Wind River Indian Reservation

Wyoming Highway Patrol Association

  

The Wyoming Highway Patrol recently completed a training certifying officers to work on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The goal is to help Wind River police make reservation highways safer, especially for kids.

Highway Patrol Captain Tom Pritchard says the training will help them support the Wind River Police Department by patrolling for impaired drivers and children without seat belts.

Aaron Schrank

University of Wyoming senior Ashlee Enos is in a crowded campus ballroom, watching a hip-hop artist from the Crow Nation who goes by the name ‘Supaman’ do his thing.

“I think it’s awesome that we have someone who’s so into the culture, and wants to give cultural awareness to the public,” Enos says.

Enos is a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe. She says there aren’t many others at UW.

“It’s a very small number,” she says. “Maybe less than five.”

Less than one percent of total students here identify solely as American Indian—just 91 of more than 13,000.

A series of community dialogues to combat racism in towns surrounding the Wind River Indian Reservation in Riverton is gaining steam. Organizers say the meetings are going so well, they plan to continue hosting them indefinitely.

The U.S. Justice Department suggested hosting the dialogues after a shooting at a detox center last summer by a white city employee that left one Northern Arapaho man dead and another severely injured.

Courtesy Sherman Indian High School

This is part two of a series. Listen to part one here.

At the start of his senior year at Wyoming Indian High School, Tim O’Neal was struggling.

“I was just drinking, partying, trying to be cool,” says O’Neal. “It messed with my schoolwork. My whole class schedule—all seven classes—I was failing and there was no way I could make up the grades, so I just asked my parents if I would be able to go to a boarding school.”

Melodie Edwards

It’s standing room only in a large conference room in Riverton, Wyoming. Up front, people mill around a display of old photographs of Arapaho children sent to Carlisle Boarding School in the late 1880’s. One is a before-and-after photo of a boy in braids wearing feathers and jewelry; a second, same boy, now in a starched suit and short Ivy League haircut.

Alejandra Silver / Riverton Ranger, Inc.

    

Next Thursday in Fort Washakie on the Wind River Indian Reservation, tribal and non-tribal community members will gather together to talk about how to solve the problem of escalating racial tensions in the area. The U.S. Justice Department offered to sponsor the meetings following the shooting of two Northern Arapaho men by a white man last summer at a detox center in Riverton. The forums are part of a four-part curriculum intended to build toward a set of practical goals that the community can agree to implementing.

Melodie Edwards

The state of Wyoming along with the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone tribes have successfully submitted an application for a Medicaid Waiver.

If the Center for Medicaid and Medicare approves the application, the Medicaid Waiver could inject almost $17 million dollars a year into tribal health services on the Wind River Indian Reservation where there’s a severe shortage of healthcare providers.

Melodie Edwards

For victims of violent crime on the Wind River Indian Reservation, finding help and safety after an attack can be hard. A lack of funding means there are very few services for crime victims there. Recently, the only safe house for victims of sexual assault on Wind River closed down when its funding went dry, forcing victims to risk traveling to nearby towns to shelters off the reservation. But a new bill recently introduced in Congress would make it easier for tribes to get money to run their own safe house.  

U.S. Senator John Barrasso and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs have introduced a bill to help Native American tribes get better access to federal funds meant to help crime victims. In the last five years, tribes have received less than one percent of the federal victims’ funding available, even as crimes like homicide and sexual assault continue to rise on reservations.

Flickr

Back in 1881, hundreds of Northern Arapaho children were taken from the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming to the Carlisle Boarding School in Pennsylvania to be assimilated into European culture, but many never returned. Now the tribe is applying to reclaim the remains of 41 of the students who died there.

Yufna Soldier Wolf is the director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office. She says she doesn’t expect the process to be easy.

The city of Riverton hosted a community forum last week to help reduce racial tensions that have been building there. In July, a white city employee shot two Native American men at a detox center, killing one and seriously injuring the other. Some tribal leaders say it was a hate crime. And with a federal court decision pending on whether Riverton falls within reservation boundaries, tensions have been escalating.

County 10

A longtime Eastern Shoshone Business Council member and World War II veteran has died at the age of 102. 

Morning Starr Weed Sr. led a remarkable life.  He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was even a prisoner of war.  

His grandson, Layha Spoonhunter, says Weed was an important tribal member who worked to protect water rights, hunting and fishing rights and to preserve the Shoshone religion and language.

The University of Wyoming launched a new program Monday that hopes to create a bridge between the school and the Wind River Indian Reservation, home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. Associate Director Torivio Fodder says the aim of the High Plains American Indian Research Institute is to help the state’s two tribes overcome a long history of distrusting governmental and academic researchers.

Craig Blumenshine / Wyoming PBS

Wyoming’s first ever Job Corps center was dedicated in Riverton on Monday. The Wind River Job Corps center serves students between the ages of 16 and 24 and will train them to work in the oil and gas industry. 

Officials are hopeful that it will specifically help young people on the Wind River Reservation. U.S. Senator Mike Enzi worked with Riverton officials to secure the funding and he said it’s a thrill to see the operation open. Enzi said it will help the entire state.           

Melodie Edwards

By some estimates, sexual assault on U.S. Indian reservations is the worst in the world with one in three Native women assaulted during their lifetime. Unbelievably, it’s higher even than war-torn Serbia or the Republic of Congo. And the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming is no exception.

US Department of Energy

New sampling could shed light on contamination at the site of a former uranium mill on the Wind River Reservation. The mill operated for less than a decade in the 1950s and 60s, but left behind huge piles of toxic tailings. The tailings were removed in the 1980s and the remaining contaminants were expected to slowly dissipate over the course of a century.

The Riverton Police Department will soon hire a staff member to investigate claims of race-based discrimination.

The person hired for the position will not be a police officer, but will work closely with police when conducting investigations, says Riverton police chief Mike Broadhead.

“I see this as a position to serve as an educator,” he says. “To help people who have been victims of bias to have an outlet that is healthy and to make them feel like they don’t have to go home frustrated. I want to give them a voice.”

Aaron Schrank

The very name ‘Frontier Days’ is meant to conjure up images of the old West. And that includes Native Americans, who have been a part of Cheyenne Frontier Days pretty much from the beginning. The North Bear Singers and Little Sun Drum and Dance Group, from the Wind River Indian Reservation are the main attraction this year, occupying the arena at the center of the Indian Village.

Following the adoption of the Affordable Care Act, Wyoming’s Northern Arapahoe tribal members signed up in high numbers for fully subsidized health insurance, many of whom had never received any before.

Now, a federal judge in Casper says it’s not the responsibility of the federal government to pay for tribal health care. It’s the responsibly of the tribe. U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled against the tribe in its lawsuit with the IRS, arguing that under the ACA the Northern Arapaho tribe qualifies as a large employer.

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Wyoming Public Media

The four-year graduation rate for students on the Wind River Indian Reservation hovers around 50 percent, compared to 80 percent in the rest of Wyoming. In this hour-long forum, Wyoming Public Radio's education reporter Aaron Schrank explores the many factors—from historical trauma to family poverty—that contribute to below average education outcomes for Native American students.

Melodie Edwards

This year, while Wyoming lawmakers were voting down Medicaid Expansion in the state, they also approved a Medicaid Waiver for the state’s two tribes, potentially pumping some $16 million of aid into the reservation’s health system. The health crisis on the Wind River Reservation is now at critical levels, but tripling the amount that the tribe’s receive for health care could help.

In March, Northern Arapaho member Cherokee Brown’s daughter brought her a tooth. She didn’t think much about it. Kids lose teeth.

Melodie Edwards

In the recent legislative session, lawmakers approved a Medicaid Waiver for tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation that could give the tribes federal money to expand healthcare.  But there’s still one more hurdle: approval by the Center for Medicaid Services, a federal agency.

Representative Lloyd Larsen of Lander says he expects the process to go smoothly. “We don’t expect the application process to take too long because they’re working closely with CMS.”

An environmental watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest permits violate the Clean Water Act by allowing thousands of gallons of fracking fluids to be released onto Wind River Reservation lands. The group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER, say the permits were originally issued in the 1970’s to provide drinking water for livestock and wildlife in the arid West. Director Jeffrey Ruch says, since then, fracking fluid ingredients have become much more complex.

Senate Energy GOP

U.S. Senator John Barrasso will be chairing a congressional hearing on the Wind River Reservation at the end of March that will bring tribal officials and law enforcement together to testify on drugs use on the reservation and different methods to curb use.

The Wind River Reservation was one of four reservations chosen for a law enforcement surge pilot program in 2010 and 2012 to combat substance abuse and violent crime. Barrasso says the hearing was called to find out if it was the surge or some other factors that helped curb crime.

Aaron Schrank

Fort Washakie High School is on track to graduate more students than ever this year. It still won’t be a big number, but getting a high school degree is a big deal for students at this small school on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Some are making college plans. Others are just crossing their fingers hoping to get through the rest of the school year. 

Blaze Condon was a junior last semester, but she’s earned enough credits to graduate from Fort Washakie in May. She says it felt great to break that news to her family.

Aaron Schrank

In most schools, campaigns to keep students from smoking use simple slogans like “Be Smart, Don’t Start,” but those targeting Native American kids are a bit different. On Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation, you’re likely to hear more nuanced catchphrases like “Keep It Sacred,” and “Traditional Use, Not Commercial Abuse.”

That’s because tobacco is an indispensable part of many Native American traditions. But with sky-high smoking rates on reservations, Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports that the need to limit nontraditional tobacco use is greater than ever. 

While a Medicaid Expansion bill has its skeptics in the State Senate this week, a waiver to expand it for Native Americans is getting warmer reception.

The Joint Appropriations Committee has included a waiver in the state supplemental budget that would provide health care to some 3,500 low-income Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Representative Lloyd Larsen from Lander says just last year about 40,000 health care visits went uncompensated. Larsen says Wyoming has a legal obligation to pay up.

creativesurfaces.com

1 in 4 Native Americans lives under the poverty level--it’s the worst poverty rates in the U.S. of any racial group. But one group is improving its economic outlook on the reservation: Native women. They’re taking managerial jobs and pursuing higher education more than ever before and are often the primary family breadwinners. In fact, at the Wind River Casino--the largest employer in Fremont County--the female workforce is now almost 60 percent.

When Delinda Burning Breast started with the Wind River Casino ten years ago, it wasn’t even a casino--it was just a bingo hall.

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