Tribal News

The Wind River Indian Reservation is as beautiful as its melodic name. It's one of the largest Reservations in the United States, spanning over 2.2 million acres and contained within the boundaries of the state. Its scenery ranges from high grassland to some of the most majestic and least populated mountain ranges. The Wind River Range is a renowned destination for historians, climbers, hikers, and visitors who come to absorb the culture.

Wyoming Public Media serves the Greater Wind River Reservation, Ft. Washakie, Lander, Riverton, Shoshone, Dubois, and Thermopolis on 90.9, 90.5 and 91.3. Our reporters tell the stories of the Reservation, focusing on issues that affect the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes. We also take stories from our Mountain West Bureau reporters who tell the stories of Native Americans beyond our borders. They reflect the lives of people on the Reservation and beyond, their issues, history, hopes, and ambitions. 

Indian Lands in the United States
Credit Bureau of Indian Affairs

Kit Freedman is a graduate of University of Wyoming, who did his thesis research on the Wind River Indian Reservation. In this essay he reflects on his family’s multi-generational history in Lander.   

A new project on the Wind River Indian Reservation seeks to reduce diabetes rates by helping tribal families grow their own vegetables. More than 11% of the people on the reservation have diabetes.

The project is a collaboration between community health groups on the reservation, and the University of Wyoming.

Virginia Sutter with Blue Mountain Associates is one of the leaders of the project. She says diabetes rates are high because tribal members have very different diets than they have historically.

There are about $2.9 billion worth of sanitation development projects in tribal communities across the US, and Wyoming has 33 projects that add up to just under $16.5 million dollars, according to the US Indian Health Service.

   Ronald Ferguson directs the IHS Division of Sanitation Facilities. He says Wyoming is in a better position than some other areas.   

Tristan Ahtone

Native American tribes need to make sure they are protecting their natural resources. Eastern Shoshone Business Council member Wes Martel, from the Wind River Indian Reservation, spoke during a University of Wyoming American Indian Studies program this week. Martel said tribes need to be more careful about the kinds of contracts they enter into for energy development. He added that water is the new gold but very few tribes are taking real steps to secure this resource.  

Federal budget cuts are causing schools on the Wind River Indian Reservation to tighten their belts.

Wyoming provides funding to all public schools in the state, but 10 districts – including several on the reservation – also receive money from the federal Impact Aid program.  That supplements funding to school districts that include federal land that is not subject to property taxes.

The US Department of Energy has released data from sampling the agency did at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Site in August. The area, which is on the Wind River Indian Reservation, was contaminated with uranium and vanadium in the late 1950s  and early 1960s, when a uranium mill processed ore there. In the ‘90s the DOE recommended waiting for natural dissolution to clean the site, and levels of contamination seemed to be diminishing predictably until a big flood in 2010.

The State Senate gave second approval to a bill that would allow the Northern Arapaho Tribe to kill golden eagles for tribal ceremonies as long as it is done in compliance with federal law.  

Child Advocacy Center opens on Wind River Reservation

Jan 24, 2013

Yesterday, the Eastern Shoshone tribe opened a Child Advocacy Center on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The center will offer emergency assistance to children and families who have been victimized by physical and sexual abuse.

The Arapahoe School is seeing continued improvements

Dec 19, 2012

Credit Alan Rogers / Casper Star-TribuneFourth-grader Alex Behan, right, raises his hand to answer a question during a reading exercise Thursday in Connie Vincent's class at Arapahoe School.Edit | Remove

After the Arapahoe School on the Wind River Reservation saw an uptick in math and reading scores in the state PAWS results this summer, the school has continued to see improvements.

Rebecca Martinez

HOST: The number of Northern Arapaho tribe members who speak their native language is dwindling. Tribal entities have been working for decades trying to preserve the language. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez reports that they’ve been having mixed success.

(Sound: kids speaking Arapaho)

REBECCA MARTINEZ: Tribal elder Alvena Oldman is the director of an Arapaho language immersion preschool in Ethete.

OLDMAN: Hinono’ Eitiino’ Oowu’. Arapaho Language Lodge.

Tribal Energy Development Act Goes to Senate

Sep 21, 2012

The Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2012 have passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The Act aims to simplify and expedite the process of leasing for energy development on tribal land. U.S. Senator John Barrasso introduced it last October.  

Jim Schulz, AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society / Associated Press

The Wind River Reservation is actively trying to acquire some 160 bison that will be moved from one of Ted Turner’s ranches.  Federal agencies are helping ranch managers determine where they should go. 

Eastern Shoshone tribal member and wildlife scientist Jason Baldes says both the Northern Arapaho and Shoshone would like to acquire at least some of the Bison.  Federal lands and refuges are being considered as other possible locations. 

Garrit Voggesser of the National Wildlife Federation likes the idea of putting the animals on the Wind River Reservation.

US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy is gearing up for new, one-time testing at the contaminated Uranium Mill Tailings site in Riverton.

A uranium mill in the 1960s left the groundwater there with high levels of uranium, and the DOE is still monitoring it. Additional testing is supposed to help the agency update their computer model, which predicts progress of clean-up at the site.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has set up a sex offender registration office on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes recently agreed to share the registry. The first offender was registered Friday.

The office was established under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act – or SORNA – to close reporting gaps among states, territories and Indian Country.

The U.S. Department of Energy will run additional groundwater tests at a Riverton site contaminated with uranium. The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site was contaminated after hosting a uranium mill there in the 1960’s.  

Wyoming's Newlin just misses Olympic medal

Aug 1, 2012

Wyoming’s Athletes will leave the London Olympics without medals.  Riverton’s Brett Newlin just missed earning a medal when the U-S eight man rowing team he was a part of placed fourth, just behind Great Britain. 

Meanwhile, Cheyenne's Jennifer Nichols was eliminated Tuesday in the archery competition. 

Nichols was competing in her third Olympic games.

Wind River Reservation

After the US Senate unanimously passed the HEARTH ACT – giving tribes more control over leasing Indian land – President Obama has signed it into law.

The legislation will allow tribal governments to approve surface leases on Indian land directly, instead of waiting for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve them. Eastern Shoshone Business Council co-chairman Wes Martel says going through the B-I-A could take years.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Central Wyoming College Prepared to Weather 8% Budget Cuts

Jun 12, 2012

By Madison Williams

Some of Wyoming’s community colleges are concerned about potential eight percent budget cuts-- but Central Wyoming College isn’t that worried. And in fact, they’re planning to trim their budget even more than would be required under Gov. Matt Mead’s plan.

Central Wyoming College in Riverton will be eliminating six positions. But college President Jo Ann McFarland says they won’t cut programs or decrease financial aid. And she says the staff cuts shouldn’t be too painful, because most of the positions are already vacant.

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.

Wyoming plans to install water cisterns at the homes of residents in the Pavillion area’s natural gas field. An EPA draft report suggests contaminants in area wells are connected to hydraulic fracturing, but state officials say the cause of the contamination is unknown.

As testing continues on whether fracking contaminated groundwater in the Pavillion area, Governor Matt Mead and state officials will host a meeting next week on a new way to get fresh water to citizens. 

Mead says they are considering a cistern system where each resident would have a water tank to hold their water supply.  Water for the tanks would be trucked from Riverton or Lander.  One issue is how to pay for it.  Governor Mead says the Environmental Protection Agency is not set up to help pay for such a project and getting the gas company Encana to pay is a bit tricky.

A federal judge will allow Eastern Shoshone Tribe to challenge the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s plan to sue for the right to kill bald eagles on the reservation they share.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit to the Northern Arapaho Tribe allowing them to kill two bald eagles annually for religious purposes, as long as they do so outside the reservation they share with the Shoshone. Because Wyoming state law prohibits the killing of eagles on state land, the Northern Arapaho are suing Fish and Wildlife for the right to kill the eagles on the reservation.