An effort to negotiate off-reservation tribal hunting rights dies
The Wyoming Senate killed a bill that would give the governor the right to strike an agreement with tribes on treaty-based hunting, fishing and gathering rights.
The bill was first presented with support from the Eastern Shoshone Business Council but after it was introduced, tribal members came out against it saying they didn’t know about this negotiation and weren’t in support.
House Bill 83 was based on the 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision which said a Crow tribal member had the right to hunt elk outside of Wyoming’s hunting season in the Bighorn National Forest. This was based on a more than 150-year-old treaty that gives some tribal members the right to hunt on land outside of the reservation year-round. Most tribes have similar treaties.
This bill was supposed to create an agreement about which hunting is allowed and when and where it was allowed before it became an issue again, rather than potentially dealing with litigation in the future. But during the third reading, after the protests from tribal members, two senators pulled their sponsorship.
One of those was Sen. Affie Ellis (R-Cheyenne). This is a pretty rare move and Ellis said herself she had never done this before.
“There is no longer an agreement. Our tribes and tribal members have reached out to their councils asking them to put the brakes on it,” Ellis said.
Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) also pulled his sponsorship. He said he had high hopes for the bill at first but now understands why tribal members would not agree with the language of the bill.
“You read this language as a member of a sovereign tribe that predates the state of Wyoming, and you read this prescriptive language, you can see why they are upset,” said Case.
Ultimately, tribal members said negotiating rights with the state of Wyoming would conflict with tribal sovereignty.