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Wind River Tribes Resolve Misspending Of Federal Funds

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A failure in oversight by the Bureau of Indian Affairs permitted the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to misspend $6.2 million in federal funds between 2013 and 2015. 

That's according to a report released by the Department of the Interior last summer. This week, the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council announced it has reached an agreement with the federal government to resolve the issue.

The misspending was related to a contract with the tribes' joint transportation program, which builds and repairs roads and bridges on the Wind River Reservation.

"The tribes were not working together in a government to government relationship. And so, some of the oversight and accountability functions kind of trickled down from that disagreement." Eastern Shoshone Business Council Vice-Chairman Leslie Shakespeare said. "Really, it was a byproduct of the politics between the tribes."

Officials from both tribes say they have resolved all but one of the Department of the Interior's recommendations for resolving the misspending. Those include reimbursing the federal government $7,422 and establishing new practices for tracking tribal spending.

The last outstanding recommendation would require the tribes to set a fixed reimbursement rate for overhead costs related to federally funded projects. Shakespeare said he expects that rate to be negotiated and settled in the coming months.

"We have redesigned our finance department. We have redesigned our policy and procedures." Shakespeare said, "those communication lines were strengthened, so [the two tribes] are better partners."

For its failed oversight of the tribe's spending, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has trained officials at its office in Billings, Montana on auditing practices for federal grants.

Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.

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