Advocates for the Wind River tribes say they were relieved to hear that Wyoming Governor Matt Mead vetoed a bill that would have given stiff fines and jail time to protesters that blocked access to or damaged infrastructure like oil and gas facilities.
Former Wind River Native Advocacy Director Lynette Greybull said, even after lawmakers added 19 amendments, the bill was not improved. She said it was a bill put together by outside energy interests and peddled to several Western states to prevent a repeat of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
“I saw the bill as a direct threat,” she said, “not only to Native American voices, but a direct threat for those who wanted to stand with those who were willing to oppose an infrastructure that might contaminate our water or our resources or our environment.”
But she said, when the bill passed, tribal youth groups and other tribal groups around Wind River wrote letters and made phone calls encouraging the governor to veto the bill.
“I think the overall essence of everything we did collectively proves that regular day-to-day citizens such as ourselves can absolutely make a difference, especially against big energy, banks and billion-dollar companies who try to pass legislation.”
Greybull said it also helped that many agriculture advocates around Wyoming spoke out against the bill because often ranchers need to trespass to conduct their business and worried they could get punished for that, as well. In a public letter, the governor said he vetoed the bill because it was already covered by existing laws.