The Eastern Shoshone tribal liaison has stepped down from her position, saying the governor and legislature were disrespectful to her, both as a woman and tribal member. But the Governor's office says she wasn't fulfilling her responsibility to mediate between the tribes and the state.
Tensions have been mounting between the governor’s office and the Wind River Indian tribes for months. The Environmental Protection Agency recently ruled that the city of Riverton falls within reservation boundaries, setting the state and tribes at odds.
The Governor's Deputy Chief of Staff, Tony Young, says the tribal liaisons have stopped mediating and are instead lobbying. “If the individuals that are serving as tribal liasons are actively lobbying or advocating for the tribes and not sponsoring the state and then the state pays for that, the legislature found that that was a bit skewed. And so they’ve asked us to look into what are the exact roles and defined roles for each of these liaisons.”
Representative Patrick Goggles is an Arapaho tribal member. He says Eastern Shoshone liaison Sara Robinson was doing the best she could to juggle the clashing perspectives. But, he says, her accusations of discrimination touched a nerve. “Obviously, when a well-qualified Native American woman-who’s a lawyer—tells you that, it would make you feel uncomfortable. She’s very vocal about her positions. And what I observed was her standing her ground.”
Goggles says the governor needs to be careful not to shut down communication with the tribes altogether. “Well, I would say keep meeting. Because once the discourse ends then where we are right now, we’re in federal court. And right now that’s the only path that we’re on is in litigation.”
Goggles says the state shouldn't give up on liaisons as a valid way to keep an open dialogue with the tribes. He says the tribes should hire their own lobbyists to take pressure off the liaisons. But he says the state needs to recognize that Robinson was a well-qualified lawyer who felt it was her job to represent her tribe’s sovereignty.