Showing Up To Federal Court Can Be A Hardship For Wind River Residents

Feb 3, 2014

Accessing federal courts for Native Americans living on Wind River Reservation can be a hardship for those forced to use federal judicial services.

Native American offenders and victims of major crimes that occur in Indian Country go through the federal court system, yet for Wind River residents showing up to court can mean a 600-mile roundtrip. That’s because trials are held primarily at the federal court houses in Casper and Cheyenne.

Poverty rates on Wind River are high and assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry Jacobson says there’s a lack of public transportation and many people do not have a reliable car to make such a trip.  She says the expense for the trip can be prohibitive, even when some costs are reimbursed, and, in Wyoming, the weather can be a logistical problem. 

Deputy tribal prosecutor for the Tribes, Deanne Large, says the distance can also be alienating.

“I think if they did offer the judicial services closer more people would benefit from that, because their support systems would be there,” says Large.   

A recent report about public safety in Indian Country noted that access to courts was a problem for some reservations around the nation. The report recommended the federal government “provide more judicial services in and near Indian country.”