Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone youth will soon have access to more parks and playgrounds, outdoor trips, and recreational facilities on the Wind River Reservation.
That's thanks to an anonymous donation of $4.75 million to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, earmarked for improved recreational and outdoor opportunities.
The money has been placed in an endowment fund to be managed by the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole. Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Lee Spoonhunter said that arrangement will maximize the donation's impact.
"We want to always keep this money for the children, we want it to grow," Spoonhunter said. "We're going to work with [the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole] so that the money that comes back to the tribe is the interest off of the investment of that $4.75 million."
Plans for how the money will be spent are still in the works, but Spoonhunter said that children on the reservation can expect more opportunities to explore the Wind River and Owl Creek mountains with hiking, camping, and other outdoor excursions. In the long run, he added that the funds might go towards the construction of a new community recreation center.
"We're looking big. We would like something with three basketball courts, a pool with slides, a workout room with weights, classes for yoga, pilates, different things like that," Spoonhunter said.
Currently, Spoonhunter said access to those sorts of activities is limited and not evenly-distributed amongst the Wind River Reservation's children and young people.
Shelby Read, a program and outreach officer with the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, said that the endowment will create a more even playing field when it comes to after-school and weekend options for Fremont County's youth.
"Getting students opportunity for engagement outside of school hours is a great starting place," Read said. "There might be opportunities for summer camps, music lessons, art lessons - things that kids in Lander or Riverton are more likely to have."
The Community Foundation will work alongside a three-member advisory board, made up of representatives with ties to Wind River, as it manages the endowment. That board will consist of two representatives chosen by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Business Councils, respectively, and a third member who will represent the interest of all Wind River youth.
"We really want the funds to be used in a way that is for the folks on the reservation, and we want the decisions to be made by folks on the reservation," Read said. "This is a work in progress, and I think is going to be a really wonderful and collaborative program."
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