In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
I'm Jeff Haozous, chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe.
Can you share your Native name and its English translation?
My last name, Haozous, can be translated as a pulling up motion or the sound of pulling roots. My grandfather was named Sam Haozous. My father changed his last name to Houser when he was young. I changed it back to Haozous in 2001.
Where is your tribal community located?
Our tribe is headquartered in Apache, Oklahoma, in the southwest part of the state. Our members live all over the United States. In 2002 we acquired trust land in our homelands in southern New Mexico, and in 2011 that land was declared to be a reservation by the Secretary of the Interior. It is the first reservation for the Chiricahua Apaches since our last one was closed in 1877.
Where is your tribe originally from?
Originally our people lived in what is now southwest New Mexico, southeast Arizona, and northern Mexico. The tribe as a whole was referred to as Chiricahua Apache. It was composed of four bands named Chiricahua, Warm Springs, Bedonhke and Nednais.
What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share?
In the late 1800s the Chiricahua and Warm Springs reservations in Arizona and New Mexico were closed, and the tribe was moved to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona. It was a very difficult period for our people. Fearing for his life, Geronimo, one of our more notable members, left the reservation. This started a conflict with the United States that led to the imprisonment of our people and their removal from the Southwest to Florida, then Alabama, and finally to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where they were released in 1914. This nearly 28-year imprisonment is one of the most significant eras in our history.
How is your tribal government set up?
We have a General Council, which consists of all members of the tribe 18 years of age or older. The General Council votes annually to approve the tribal operations budget and to elect members of the Business Committee.
The Business Committee consists of six members including a chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary–treasurer. The Business Committee oversees the tribal membership application process, maintains the tribal rolls, prepares and manages the tribal operations budget, and supervises tribal government programs.
Additionally, the Business Committee appoints members of boards that are responsible for various aspects of the tribe’s operations, and when applicable approves the boards' budgets.
Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?
How often are elected leaders chosen?
Business Committee members are elected to two-year terms. The terms are staggered so that each year two members are up for election.
How often does your tribal council meet?
The General Council meets on the first Saturday of October, which coincides with Business Committee elections, and as needed.
The Business Committee meets as needed, usually once a month.
What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?
I preside at meetings of the General Council and of the Business Committee. I represent the tribe in interactions with other governments and organizations. I’m also chairman of the Board of Trustees of our Economic Development Authority, which oversees our casino and government-contracting businesses. I preside over meetings of the Board of Trustees and provide general oversight for the authority as authorized by the board.
To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.