Wind River Indian Reservation

Jordan Vandjelovic, Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center

Health officials from the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have a new tool to help them improve the health of residents on the Wind River Reservation. Several health advocates recently attended a training to learn how to use software from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to better collect information about health care on the reservation.

A new documentary that premiered in Wyoming on September 9 and 10, tells the stories of three Native Americans from the Wind River Indian Reservation and their quest to find and reclaim tribal artifacts locked away in museums and other storage facilities.

Mat Hames is the director of the new film, What Was Ours, which was commissioned by Wyoming PBS. Hames says the film follows an Eastern Shoshone elder and two Northern Arapaho youths, a journalist and a powwow princess, as they track down artifacts that belonged to Native Americans at the turn of the last century.

Luke Brown

  

From the beginning, tribes from Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation have been participating in protests to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards interviewed Wind River Native Advocacy Center Director Jason Baldes two weeks ago about how his organization has sent several groups of people to participate in demonstrations.

Melodie Edwards

Overcrowding in homes on the Wind River Reservation is a real problem, as seen in the first story in our “Reservation Housing Shortage” series. In the early 2000s, the number of homes with more than six people living in them grew by 5% for Eastern Shoshone homes and by over 10% for Northern Arapaho. And the reason is, there just aren’t enough houses on the reservation.

Melodie Edwards

The two tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation are growing and prospering. The Northern Arapaho is expected to reach 11,000 this year, the Eastern Shoshone is almost 5,000 strong. But while the number of people has been expanding, the number of homes where all those people can live has not. The situation has led to severe overcrowding, and the social problems that come with that. 

85-year-old Northern Arapaho elder Kenneth Shakespeare has lived in this house north of Arapaho with its view of the mountains and fertile hayfields for a lot of years. 

Ortegon

  

This week the University of Wyoming hosted a summer institute for an organization that supports women of color in academia. One of the guest speakers was Sarah Ortegon, artist and former Miss Native American USA. Wyoming Public Radio’s Maggie Mullen spoke with Ortegon about her paintings currently exhibited at the UW Art Museum, partly inspired by her childhood on the Wind River Reservation. Her work will be exhibited until September 2.

nps.gov

Wyoming’s tribes are skeptical of a Native American wildlife group’s plan to expand the range of grizzly bears onto tribal lands throughout the West. Guardians of Our Ancestor’s Legacy or GOAL has proposed putting any grizzlies Wyoming considers over its population limit on reservations.

Jason Baldes is the director of the Wind River Native Advocacy Center and the son of a longtime wildlife manager on the reservation. He says the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes are lucky to have lots of great habitat for grizzly bears.

Melodie Edwards

Out under the cottonwoods in her backyard near Fort Washakie, Eastern Shoshone member Pat Bergie shows off her new raised-bed garden.

“Those are the tomatoes, strawberries,” she says, pointing at the rows of small seedlings. “Over here, I’d done some cabbage inside. I brought them out and planted them and those are what’s gone.”

Gone because birds came and gobbled them up.

“The big ones, the magpies are the ones that went out,” she says, laughing. “They’re the hoggy ones.”

University of Wyoming

  

Earlier this month, the University of Wyoming’s new president Laurie Nichols visited the Wind River Indian Reservation and sat down with business councils from both the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho to talk about how to get the Native American student body to better reflect Wyoming’s population of Native Americans overall.

She told Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards, it’s an issue she’s tackled before in her time as South Dakota State University’s provost.

University of Wyoming

  

The University of Wyoming’s new president, Laurie Nichols, recently met with tribal leaders to talk about recruiting more Native American students to the school. In her previous position as provost at South Dakota State University, Nichols says welcoming Native students was a big priority, and she’d like to do the same at UW.

She says both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone business councils explained that their tribal populations are growing, and that means a lot more young people will be reaching college age in the coming years.

Carol S. Bock

A national Native American conservation group says grizzly bears shouldn’t be removed from the Endangered Species List, but instead should expand the bear’s range onto tribal lands.

Ben Nuvamsa is a former Hopi councilman and a spokesman for Guardians of Our Ancestor’s Legacy or GOAL. He said the grizzly plays an intricate role in the belief systems of many tribes.

Melodie Edwards

Kids and horses gather on a dusty riding ground on a ridge overlooking the snow-capped Wind River Range. Northern Arapaho Social Services Director Allison Sage starts the day’s ride as he always does: with a prayer and introductions.

“We’re using Arapaho language,” he says. “We’re saying nee'eesih'inoo. That means ‘my name is.’ So you say, nee'eesih'inoo and then how you feel.”

A conference next week in Riverton will explore the enormous health gap on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The life expectancy of Native Americans there is only 52 years old, compared to the national average of 78 years old. Northern Arapaho Social Services Director Allison Sage says the conference will bring together doctors, teachers, traditional healers and others to collaborate on solutions. He says there's especially a need for more doctors and better preventative and prenatal care.

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.”

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