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The Fort Sill Apaches are now, by order of the state Supreme Court, a New Mexico Indian tribe. But what impact that decision might have on the tribe’s tiny reservation near Deming and on economic development in southwestern New Mexico remains an open question.
Luna County, where the tribe’s smokeshop and restaurant just off I-10 at Akela employs 11 people, could certainly use a boost. Its jobless rate was a whopping 18.8 percent in February, nearly three times the state’s 6.7 percent.
The court’s decision requires Gov. Susana Martinez to invite the Fort Sill Apaches to the annual meeting where tribes and state discuss how to divvy up the pool of severance tax bonds set aside annually for tribal infrastructure.
Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous said he didn’t know what his people might hope to get out of this year’s summit, scheduled for July 17-18. “It’s like going to a new restaurant,” Haozous said. “When you first sit down at the table, you want to look at the menu and see what’s available.”
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