), stands at 650.[1] The tribe continues to maintain close connections to the Chiricahua Apache who moved to the Mescalero Apache Reservation in the late 19th century.[2]

Jeff Houser is the elected tribal chairman; the position has a two-year term, as do the elected tribal council positions.[1]


The tribal jurisdictional area, as opposed to a reservation, spans Caddo, Comanche, and Grady Counties in Oklahoma.[1] A private landholder returned four acres of sacred land in Cochise County, Arizona to the tribe, and it is included in their trust lands.[3]

In 2011, the tribe won the right to establish a reservation in New Mexico. They now control 30 acres (12 ha) near Deming, New Mexico.[4]

Economic development and tribal programs

The tribe operates its own housing program, Fort Sill Apache Industries,[1] and the Fort Sill Apache Casino in Lawton.[5] The tribe's 2008 economic impact was $10 million.[6]

Working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2007 the Fort Sill Tribe began to set up an environmental protection office: to abate illegal dumping, encourage recycling, train certified water operators, and to educate the public about environmental issues.[7]


The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is composed of Chiricahua Apache, who were made up of 4 bands:

  • Chihende (Chinde, Chihenne – ‘Red Painted People’, known as Warm Springs Apache Band or Gila Apaches, Eastern Chiricahua)
  • Chukunende (Chokonende, Chokonen – ‘Ridge of the Mountainside People’, known as Chiricahua Band, proper or Central Chiricahua)
  • Nde’ndai (Ndénai, Nednai, Ndé'ndai – ‘Enemy People’, ‘People who make trouble’, sometimes known as Pinery Apache Band, known as Sierre Madre Apaches, Southern Chiricahua)
  • Bidánku (Bedonkohe – ‘In Front of the End People’, Bi-da-a-naka-enda – ‘Standing in front of the enemy’, sometimes known as Bronco Apache Band, known as Mogollon Apaches or Gila Apaches, Northeastern Chiricahua)

The Apache are southern Athabaskan-speaking peoples who migrated many centuries ago from the subarctic to the southwestern region of what would become the United States. The Chiricahua settled in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico of the present-day United States, and northern Sonora, and northern Chihuahua of present-day Mexico. By the late 19th century, the Chiricahua Apache territory encompassed an estimated 15 millions acres.[3]

In 1886 to break up the Apache Wars and resistance to European-American settlement, the US federal government took the Chiricahua into custody as prisoners of war and seized their land. The Army forcibly removed 400 members of the tribe from the Fort Apache and San Carlos Reservations in present-day Arizona,[3] and transported them to U.S. Army installations in Alabama and Florida.[2] Some warriors were held at Fort in Florida. Their ledger drawings are held in a collection by the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1894, the US Congress passed a special provision to allow the Chiricahua to be relocated to Indian Territory. They were the last Indian tribe to be relocated into what is now Oklahoma.[2] When the Chiricahua arrived at Fort Sill, they had been promised the lands surrounding the fort as theirs to settle. Local non-Indians resisted Apache settlement, and the tribe was pressured to leave. Many wanted to return to their traditional lands in the Southwest, and the Mescalero Apache offered them land on their reservation.

A third of the Chiricahua stayed in Indian Territory, demanding that the US fulfill its promise to give them the Fort Sill lands. As a compromise, the government gave the remaining Chiricahua land which it had classified as surplus after allotment of tribal lands to individual households under the Dawes Act, on the nearby Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation. In 1914, the US government finally released 84 individuals from prisoner status and granted them household allotment lands around Fletcher and Apache, Oklahoma.[2]

The Fort Sill Apache struggled for survival in the ensuing years in the economically depressed areas of southwestern Oklahoma. The tribe seized the opportunity afforded by Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936. Persevering through the difficulty of satisfying documentation requirements for tribal continuity, they were recognized by the federal government (Department of Interior) as a tribe in 1976.[2]

The first chairperson, elected in 1976, was Mildred Cleghorn, one of the last Chiricahua Apache born under "prisoner of war" status.[2] She was an educator and traditional doll maker, and was regarded as a cultural leader among the elders.[8] She served as tribal chairperson until 1995 and focused on sustaining history and traditional Chiricahua culture.[8]

Allan Houser was the first Fort Sill Apache child to be born free. He became one of the most celebrated Native American sculptors of the 20th century. His sons, Bob Haozous and Philip Haozous, are successful sculptors today and are both enrolled members of the tribe.

Notable tribal members

  • Mildred Cleghorn (1910–1997), first chairperson of the tribe, and one of the first women elected as tribal chairperson in the United States
  • Bob Haozous (b. 1943), post-modern sculptor
  • Allan Houser (1914–1994), modernist sculptor and painter
  • Geronimo (1829–1909), tribal leader prior to imprisonment


External links

Indigenous peoples of North America portal
  • Fort Apache Tribe, official website
  • Fort Sill Apache Industries
  • "Constitution and By-Laws", Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
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