Savannah Maher

Wind River Reservation Reporter

Email: smaher4@uwyo.edu

Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them. 

Savannah got her start in journalism reporting for her hometown’s local newspaper (The Mashpee Enterprise) and public radio station (WCAI), and has since contributed to New Hampshire Public Radio, High Country News, and NPR’s Code Switch blog. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2018.  

Savannah is supported in part by the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, a program of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

Savannah is a Report For America corps member. 
 

Ways to Connect

Savannah Maher

 

Fremont County, which continues to lead the state in confirmed COVID-19 cases, will be without a public health officer until August. Dr. Brian Gee chose to step down from the job after his term ended on Tuesday.

According to County Commission Chairman Travis Becker, the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly turned the public health officer position from a relatively casual role to an 80-hour per week commitment.

An unofficial July Fourth parade organized by Lander residents will go forward with the city's blessing. In an email sent via a community listserv, Lander Senator Cale Case said he and city officials helped the organizers secure a WYDOT permit to shut down Main Street to avoid the "dangers and chaos" of an unsanctioned celebration.

Catherine Wheeler

Buffalo, Wyoming is a small Western town with fewer than 5,000 residents. The historic Occidental Hotel still stands on Main Street. Murals of horses paint the sides of old brick buildings. Buffalo's most widely attended event is a four-day long festival that celebrates a fictional sheriff in town based on Buffalo and Johnson County.

Tennessee Watson

Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, came as a relief to the more than 600 Wyomingites who have benefitted from the program since it was created in 2012. DACA protects some immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children, from deportation and allows them to obtain driver licenses and work legally.

Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher spoke with two Wyoming DACA recipients, Jose Rivas of Jackson and Ana Castro of Laramie, about how the program has impacted their lives and what today's ruling means for them.


Citizens of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe are eligible for direct COVID-19 relief funds from their tribal government. The money comes from the $10 million fund allocated to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe through the federal government's massive coronavirus stimulus bill known as the CARES Act.

Savannah Maher

It's been three weeks since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd's killing has sparked unrest across America, including in parts of Wyoming that aren't used to seeing protests. From Laramie and Casper to Gillette, Riverton, and even small towns like Dubois and Pinedale, people in our state are speaking out against racism and police violence against Black people. At many of these vigils, marches and demonstrations, Black Wyomingites are leading the way.

 

 

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has laid out its plans for spending $19 million in federal coronavirus relief aid that it received through the CARES Act. On behalf of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, Chairman Lee Spoonhunter said more than $5.2 million of the aid will be disbursed directly to tribal citizens who have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic.

Savannah Maher


More than 100 people gathered at Riverton City Park on Monday night to honor George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who died last week after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Demonstrators chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "Justice for Floyd" along Federal Boulevard before holding a candlelight vigil for Floyd. The event, which was organized by young people from the Wind River Reservation, remained peaceful.

Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher compiled this audio postcard from the vigil, featuring the voices of Black and Indigenous demonstrators.

Savannah Maher

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Business Councils have extended a strict stay-at-home order and nightly 9 p.m. curfew on the Wind River Reservation, measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. Tribal members will continue to face tribal court fines and potential jail time for violations at least through the month of June.

After months of refining their business plans, the Wind River Startup Challenge's five finalists pitched a panel of judges on Saturday. Each Native-owned businesses was awarded a portion of the challenge's $25,000 seed fund, but the big winners were a hair salon and a fencing company, which received $10,000 each in debt-free capital.

Some outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people will be permitted in Wyoming this summer. Gov. Mark Gordon announced the revision to a state public health order during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The extended Wheeler family of the Wind River Reservation has been hit hard by COVID-19. Several family members were infected in early March after visiting a relative at Lander's Showboat Retirement Center, where it was later announced there was an outbreak. Before long, 14 family members had tested positive for COVID-19, and five were hospitalized.

On April 20, the family lost three loved ones to the disease. Larry and Gloria Wheeler, who had been married more than 50 years, passed away hours before their 55-year-old daughter Dawn Wheeler. A dozen of their relatives shared memories of Larry, Gloria and Dawn in this audio remembrance.

 


Savannah Maher

 

Late Saturday night, the state Department of Health announced that a Fremont County woman was the eighth Wyoming resident to die after testing positive for COVID-19. The Northern Arapaho Business Council has confirmed that the woman was a tribal member.

Catherine Wheeler

Listen to the full show here.

Fewer Cars On The Road, Fewer Dollars For Highways: What COVID-19 Means For WYDOT

While many businesses are losing money in the state, so are some Wyoming agencies. One that's getting the hardest hit is the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler explains.

Fort Washakie School

Over the past two years, the Fort Washakie School has revived a tradition called the 5 Buffalo Days, a week-long celebration of the cultural and ecological significance of buffalo for Plains Native people. This year's celebration had to be moved online, but tribal educators say the lessons students learn during the 5 Buffalo Days are more important than ever. Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher spoke with one of those educators.

 


Downtown Laramie, Wyoming
Bob Beck

Listen to the full show here.

Local Government Fears Loss Of Tax Revenue

This is a tough financial time for a lot of Wyomingites. But impacts on the general public also impact funding for local governments, which directly impacts a wide variety of services from law enforcement to streets.

Courtesy of the Shoshone Rose Casino & Hotel


The largest employer in Fremont County isn't a school district or a hospital—it's the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Between the tribal government and its enterprises, they put more than 1,000 people to work.

Savannah Maher

For more than a month, there has been a strict stay-at-home order on the Wind River Reservation. Tribal members face court fines and potential jail time for violating it. Starting Friday, May 8, they will also be subject to a nightly 9 p.m. curfew.

"The Northern Arapaho Business Council and the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, as advised by authorized Medical Officers, specifically deem this order necessary to protect the public health," the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council wrote in a resolution signed on May 6.

Savannah Maher

This story is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

For the past 140 years, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have both called the Wind River Valley home.

They didn't choose to share this reservation - and it's no secret that the two tribal governments don't always agree. But since the start of the pandemic, they've been on the same page about one thing.

Listen to the full show here. 

Reported COVID-19 Numbers Are The Floor, Not The Ceiling

Wyoming is one of the states with the fewest number of COVID-19 lab confirmed cases. That's good news. But officials say the state still needs to be careful and not fall into a false sense of security that could cause a second wave and end up being disastrous to the health and economy of the state. Wyoming Public Radio's Kamila Kudelska reports.

Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

The $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package called the CARES Act sets aside $8 billion in a tribal stabilization fund. But with the April 26 disbursement deadline looming, tribal leaders fear that nearly half of that aid could be diverted away from tribal governments and toward Alaska Native Corporations.

 


Savannah Maher

 

The CARES Act, which sets aside nearly $150 billion for state and local governments, also includes $8 billion to keep tribes afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal governments could start to see that aid beginning this week.

Four members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who had tested positive for COVID-19 died from complications of the illness on Monday. Chairman Lee Spoonhunter of the Northern Arapaho Business Council shared the news with the tribal community during a live web address on Tuesday morning.

Wind River Family and Community Healthcare


While the state of Wyoming hasn't issued a stay-at-home order, tribal members on the Wind River Reservation face fines and even jail time for violating one there. The reservation is also one of the only places in the state where mass COVID-19 testing is being conducted. Wind River Family and Community Healthcare, which is operated by the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is offering testing to any tribal member who wants it and quarantine housing to those who test positive.

Dr. Paul Ebbert, Chief Medical Officer of Wind River Family and Community Healthcare, spoke with Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher about the clinic and the tribe's strategy for flattening the curve.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Former Vice President Joe Biden won Wyoming's Democratic Caucus, which party officials say drew a historic number of Democratic voters.

State of Wyoming

Listen to the full show here.

Governor Gordon Favors A Conservative Approach Towards Dealing With The Pandemic

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon says despite calls to reopen businesses he prefers to take a more conservative approach as Wyoming approaches the COVID-19 peak for the state.

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