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

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During this year’s Legislative session, lawmakers proposed a joint resolution known as the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action bill. Tailings are waste left over from mining operations. In this case, the tailings in question are from uranium mining on the Wind River Reservation. The tailings have caused groundwater contamination, which many residents believe has led to health problems.

State, tribal and federal officials have agreed to work collaboratively in Pavillion to do further sampling and collect more data in their water monitoring wells. The move is expected to push back a final report on a possible link between water contamination and hydraulic fracturing in the area until later this year.

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With only a week to go until the legislative session is over, Wyoming lawmakers are reviewing a number of bills, including a joint resolution requesting Congress to provide for increased monitoring and funding for remediation of the Riverton uranium mill tailings site. Tailings constitute waste left over from mining operations. Last year we brought you a story about the site in which the Department of Energy released data showing that uranium levels in the area had spiked as high as 100 times the legal limit, and while legislative action on the issue may sound good, it’s bringing up a lot of questions, and anger. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone reports.

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…

Senate addresses Pavillion water with money

Feb 20, 2012

The Wyoming Senate has approved adding 750-thousand dollars for a water system to help residents of Pavillion whose water may be contaminated. The E-P-A has indicated that a number of residents should not drink water from their wells do to high levels of contaminants. 

Senator Eli Bebout asked for the funding in the omnibus water bill, but senator Charles Scott questioned why the State needs to pay for the water and wondered how bad it really was. 

Bebout said that for some, the water is a problem.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is honoring a youth program on the Wind River Reservation for its efforts to prevent substance abuse and the spread of HIV.

This is the first time a Native American group has received a Voices of Prevention award. The Wind River Tribal Youth Program offers a range of health and social programs to kids from the Northern Arapaho Tribe. 

Executive Director Donna Trosper says substance abuse is a big problem among young people in the area.

At a meeting with Pavillion residents this morning, Governor Mead said he wants to continue providing people with safe water.

Pavillion is at the center of an EPA investigation about whether hydraulic fracturing has contaminated the town’s drinking water supply. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease recommended that residents refrain from drinking the water AND shower with their windows open, and as a result, area oil and gas producer EnCana, and the state of Wyoming, are now paying to have bottled water delivered to residents.

In the wake of a congressional hearing over a draft report by the Environmental Protection Agency that links hydraulic fracturing with water contamination in the town of Pavillion, the Wind River Tribes are pushing to take a bigger role in the investigation.

EPA

Tomorrow, the U-S House of Representatives’ Energy and Environment Subcommittee will hear about the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing investigation of groundwater contamination in the town of Pavillion. However, Pavillion residents say they were not invited to testify.

In December the EPA released a draft report on its three-year water contamination investigation. It indicated that ground water in Pavillion’s aquifer contains compounds that are “likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.”

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that people in Wyoming reporting to be American Indian in combination with one or more races grew 24%.

In 2010 over 13-thousand people in Wyoming reported American Indian as their only race. However, those who chose multiple races - American Indian in combination with something else – was nearly 19-thousand. That’s up from 15-thousand a decade ago.

The American Indian Studies program at the University of Wyoming says that they have contracted architect Johnpaul Jones to develop a proposed American Indian center at U-W.

Jones has worked as lead-consultant for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, as well as numerous other cultural centers, museums and parks.

Judith Antell is Director of American Indian Studies at UW.

Some Native American farmers and ranchers in Wyoming could be receiving checks and debt forgiveness in the coming year in the wake of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
 
It’s estimated that Native American farmers and ranchers lost over 770-million-dollars in revenue between 1981 and 1999, because the USDA denied them loans and services based on their race. Many Native Americans also lost their land in the process.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it is extending the public comment period on the draft Pavillion ground water investigation to March 12. It's an attempt to allow all stakeholders and the public additional time to review the report and its related documents. On Tuesday, the EPA invited the public to nominate scientific experts to be peer reviewers of the draft report. Nominations will be accepted through February 17th. In December, Gov.

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In the class action lawsuit Cobell vs. Salazar, plaintiff Elouise Cobell accused the Federal Government of mismanaging nearly 150-billion dollars in royalties owed to Indian landowners due to the loss and destruction of records. The government agreed to a $3.4 billion dollar settlement – and government data estimates there are up to 8,000 possible beneficiaries here in Wyoming.

Wind River Reservation

On Monday, the Federal Court of Appeals reinstated a claim filed by the Wind River Tribes against the federal government which accuses the Department of Interior of mismanaging mineral royalties for the two tribes.
 The Shoshone and Arapaho claims were initially filed in 1979. Since then, most have been adjudicated and settled, however, one big piece remains: oil and gas leases initially established in the early 1900’s.
 Allegedly, the Department of Interior managed those leases, then illegally transformed them into new leases in the 1930s.

Encana Oil and Gas says the Environmental Protection Agency is moving too fast with its draft analysis of ground water contamination in the town of Pavillion, and has asked the EPA to suspend the public comment period.

In a letter dated January 6th, Encana oil and gas asked the EPA to suspend the public comment period until the agency’s plans were better explained and additional critical data could be disseminated.

Governor Matt Mead has asked for the Environmental Protection Agency to clarify how the peer review process will work, when it comes the groundwater investigation in Pavillion.

Earlier this month, the EPA released a draft report indicating that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds that are “likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing”.  

Governor Mead's policy director Sean Reese says Mead sent a letter asking for state involvement.

Canadian energy corporation Encana says “the EPA made critical mistakes and misjudgments” when it released a draft report linking water contamination in the town of Pavillion to hydraulic fracturing.

Earlier this month, the EPA released a draft report on their three year water contamination investigation… indicating that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds that are “likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.”

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INTRO: Most U.S. religions have no problem carrying out their spiritual exercises. But, for Native Americans in Wyoming and elsewhere, practicing traditional religious ceremonies isn't so simple: They can be heavily regulated by federal authorities, especially when it comes to the use of sacred items like eagle feathers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone reports.

This week marks the 147th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, in which nearly 200 members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes were murdered.

The soldiers who carried out the atrocity were led by a Methodist minister. This spring, the Methodist Church plans to formally apologize.

The apology is part of a string of “Acts of Repentance,” in which the church is acknowledging wrongdoing to indigenous peoples around the world.

In early November, a Texas-based company called Legacy Reserves LP announced that it would purchase oil and gas properties in Fremont County: primarily properties owned by Encana in the Pavillion area. Late last week, Legacy Reserves pulled out of the deal.

On October 31 U.S. Senator and Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka proposed legislation that would give tribal courts jurisdiction over non-Indians who committed crimes on tribal lands.

The authority to prosecute non-Natives in tribal courts was stripped in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling. Supporters of Senator Akaka’s bill say that the 1978 ruling led to an increase in violence on reservations and has resulted in unprosecuted and unpunished offenders.

Meeting over wolf plan to be held in Riverton

Nov 11, 2011

Federal wildlife managers are soliciting public comment on a plan that could see an end to federal protections for Wyoming wolves as soon as next year.

In 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation in the Pavillion area after residents complained of health problems and changes in the odor, taste and color of their well water. Last night, the EPA released new data from deep monitoring wells in the area. 

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