Eastern Shoshone

Wyoming Legislature

A legislative committee is looking at how to improve the state’s Tribal Liaison program. Liaisons represent both tribes—the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho-- but there have been disputes over their roles and over the cost sharing nature of the program.  

Tim Hulsen, Flickr Creative Commons

Let’s go back--way back--to 1868. The Northern Arapaho tribe has survived not only the Sand Creek Massacre but decades of war with the US Army. They’re an exhausted people. In the middle of winter, the US Army decides to move them across Shoshone territory to Oklahoma.

“Well, you know Wyoming winters,” says John Washakie, great grandson of Chief Washakie and longtime Shoshone Councilman. He’s also a tribal storyteller. “They’re very cold. The horses were not in the best of shape. Some of the children and women were ill.”

Aaron Schrank

Fort Washakie High School on the Wind River Indian Reservation was a charter high school until a few years ago. Now it’s a public school. Most of its classes used to be online. Now, it’s building a brick-and-mortar building for 150 students.

For now, around 50 kids and a dozen teachers make do in makeshift classrooms. The school’s last reported graduation rate was just 7 percent, but as it morphs into a more traditional high school, the current crop of students has high hopes for the future.

Earlier this month, the Northern Arapaho Tribe decided to dissolve the Joint Business Council. It had been the major governing body for the two tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming since the early 1930’s.

Northern Arapaho Business Council Member Dean Goggles says the Joint Business Council was imposed upon the tribes by the federal government to make it easier for them to get consensus from both tribes. But instead, Goggles says, the Council was stripping the tribes of their autonomy, making it harder to work together.

Melodie Edwards

Earlier this month in a Worland courthouse, a judge signed a final decree that brought to end what’s probably the longest-running lawsuit in Wyoming history. After 37 years, the lawsuit decided who exactly owns the water rights in and around the Wind River Indian Reservation. Those involved in the suit are now looking to the future.

Wikimedia Commons

Possibly the longest running lawsuit in Wyoming history came to an end last Friday in Worland. Judge Robert Skar signed a final decree that brought closure to a controversial water rights case. The case examined some 20,000 possible water rights claims in and around the Wind River Indian Reservation over the course of 37 years. Water law professor Jason Robison was at the historic signing.

Saying that it wants more Tribal Sovereignty, the Northern Arapaho tribe is leaving the Joint Tribal Business Council it had shared with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. 

Calling it a historic move The Northern Arapaho tribe has dissolved the Joint Business Council, but in a prepared statement, the Eastern Shoshone tribe says they won’t go along with the plan. The main reason is that the decision was never approved by their business council.

Jimmy Emerson via Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Department of Education will hold its fifth annual Native American Education Conference this week in Riverton. The goals of the conference including boosting communication between schools and the Native American families they serve—and integrating tribal culture into curriculum.

Last year, the high school graduation rate for Native American students in Wyoming was 42 percent, compared to 78 percent for all students. Conference coordinator Keja Whiteman says that gap signals the need for this event.

Over the years it's been a challenge to drum up political engagement on the Wind River Reservation. But things may be different this year with eight tribal members running for office in multiple parties. It's an unusually high number. Democratic Representative Patrick Goggles says it’s his theory that what has inspired so much political gusto is the shifting dynamic in the Republican Party. He says the politicizing of the right wing is happening everywhere, including Wind River.

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.

On Saturday, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe's General Council dismissed two elected tribal officials.

Paintings of Chief Washakie that have spent more than 40 years in storage are now on display in the Capitol Rotunda in Cheyenne. The 24 pieces by western artist J.K. Ralston were originally commissioned for the dining room of the Noble Hotel in Lander in 1945.

They depict scenes from the life of the Eastern Shoshone chief, including battles, encounters with white settlers, and treaty signings that are part of Chief Washakie’s legacy of diplomacy and peace.

Wyoming State Museum Education Curator Nathan Doerr says the collection tells a sweeping story of the American West.

Edward Wadda, Tribal Liaison between the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and Governor Matt Meads office, passed in a car accident last night (Thursday) at the age of 42.

Wadda served as Tribal Liaison since 2005. While also volunteering as an adviser for Wind River United National Indian Tribal Youth, which works to promote drug-free, healthy lifestyles… promoting education, and keeping culture and traditions alive.

Judith Antell is the director of American Indian Studies at the University of Wyoming. She first met Wadda in 1993, and says they have remained friends ever since.