At an event on economic opportunities for the Wind River Reservation this week, keynote speaker and former Eastern Shoshone business Councilman Wes Martel said Wyoming’s two tribes are suffering from the same boom-and-bust cycles facing the rest of Wyoming. But he said, the reservation could have more control over what happens on their land.
For instance, Martel suggested, that the tribes shouldn’t be taxed for minerals extracted on their property. He said the tribes could also develop their own oil and gas production company, which is something the Southern Ute tribe in Colorado have successfully done.
“We need to be selling gasoline, our own gasoline down here at the service station,” Martel said. “We need to be providing jet fuel to the Air Force down in Cheyenne. You know, there’s a lot of opportunity here and we have the resources.”
Martel also suggested that the tribe could develop the abandoned gas wells on their land and build a clean 100-megawatt natural gas fired power plant that captures its emissions.
In his remarks, Wes Martel said one way the tribes can diversify their economy is by cashing in on the fact that they are two of only 30 tribes who have legally settled their water rights. Martel said the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone are currently looking at seven different water storage projects they could develop on the reservation.
“For us here at Wind River, we have a lot of sites for storage. And that’s what we’ve really got to start moving on. And there’s already some tribes in California that are talking to us. Maybe we can give you the money to build your storage and you can pay us back in water. Right on! That’s the kind of thinking we need!”
Martel said the reservation also needs to open its own lending bank, and begin growing its own food.
The event was sponsored by the Wind River Native Advocacy Center who released a report showing that the median income for tribal members on Wind River is only $19,000 compared to the general population in Wyoming at $54,000.