The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is successor to the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache people of what is now southwest New Mexico. The Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache had ancient stories of living in their homelands and long remained in control there despite efforts by Spain and Mexico to take over the area. However, in 1886 the U.S. Government laid claim to the land and forcibly removed and held the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache people as prisoners for 28 years.
For 125 years the descendants of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache people would work to return to their legal homelands in New Mexico.
Beginning in 1886 the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches were first restricted to reservations, but were then moved to San Carlos Reservation in Arizona when those reservations were closed. Several instances of resistance occurred which led some of the Apaches, fearing for their lives, to go into Mexico. Later, the Apache people were taken from the reservation and shipped to Florida as prisoners of war.
The U.S. Government then worked to induce the surrender of a small remaining group in Mexico. They surrendered under terms which were later disregarded by the U.S. Government; when they were taken to Florida to join all of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache people already there. By that time the Tribe had been diminished to about 512 people, mostly women and children. They became political pawns of the Government and the Apache prisoners’ death rate was high. The Apache children were also taken away and sent to boarding schools where many died.
The prisoners were moved again, first being transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks north of Mobile, Alabama until 1894, and then to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Throughout this time the Tribe continued its pleas to be returned to their homeland but were told that Fort Sill was to be their home and they would never be moved again.
Later, when the Government wanted the Fort Sill Reservation, the two hundred sixty one (261) surviving prisoners were told that they had to join the Mescalero Tribe in southeast New Mexico or remain as prisoners. Those who chose Mescalero were moved and released in 1913. The remaining Apache prisoners of war were released in 1914 and moved to small allotments of farmland in Oklahoma. This group came to be known as the Fort Sill Apaches (also known as the Fort Sill Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache Tribe).
Despite its size the Fort Sill Apache Tribe endured. In the mid-1970s a land claim was settled and The Fort Sill Apache Tribe approved a constitution. The Fort Sill Apache Tribe acquired small bits of land in Oklahoma and also in its home territory which included parts of New Mexico and Arizona. A lawsuit claiming that the Fort Sill Apache Tribe was improperly granted rights in Oklahoma was settled with acknowledgement of the rights of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe within its home territory in New Mexico. Part of the settlement included a reservation proclamation for the Fort Sill Apache land in New Mexico which after several years of delays, was finally issued in November of 2011.