Tristan Ahtone


Phone: 307-766-5064

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. He’s also German and English and a few other dashes of Euro-mix (just to make things more interesting). Before becoming a reporter, Tristan held a number of exciting jobs, such as door-to-door salesman, delivery driver, telemarketer, air-conditioning repairman, secretary, janitor, busboy, and office clerk to name a few.

In 2006, Tristan graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. In 2008, he received a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism. After graduating with a masters in journalism Tristan worked with The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, National Native News, Frontline and NPR. Then the recession came and he moved to Hong Kong to teach English for a year, returned to New Mexico to teach a journalism course, and finally arrived at Wyoming Public Radio in August of 2010.

In his spare time, Tristan enjoys watching films, exotic travel, good food and strong drink - but dislikes going to bed, getting up, or being left alone, as he tends to get in trouble.

Irina Zhorov

BAER Teams Check Extent of Damage After Wild-land Fires

The fire season came early to Wyoming this year. Usually, Wyoming doesn’t see its biggest fires until late July but already there have been 10 fires that have burned over 265-thousand acres of land. Wet weather and the efforts of thousands of firefighters have contained the larger blazes …So what happens after a fire? Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

HOST: In December, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report tentatively linking water contamination in the town of Pavillion to hydraulic fracturing activities in the area. The release of the draft report caused a spectacle, and state, federal and tribal agencies have now caught in a bureaucratic holding pattern, while residents affected by contaminated water wait in a form of investigative limbo. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone attended a recent Pavillion Work Group meeting to get updates on the investigation.

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.

Wyoming spends more money on students than nearly any other state in the U.S.,but that influx of cash has failed to translate to higher performing students. That’s according to a new report from Harvard University.

Co-author Paul Peterson says the study examined improvements from 1992 to 2011. Most states have closed the gap in that time period, but not the Cowboy State.

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.

Sports and horse race wagering in Wyoming dropped by more than 14% from 2009 to 2010, according to a new report. However, Casino City’s North American Gaming Almanac also showed a growth in those wagers of nearly 40-percent between in the previous two years.

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor for the report. He the 14% drop Wyoming saw in 2010 tracks closely with the national trend.

New numbers from the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division show the state’s general fund standing at about $920-million after an additional $73-million came in during May.

Investment income led the way, contributing 14% more than expected.

Bill Mai is with the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division.

Just under 300 firefighters are now battling the Squirrel Creek fire, and officials say up to a thousand more could arrive. The wildfire, just 30 miles south-west of Laramie, has burned just under 7,000 acres and has been ranked the number three priority fire in the country.

Rocky Opliger is incident commander for the fire. He says that prioritization allows firefighters to compete nationally for much needed resources.

Peabody Energy has been awarded a coal lease sale by the Bureau of Land Management for roughly $793-million. The tract is located in the Powder River Basin, and Peabody paid about a $1.10 per ton of coal, of which 721 million tons are estimated to be mineable.

Governor Matt Mead says the sale will be good for the state.

“It’s just short of 800 million dollars, which means over a course of about five years, Wyoming will get a little less than 400 million dollars from that sale,” says Mead.

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.

Analysts predict that the Supreme Court’s decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act will strengthen President Barack Obama’s position for reelection this November. Obama’s critics had charged that the healthcare law was unconstitutional, but, the court’s ruling now effectively removes that line of argument.

Jim King is a professor of political science at the University of Wyoming. He says Republicans will continue criticizing the content of the law, but will most likely use the healthcare act as a means of energizing voters.

Wyoming's Congressional leaders are voicing their disdain for the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act.

Senator John Barrasso says despite the court’s ruling, the law is unworkable, unpopular, and bad for patients, providers and taxpayers. And he urged voters to remove elected officials in order to repeal the law.

Officials from the University of Wyoming dispute a recent report from the Institute For Competitive Workforce that pans college education in the state. The ICW is the nonprofit affiliation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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 Wyoming Miners Hospital Board is looking to make changes in its programs, as the result of 8-percent budget cuts Governor Matt Mead has asked all state agencies to prepare for.

The Hospital Board assists miners in the state with medical costs related to hearing, respiratory, cardiac and muscle skeletal issues all of which are problem areas for miners.

Mary Ellen Young is a retired coal miner and executive director of the Wyoming Miners Hospital Board. She says the cuts will affect the Board’s services in two places.

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.

With uranium mining making a comeback across the country and especially Wyoming, a recent government report recommends that better coordination between federal agencies is needed for financial assurances  and that agencies need to update databases to find out how many abandoned mines actually exist in the U.S.

Government Accountability Office and environmental director, Anu Mittal  says in situ mining - a process where operators inject chemicals and water underground to pump uranium back to the surface for processing, may also pose future problems.

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.

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.

Election year politics are derailing efforts to improve Wyoming’s economy.
President Obama is chiding Congress for not acting on his slimmed down plan to spur economic growth in Wyoming and elsewhere. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that election year politicking is expected to derail this latest effort to get the economy moving.