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 co-ownership of a parcel of land, or land fractionation, on a dozen Indian reservations has doubled from 1992 to 2010. That’s according to a recent study which compared 2010 statistics on land fractionation to a government study from 1992, the only publicly available study of fractionation.

Fractionation happens when several heirs inherit undivided interests in the same allotment of land. Over generations, allotments can end up being shared between dozens of owners.  

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.  

A national, bi-partisan commission has released a report about safety in Indian Country. Tribal communities are often more dangerous than non-Native communities. The report - A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer - looks at Native American communities nationwide and makes recommendations for closing those gaps in public safety. Affie Ellis is from Wyoming and she sits on the Indian Law and Order Commission, which put out the report. She spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov about the Commission’s findings.

A report released by the Indian Law and Order Commission says law enforcement responsibilities on Indian reservations should be placed with tribes, rather than with federal and state governments, as they are now. The report, titled “A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer,” looked at public safety issues in Native American communities nationwide and made recommendations to close the public safety gap by 2024. Public safety in tribal communities often lags behind non-Native communities. 

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp has introduced a bill to create a Commission on Native Children. The Commission’s goal is to investigate problems specific to Native children and make recommendations for improving them.

Mortality has increased for Native children since 2000, and they're overrepresented in foster care, have high suicide rates, and lower graduation rates than white students. On the Wind River Indian Reservation the graduation rate for students is around 50 percent. The statewide graduation for all students is closer to 80 percent.  

As part of the University of Wyoming Law Week, the College of Law is bringing in Walter Echo-Hawk to speak about human rights in Native America. Echo-Hawk is a lawyer and advocate for Native American rights and culture.

He says with the passing of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations, there’s hope for optimism.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe’s Housing Authority has received a $1.1 million Indian Community Development Block Grant. The competitive grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Grant administrator for the Northern Arapaho tribe, Patrick Goggles, says the money will be used for upgrades to the Fort Washakie Health Center on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“It’ll expand the number of patient rooms and it’ll expand the amount of healthcare that it dispenses to the clientele on the reservation,” says Goggles.

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.         

An effort that began almost 8 years ago will lead to a long awaited groundbreaking on Friday. The 41 million dollar Wind River Job Corps will train disadvantaged students in energy production and will also help them enhance their academic and social skills. 

Elizabeth Shogren/NPR

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comments on the extension of several water discharge permits on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The EPA is looking at renewing existing permits that allow companies to pump waste water from oil and gas fields to the surface on the Reservation. The produced water exemption allows this practice only in the arid West. In general, state agencies have tighter regulations than the EPA about what can be pumped to the surface, but tribal land is under the EPA’s jurisdiction.    

School officials from the Wind River Reservation admit they have problems graduating students and with educating students, but they also say they are slowly making progress.  School officials told a meeting of two legislative committees that more early education and more involvement with parents.  But they all say that socio-economic factors also play a role.  Wyoming Interim Education Director Jim Rose says resolving that issue will be tricky.

US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy says that the high levels of uranium at a contaminated site on Wind River Reservation might not flush out of the groundwater naturally in 100 years, like they previously thought.  

Tailings from a uranium mill that functioned at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site in the 1960s left the area’s groundwater with high levels of uranium and the DOE took over management of the site in the late ‘80s.

US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy and the Tribal Joint Business Council have signed a cooperative agreement for one year to address the work being done on the contaminated uranium mill tailings site on the Wind River Indian Reservation.


The Riverton Site is where a uranium and vanadium ore processing facility operated until the 1960s. The DOE is responsible for long-term management of the site, but the Tribes have pushed for more involvement in the process.

A State Representative who represents the Wind River Reservation says it’s essential that Native Americans hold office and articulate their points of view to the rest of the state.  That’s why Representative Patrick Goggles has been working to get more young people interested in politics. 

“We are in that process of encouraging many young folks to endeavor into the arena of politics.  Our motto is that if you don’t articulate the politics of your community, someone will for you.”

Northern Arapaho Tribe sanctioned for bad audits

May 23, 2013

The Northern Arapaho Tribe is currently being sanctioned for not submitting their audits for the last couple of years, and the audits that were submitted, up to 2010, received poor marks. The audits found that everything from timely drawdowns to proper tracking of tribal and federal funds to a suitable Human Resources system that hired qualified workers and paid them appropriate wages were missing or lacking. The tribe put together a corrective action plan after the 2009 audit.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe opened the doors to its full-scale casino in 2005. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that eight years into the venture, the casino is making money but some wonder where it’s going. 

IRINA ZHOROV: The Wind River Casino has been open for almost a decade but it’s still a novelty to walk into; whirring slot machines, dimmed lights, card tables, all on the edge of Riverton on a piece of prairie.

[sound of machines]

The Northern Arapaho Tribe is a mess, financially. They’re behind on their audits, past audits have not been flattering, and change has been slow to come. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov has been looking into why the audits are less than ideal and the status of the Tribe’s future financial solvency.   

BOB BECK: To start, why is a federal governmental agency even auditing a tribe, if the tribe is supposed to be pretty much sovereign?

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.

Rebecca Martinez

The once-faltering Fremont School District 38 in Arapahoe turned a complete 180 since Superintendent Jonathan Braack took the helm in January 2012.

windriverescape.org

Substance abuse is a concern for most school districts across the country, but on the Wind River Indian Reservation, it’s a red flag for especially high crime and suicide rates. Tribes have been trying – with mixed success – to keep kids from abusing alcohol and tobacco… But a new program from the Eastern Shoshone Department of Juvenile Services is working to train a league of student mentors to help their peers avoid risky behaviors. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez filed this report.

Kit Freedman is a graduate of University of Wyoming, who did his thesis research on the Wind River Indian Reservation. In this essay he reflects on his family’s multi-generational history in Lander.   

A new project on the Wind River Indian Reservation seeks to reduce diabetes rates by helping tribal families grow their own vegetables. More than 11% of the people on the reservation have diabetes.

The project is a collaboration between community health groups on the reservation, and the University of Wyoming.

Virginia Sutter with Blue Mountain Associates is one of the leaders of the project. She says diabetes rates are high because tribal members have very different diets than they have historically.

There are about $2.9 billion worth of sanitation development projects in tribal communities across the US, and Wyoming has 33 projects that add up to just under $16.5 million dollars, according to the US Indian Health Service.

   Ronald Ferguson directs the IHS Division of Sanitation Facilities. He says Wyoming is in a better position than some other areas.   

Tristan Ahtone

Native American tribes need to make sure they are protecting their natural resources. Eastern Shoshone Business Council member Wes Martel, from the Wind River Indian Reservation, spoke during a University of Wyoming American Indian Studies program this week. Martel said tribes need to be more careful about the kinds of contracts they enter into for energy development. He added that water is the new gold but very few tribes are taking real steps to secure this resource.  

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 US Department of Energy has released data from sampling the agency did at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Site in August. The area, which is on the Wind River Indian Reservation, was contaminated with uranium and vanadium in the late 1950s  and early 1960s, when a uranium mill processed ore there. In the ‘90s the DOE recommended waiting for natural dissolution to clean the site, and levels of contamination seemed to be diminishing predictably until a big flood in 2010.

The State Senate gave second approval to a bill that would allow the Northern Arapaho Tribe to kill golden eagles for tribal ceremonies as long as it is done in compliance with federal law.  

Child Advocacy Center opens on Wind River Reservation

Jan 24, 2013


Yesterday, the Eastern Shoshone tribe opened a Child Advocacy Center on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The center will offer emergency assistance to children and families who have been victimized by physical and sexual abuse.

The Arapahoe School is seeing continued improvements

Dec 19, 2012

Credit Alan Rogers / Casper Star-TribuneFourth-grader Alex Behan, right, raises his hand to answer a question during a reading exercise Thursday in Connie Vincent's class at Arapahoe School.Edit | Remove

After the Arapahoe School on the Wind River Reservation saw an uptick in math and reading scores in the state PAWS results this summer, the school has continued to see improvements.

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