Wind River Reservation

The Department of Energy is closely monitoring the potential for flooding this spring at the site of a former uranium mill on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Tailings from the mill contaminated groundwater in the area decades ago. DOE had planned to let the uranium dissipate naturally over the next century, then flooding in 2010 caused an unexpected spike in contamination levels.

The tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation run their own family services agencies, funded by the tribes themselves, federal grants and contracts with the state. But the Northern Arapaho Department of Family Services and the larger family welfare system on the reservation has some work to do.

Reviews over the years have pointed to big problems and some of them have gone years without being addressed effectively. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov has the story.   

IRINA ZHOROV:  22-month Marcella Yellowbear died on July 2nd, 2004.

Rebecca Martinez

The tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County will start hauling their waste to a Casper landfill soon. Fremont County has been transporting the reservation's waste to nearby landfills, but an agreement signed between the tribes and the county last summer transferred those duties to the tribes. Executive Director of the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission, Ryan Ortiz says the hold-up has been getting a truck, which is now scheduled to arrive in April.

Wyoming has filed an appeal in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for the Environmental Protection Agency decision that drew the borders of the Wind River Indian Reservation to include Riverton.

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to put a hold on its decision to grant the tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation status as a state for the purpose of air monitoring.

A plan to expand Medicaid for Wyoming’s Native American population has failed in the Wyoming House of Representatives. 

A proposed bill would have allowed the state to go ahead with a demonstration program that was intended to help improve the health care of Native Americans.

Democrat Patrick Goggles of Fort Washakie was disappointed that the bill failed to get the 40 votes needed for it to move forward.  But Goggles adds that 32 people voted for it which tells him that it could pass in the future.

Eastern Shoshone Get Health Care Grant

Feb 4, 2014

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe has received over 200 thousand dollars to help fight heart disease.  The Tribe’s Director of Health Programs Cathy Keene says the money from the AstraZeneca Foundation is allowing them to address a problem that kills half the members of the Wind River Reservation.  Keene says they have developed a cardiovascular health education program that will hopefully help prevent heart disease.

Accessing federal courts for Native Americans living on Wind River Reservation can be a hardship for those forced to use federal judicial services.

Native American offenders and victims of major crimes that occur in Indian Country go through the federal court system, yet for Wind River residents showing up to court can mean a 600-mile roundtrip. That’s because trials are held primarily at the federal court houses in Casper and Cheyenne.

What do you think of the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision that includes Riverton as part of the  Wind River Reservation?

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

Agreement over the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation seems to be a long way off between the state’s tribes and Governor Matt Mead. 

The dispute is over an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that the city of Riverton falls on tribal land. In a letter to the governor Wednesday, the Northern Arapaho tribe says it was surprised by the governor’s reaction to the EPA ruling.  They say in the past, the state has actively promoted the idea of giving the tribes Treatment as a State status and allowing the EPA to settle the 1905 Act boundary dispute, once and for all. 

No action taken on Medicaid proposals

Nov 6, 2013

The Legislature’s Joint Health and Labor Committee took no action on three bills that would address expanding Medicaid Services in the state. 

The committee will vote on the legislation in January, although a pilot project that would provide Medicaid expansion on the Wind River Reservation was assigned to another committee that deals with Native American issues.  

Tom Laycock / Wyoming Department of Education

Officials from the Wind River Reservation discussed dropout rates, poverty issues, and the need for early childhood education during a panel that included two cabinet secretaries. 

The meeting in Riverton was intended to let Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Education Secretary Arne Duncan hear about issues on the reservation.  State Board of Education Member Scotty Ratliff was impressed that the discussion moved away from cultural issues and centered on key issues like poverty and jobs.         

The Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center has released an update from an ongoing health study on Wind River Reservation and nearby communities, but cautions that the results are not final.

The environmental health study was initiated because people complained of elevated cancer rates in their communities. Director of the Center, Folo Akintan, says she was hoping to have the study completed by now but since it’s not she wanted to share the results of the community surveys collected over the past two years.

In the mid 1990’s the University of Wyoming made a conscious effort to attract more Native American students to the University. Over the years recruitment and retention of students from the Wind River Reservation has been challenging.  New efforts could change things and many believe that will be important for the long term health of the Reservation.

The jail on the Wind River Indian Reservation is being renovated, and while it’s under construction people brought in for minor offenses are let go with a notice to appear in court instead of being held like they normally would be. Minor offenses are mostly alcohol related, like public intoxication, simple assault, trespassing, and disturbing the peace. 

Chief Judge of the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Court, John St. Clair, says only about 10% of people who are issued a notice to appear actually appear.

Federal budget cuts are causing schools on the Wind River Indian Reservation to tighten their belts.

Wyoming provides funding to all public schools in the state, but 10 districts – including several on the reservation – also receive money from the federal Impact Aid program.  That supplements funding to school districts that include federal land that is not subject to property taxes.

The EPA issues water discharge permits on the Wind River Indian Reservation to oil and gas companies bringing up water with their oil. 

That water, called produced water, is dirty and often warm even in winter. The permits are issued through an EPA waiver that allows such water to be discharged in the arid West if it’s being used beneficially.  In the drier parts of Wyoming it is sometimes the only source of water for livestock and wildlife.

A new Bureau of Justice Statistics report on tribal crime data says the number of Indian country suspects investigated by U.S. attorneys for violence dropped 3%, while those investigated for property crime increased by 57%.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry Jacobson says her office in Lander is also looking into more non-violent crimes on Wind River Reservation than in the past.

The Wind River Indian Reservation could lose its trash disposal services if the tribes there do not negotiate a new contract with Fremont County before the existing one expires on December 14th.

A federal judge must decide a dispute between two Wyoming Indian tribes ... over whether eagles may be killed on the Wind River Reservation for religious purposes.

Judge Alan Johnson of Cheyenne heard arguments Friday in a lawsuit the Northern Arapaho Tribe is pressing against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal agency issued a permit to the Northern Arapaho this spring specifying the tribe could kill two bald eagles for its annual Sun Dance. It was the nation's first bald eagle permit for religious purposes.

Wind River Reservation

Tribal leaders are pleased that a sex offender registry and compliance enforcement office has been established on the Wind River Reservation.

The office in Ethete was established under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act – or SORNA – to close reporting gaps among states, territories and Indian Country. Before it opened on August 17, there was no way to force sex offenders living, working or studying on the reservation to make their presence known to the public.

Wind River Reservation

After the US Senate unanimously passed the HEARTH ACT – giving tribes more control over leasing Indian land – President Obama has signed it into law.

The legislation will allow tribal governments to approve surface leases on Indian land directly, instead of waiting for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve them. Eastern Shoshone Business Council co-chairman Wes Martel says going through the B-I-A could take years.

Supporters of the Violence Against Women Act are hoping the law will be improved with provisions that could have a big impact on the Wind River Reservation. The Act provides grant money to support women who have been victims of domestic violence, including on Reservations.

U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, Kip Crofts, says it would give tribes more power to prosecute domestic violence.

Wyoming’s U.S. Attorney Kip Crofts says an increased presence in law enforcement on the Wind River Reservation is having an effect on high levels of crime there.

Crofts, along with members of the legislature’s Tribal Select and Joint Judiciary Interim Committees, met on Wind River earlier this week to discuss issues related to crime and Crofts says continued federal and state support may be the key to addressing the issue.

The Department of Energy announced Friday that water being provided to residents of the Wind River Reservation is safe to drink.

Last week, DOE officials confirmed that tap water in four households on the reservation showed elevated levels of uranium nearly twice the legal limit.

This week, the DOE’s April Gil said in a statement that the elevated levels were inaccurate, the tap water has been retested, and is safe for consumption.

Last week, the Department of Energy announced that uranium at nearly twice the legal limit had been found in the tap water of four households on the Wind River Reservation. The event marks another incident in a long and troubled history in the area.  Wyoming Public Radio's Tristan Ahtone brings us this report on the find.

With problems over water contamination in the town of Pavillion, and possible actions to remediate a contaminated uranium site on the Wind River Reservation,  tribal officials have pushed to be the lead agency in both situations, as the areas impacted are within the boundaries of the reservation and impact tribal trust assets.

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a Joint Resolution asking Congress to increase funding and monitoring at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings remediation site.  Mill Tailings at the site, on the Wind River Reservation, constitute contaminated materials left over from the former Susquehanna-Western uranium mill that operated in the 50’s and 60’s.

Senator Cale Case told the Senate that the federal government had expected the site to naturally clean itself up after the company ceased operation in the area.  However, he says that hasn’t been the case…