Wind River Indian Reservation

Rebecca Huntington

On the Wind River Reservation, students are learning how to use futuristic tools to stretch the bounds of what's possible in the classroom.

What if you could put a swimming pool in the middle of your classroom?

“Me, me, me, me...” students gleefully shout.

That's just what students at the Arapahoe Elementary School couldn't wait to do...

“Let's be careful to not stand on the swimming pool,” a teacher says. “So now we're going to push select. I think we probably want a really big swimming pool so everybody can fit in it, right?”

The Modern West 23: The Native West, Part 1

May 16, 2017
Aaron Schrank

Part one of two-part series, featuring stories that take us into the heart of the Wind River Reservation.

Pitchengine Communities

With most of the mountains in western Wyoming still covered in deep snow, communities downstream are bracing for the spring runoff. National Weather Service meteorologist Trevor LaVoie said it’s flooded along the Big and Little Wind Rivers every spring for the last six years. He said people living on the Wind River Reservation and in other communities along those rivers should begin preparing for flooding now.

Melodie Edwards

The Housing and Urban Development Office has released a large scale study evaluating the severity of the housing crisis in Indian Country. It’s the most comprehensive research conducted on the subject and the only study of its kind in about 20 years. The study concludes there’s a need for about 68,000 new homes across tribal lands nationwide.

Over the past few months, we’ve been looking at the housing crisis on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The shortage of homes there—and the lack of funding to build more--has led to overcrowding and homelessness. Many Native Americans are often forced to find rentals in border communities off the reservation. Even there they still struggle to find places to live because of racial discrimination.

Melodie Edwards

There’s a housing crisis going on at the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. For its fast growing population of 15,000 residents, there aren’t nearly enough homes to go around, and very little funding to build more. The problem has led to high rates of homelessness in Fremont County. But on rural reservations like Wind River, homelessness doesn’t look much like it does in big cities.

Alexis Bonogofsky

For as long as 75-year-old Dick Baldes can remember, his tribe has tried to bring wild bison back to the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“Some of the old timers would talk about that and how important the bison was. I mean, that’s always been that way,” said Baldes.

Melodie Edwards

  

Look around Lynette St. Clair's Shoshone language and culture classroom at Wyoming Indian Middle School, and you’ll see this isn’t the usual Wyoming social studies class. There’s vintage photos of famous Shoshone people, a miniature tepee, and the white board is scribbled with Shoshone words and translations. And what the kids are learning is unusual too. The students are reading a speech by Shoshone chief Washakie from the 19th century. St. Clair teaches them key words from the speech in Shoshone.

Northern Arapaho Tribe

Eight women ran in the recent tribal primary election and two have advanced to the general election. Currently, no women serve on the Northern Arapaho Business Council and only four women have ever served. 

Clarinda Calling Thunder is one of the two finalists. She said there's still a reluctance to vote women into leadership roles. 

Melodie Edwards

Wyoming educators will have access to a new curriculum focused on conveying an accurate history of the state’s two tribes. 

Wyoming PBS collaborated with Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal leaders to create videos showing native elders and educators discussing the history, culture and government of each tribe. Each of the six videos comes with follow-up lesson plans aligning with Wyoming state standards. 

Bureau of Indian Affairs

A tribal court judge issued an order Thursday that prevents the Eastern Shoshone tribe from making management decisions about programs shared with the Northern Arapaho tribe.

The tribes share the Wind River Reservation, but two years ago the Northern Arapaho left the Joint Business Council, which had cooperatively managed the court system, the wildlife department and other programs on behalf of both tribes.

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.

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