Court Declines To Re-Hear Reservation Boundary Arguments

Nov 10, 2017

Credit Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM via CC BY-NC-ND 2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Last February, the 10th Circuit Court ruled that the city of Riverton is not inside the Wind River Reservation boundaries, prompting the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to ask for another hearing. This week, the court rejected that request. Wind River Native Advocacy Center board chair Sergio Maldonado said the next step for the dispute is the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I’m hopeful the Supreme Court is going to be equitable in their interpretation but more importantly their ruling,” said Maldonado. “A ruling that would acknowledge the sovereign status of the tribes, that the tribes have a right to monitor the air and water. That’s what it was all about from the get-go.”

Maldonado said at the heart of the debate is a question of states getting tangled up in a treaty relationship between the tribes and the federal government. He said it’s not about tribes taking over Riverton.

“Never was there any discussion about jurisdiction, law issues, taxation issues. Never. The tribes were about monitoring clean air and water. Which American citizen, Wyoming citizen, does not want that for themselves, their children, their grandchildren?”

The boundary dispute arose three years ago when the Environmental Protection Agency conducted an air quality study that raised questions of whether the 1905 sale of reservation lands to non-Natives shrank the size of the reservation or not. The tribes and the EPA agree it didn’t shrink it. But the state argues it did and two of three circuit judges agreed.