Tribal News

The Wind River Indian Reservation is as beautiful as its melodic name. It's one of the largest Reservations in the United States, spanning over 2.2 million acres and contained within the boundaries of the state. Its scenery ranges from high grassland to some of the most majestic and least populated mountain ranges. The Wind River Range is a renowned destination for historians, climbers, hikers, and visitors who come to absorb the culture.

Wyoming Public Media serves the Greater Wind River Reservation, Ft. Washakie, Lander, Riverton, Shoshone, Dubois, and Thermopolis on 90.9, 90.5 and 91.3. Our reporters tell the stories of the Reservation, focusing on issues that affect the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes. We also take stories from our Mountain West Bureau reporters who tell the stories of Native Americans beyond our borders. They reflect the lives of people on the Reservation and beyond, their issues, history, hopes, and ambitions. 

Indian Lands in the United States
Credit Bureau of Indian Affairs

The U.S. Department of Energy will run additional groundwater tests at a Riverton site contaminated with uranium. The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site was contaminated after hosting a uranium mill there in the 1960’s.  

Wyoming's Newlin just misses Olympic medal

Aug 1, 2012

Wyoming’s Athletes will leave the London Olympics without medals.  Riverton’s Brett Newlin just missed earning a medal when the U-S eight man rowing team he was a part of placed fourth, just behind Great Britain. 

Meanwhile, Cheyenne's Jennifer Nichols was eliminated Tuesday in the archery competition. 

Nichols was competing in her third Olympic games.

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.

The Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership – or HEARTH –Act has passed the U.S. Senate and is expected to be signed by President Obama soon.

Originally introduced by Wyoming Republican John Barrasso, the HEARTH Act allows tribes to approve land leases… while the current path to homeownership requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve land leases. The BIA process has been known to take between six months and two years.

According to the federal Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board – the body responsible for monitoring money from President Obama’s economic stimulus program – 303 recipients nationwide have failed to file financial reports to show how they used the money. One is in Wyoming. Ed Pound is with the Transparency Board. He says there are quite a few entities that are out of compliance. "We had the Milwaukee county transit system didn’t report on 25.6 million dollars,” says Pound. “Northrup Grumman didn’t report on a 3.1-million dollar contract.

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.

Residents in the town of Pavillion will soon be able to receive water cistern systems. A cistern is a water holding tank.  Pavillion is at the center of an ongoing Environmental Protection Agency investigation on whether hydraulic fracturing has contaminated the towns drinking water.

In upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has also affirmed the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Many Native Americans receive healthcare through the Indian Health Service, or IHS, with more than 10,000 people in Wyoming eligible for services, and 2-million nationwide.

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.

Tristan Ahtone

HOST: As we just heard, the uranium industry may have a long way to go in earning back the public’s trust, especially on the Wind River Reservation. In 2010, the Department of Energy released well monitoring data from the Wind River Reservation. What they found was that uranium levels in a number of their wells had spiked up to 100 times the legal limit. In early May the Department of Energy released tap test results showing uranium levels nearly twice the legal limit, but later said the results were anomalies.

Central Wyoming College Prepared to Weather 8% Budget Cuts

Jun 12, 2012

By Madison Williams

Some of Wyoming’s community colleges are concerned about potential eight percent budget cuts-- but Central Wyoming College isn’t that worried. And in fact, they’re planning to trim their budget even more than would be required under Gov. Matt Mead’s plan.

Central Wyoming College in Riverton will be eliminating six positions. But college President Jo Ann McFarland says they won’t cut programs or decrease financial aid. And she says the staff cuts shouldn’t be too painful, because most of the positions are already vacant.

Edward Wadda, Tribal Liaison between the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and Governor Matt Meads office, passed in a car accident last night (Thursday) at the age of 42.

Wadda served as Tribal Liaison since 2005. While also volunteering as an adviser for Wind River United National Indian Tribal Youth, which works to promote drug-free, healthy lifestyles… promoting education, and keeping culture and traditions alive.

Judith Antell is the director of American Indian Studies at the University of Wyoming. She first met Wadda in 1993, and says they have remained friends ever since.

Wyoming plans to install water cisterns at the homes of residents in the Pavillion area’s natural gas field. An EPA draft report suggests contaminants in area wells are connected to hydraulic fracturing, but state officials say the cause of the contamination is unknown.
 

As testing continues on whether fracking contaminated groundwater in the Pavillion area, Governor Matt Mead and state officials will host a meeting next week on a new way to get fresh water to citizens. 

Mead says they are considering a cistern system where each resident would have a water tank to hold their water supply.  Water for the tanks would be trucked from Riverton or Lander.  One issue is how to pay for it.  Governor Mead says the Environmental Protection Agency is not set up to help pay for such a project and getting the gas company Encana to pay is a bit tricky.

A federal judge will allow Eastern Shoshone Tribe to challenge the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s plan to sue for the right to kill bald eagles on the reservation they share.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit to the Northern Arapaho Tribe allowing them to kill two bald eagles annually for religious purposes, as long as they do so outside the reservation they share with the Shoshone. Because Wyoming state law prohibits the killing of eagles on state land, the Northern Arapaho are suing Fish and Wildlife for the right to kill the eagles on the reservation.

Concerns about possible water shortages have lead the Riverton City Council to adopt a drought plan and implement mild restrictions. Under the plan’s level green, there are no restrictions. The current yellow level asks residents to conserve water voluntarily. Voluntary water conservation measures include fixing leaks and avoiding watering lawns during the hottest parts of the day.

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.

A group of Pavillion residents says Wyoming officials betrayed them by delaying the release of information tentatively connecting hydraulic fracturing with groundwater pollution in the area.

An Associated Press investigation shows that Gov. Matt Mead convinced the Environmental Protection Agency to delay its draft report on the contamination by a full month. Mead and other state officials used the extra time to try and debunk the findings before they could harm the oil and gas industries.

Tribal officials on the Wind River Reservation continue to seek answers after the Department of Energy announced that uranium was found in some residents' tap water. DOE officials announced last week that data collected in the fall indicated that four households near a former uranium waste site had levels of uranium nearly twice the legal limit. Dean Goggles is executive Director for the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission. He says tribal members are currently faced with more questions than answers.

The Bureau of Land Management has released a proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public and tribal lands. Under the proposed rules, companies that use fracking would need to disclose chemicals used in the process after the job was finished, and would have to address issues related to waste water and drill holes.

Kathleen Sgamma is a spokesperson for Western Energy Alliance. She says the proposed regulations would be bad for business, which she says already faces excessive bureaucratic hurdles.

Tribal officials on the Wind River Reservation continue to seek answers after the Department of Energy announced that uranium was found in some residents' tap water.

DOE officials announced Wednesday evening that data collected last fall indicated that four households near a former uranium waste site had levels of uranium nearly twice the legal limit.

Dean Goggles is executive Director for the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission.

Tristan Ahtone

The Department of Energy says elevated levels of uranium have been found in drinking water on the Wind River Reservation. At a public meeting in Riverton, the DOE confirmed that four households on Wind River showed levels of uranium up to twice the legal limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

A new independent review of the E-P-A study on hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion confirms the link between water contamination and fracking. The review was requested by a conglomerate of environmental groups.

One of the criticisms of the E-P-A study was that it was poorly conducted science, and therefore, put forth unreliable conclusions. But the hydrologic consultant who did the review, Tom Myers, says the E-P-A did goodwork.

With an initial Supreme Court vote on the controversial Affordable Care Act expected at any time, a big question remains for Native American communities: what if the entire act is struck down?

Wyoming’s Northern Arapaho Tribe is being allowed to capture and kill two bald eagles for religious purposes. The permit comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which has issued similar permits for golden eagles in the past, but never before for bald eagles. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone reports.

In recent years, the number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in American rose more among Native Americans than any other ethnic population .

Native Americans make up one percent of the caseloads nationally, but in Wyoming, they make up four times the national average.

Robert Foley is President of the National Native American Aids Prevention Center. He worries that dealing with the epidemic in states like Wyoming where the general population is small, could be a huge obstacle in the future.

After two years of review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has issued members of the Northern Arapaho tribe permits to capture two live bald eagles for religious purposes.

Last year, the Northern Arapaho sued Fish and Wildlife Service, charging the agency with violating tribal members rights to religious freedom.

Matt Hogan is with the Fish and Wildlife Service. He says while the application may sound strange to non-natives, the use of eagle parts is very important to tribes.

A recent report shows that 2010 revenue from Native American casinos grew a little over one-percent, down significantly from previous years.

The Indian Gaming Industry Report shows that in 2008 revenue growth ran about 39-percent… and in 2009 it shrank to nearly 10-percent. The new numbers rank Wyoming 15th in the nation, compared to 28 other states that have Indian gaming.

Alan Meister is the author of the report. He says despite the drop in growth, future improvements to revenue may be on the way.

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