Wind River Indian Reservation

There was little turnover during the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone tribal elections last week. Elections are held every two years. Half of the Shoshone Council's six members will be new going into the next term, including Clinton Wagon, Jodie McAdam and Rick Harris Jr.

The Northern Arapaho also have three new councilmen-- Forest Whiteman, Richard Brannan and Norman Willow Sr. Re-elected Arapaho councilman Darrell O’Neal says the relative lack of turnover is a sign of support for the council’s decisions this last term.

Al Hubbard

Last week, the Lander Art Center hosted an opening for its second annual Native American art exhibit. The show runs through December 20 and boasts more than 50 artists, most of them from the Wind River Indian Reservation. One artist in the exhibit is Al Hubbard, a 42-year-old Navajo and Arapaho artist who says traditional Native American images are fine, but Hubbard says he’s more interested in using pop art and other contemporary styles to express his ideas about tribal history and spirituality.

An opening reception on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Lander Art Center will launch a new exhibit of Native American art work. It’s the show’s second year in a row and comes in honor of National Native American Heritage Month. The exhibit will showcase over 50 artists, mostly from Wind River Indian Reservation. Director Lisa Hueneke says, this year, about half the artists are students from reservation high schools. She says the exhibit demonstrates a wide diversity of artistic styles. One of the artists on display is Al Hubbard, a Northern Arapaho and Navajo artist.

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.

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.

americanindian.net

In coming years, visitors to Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation will see new historical perspectives on roadside signs and markers. That’s the proposed outcome of the new Wind River Interpretive Plan. It's believed to be the first such collaboration between tribes and state government on a reservation-wide interpretive plan.

Wyoming's Wind River Country

An organization that's working to end tribal sovereignty hosted a national conference in Riverton this weekend. The group is protesting the Environmental Protection Agency's recent decision that the city of Riverton falls within Wind River reservation boundaries. That has led to tensions between tribal members, the state, and Riverton.   The group--known as Citizens Equal Rights Alliance—posted on their website that it isn't fair that tribal members receive special status because it threatens the individual rights of all Americans.  

It’s been a few months since we’ve had Governor Matt Mead on the program.  He joins Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck to discuss a dispute over boundaries in Riverton and Education.

WILLOW BELDEN: In 2012, the tribes who share the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho Tribes, came to a settlement with the federal government for a mineral royalties mismanagement case dating back to the 1970’s. The federal government has finally released the money from the settlement, and tribal members on Wind River are anxiously awaiting their checks. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov joins us to talk about the settlement and what it means to the Wind River Community.

To start, could you tell us what this settlement is all about.

Long-awaited money from a settlement on the Wind River Indian Reservation is finally on its way. The 157 million dollar settlement between the tribes and the federal government is for underpayment of royalties on oil and gas development…and improper management of royalties that were paid.

Northern Arapaho spokesman Mark Howell says some people don’t have bank accounts…and there were concerns they would not be able to cash their checks.

Long-awaited money from a settlement on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming is finally on its way.

The federal government is paying the tribes $157 million for underpayment of royalties on oil and gas development and improper management of royalties that were paid. Northern Arapaho spokesman Mark Howell says some people don’t have bank accounts and there were concerns they would not be able to cash their checks.

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

Wind River Reservation

A report by the Government Accountability Office says some things need to change in order for Indian tribes to be able to effectively carry out affordable housing activities under the Indian Housing Block Grant program. The program provides grants to tribes to build affordable housing. Remoteness of reservations and lack of infrastructure was one major challenge the report identified. But lack of coordination among federal agencies also delays initiatives and makes it harder to lump funds from various agencies for one project.

Patrick Goggles has been serving in the Wyoming House of Representatives since 2005. But at the end of the recent budget session, he announced that he won’t be seeking reelection in 2014. Goggles is a democrat from House District 33, which includes a piece of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County.

county10.com

Mark Soldier Wolf is a Northern Arapaho tribal elder. He grew up on the Wind River Indian Reservation, outside of Riverton. For him, the past is forever inscribed on the present, a sentiment he shares in this lesser known version of the Battle at Little Bighorn.

When Soldier Wolf returned to Wyoming from the Korean War, there were very few resources for veterans. In this story, he describes how he got his life back together, and the atmosphere of Riverton during wartime.

The governments of Riverton, Fremont County, the state, and of the two tribes who share the Wind River Indian Reservation are arguing, again, over the reservation’s borders.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has written a letter asking the Environmental Protection Agency to put the brakes on an agency decision regarding the Wind River Reservation’s borders.

The EPA recently granted the Wind River Indian Reservation status as a state for the purpose of air monitoring, and in the process determined that Riverton is on tribal land. That decision has brought up civil and criminal jurisdictional issue for the city, and the state has requested that the EPA hold off on implementing it.

Major crimes committed on the Wind River Indian Reservation end up in federal court. But federal courthouses in Wyoming are really far from the reservation, which leads to logistical, constitutional, and social problems. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.  

IRINA ZHOROV: John Crispin’s son was murdered in 2011. He told me about it on a snowy night in the parking lot of a convenience store in Ethete, Wyoming, on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Wind River Reservation

The Northern Arapaho Tribe is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject a request from the state of Wyoming to halt implementation of the agency's decision that over 1 million acres around Riverton remains legally Indian Country.
 
Lawyers for the tribe wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy this week urging her to reject the request the state submitted earlier this month.
 

As eligible Native Americans in Fremont County await checks owed them as part of a settlement with the federal government, law enforcement is preparing to institute extra security measures to protect tribal members.

Governor Matt Mead is unhappy with the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent drawing of the Wind River Indian Reservation’s boundary and is appealing the ruling.

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes asked the EPA for state-like status for the purpose of air monitoring, and the EPA gave them that. But as part of the decision, the agency also drew the reservation’s borders to include Riverton.

Wyoming has long considered Riverton to be outside of the reservation’s borders and a Wyoming Supreme Court case affirmed the state’s stance in 2008.

P. Solomon Banda, Associated Press

Sergio Maldonado is a Mexican-Arapaho who grew up on the Wind River Indian Reservation outside of Lander, Wyoming.  He now teaches at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.  In these two stories, Sergio talks about his experience with the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes.  His personal history informs his understanding of Native identity.

After five years of deliberation, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the Wind River Indian Reservation its own state for the purpose of air quality monitoring. The decision, made under the Clean Air Act, will allow the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to apply for grants to support air monitoring programs, but it doesn’t give the tribes regulatory powers.

Micah Schweizer

Tom Duncan grew up in Lander.  He comes from a family of Scottish immigrants that settled in Wyoming in the 1880s.  In 1900, Duncan’s grandfather trailed 5000 sheep to Fremont County, where he began a ranch along the western border of the Wind River Indian Reservation.  Duncan tells the family story of their Native American neighbor, Togwotee, for whom Togwotee Pass is named.

Almost five years ago, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes submitted an application to the federal government asking for the Wind River Indian Reservation to be treated as a separate state for monitoring air quality. They're still waiting on a response. 

Eastern Shoshone tribe chairman Darwin St. Clair says it’s a matter of tribal sovereignty as well as stewardship of their land. He says with a coal power plant and oil and gas fields nearby, air quality is a high priority.

The White House recently hosted its fifth Tribal Nations Conference in Washington D.C. This was the first time that Darwin St. Clair, Chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, attended the conference. He says it “felt like we were actually making progress. It may not have been big steps, but we’re making steps forward.”

St. Clair said a highlight of the trip was a consultation he had with administrators from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior.  

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