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Northern Arapaho Tribe Set To Open Childcare Center In Riverton

Kyle Duba

Families on and near the Wind River Reservation will soon have a new option for around-the-clock childcare: the Northern Arapaho Tribe's Red Wolf Childcare Center in Riverton.

Construction on the 13,000-square-foot facility is nearly complete. At a dedication and cedar blessing ceremony this week, tribal leaders said it will eliminate one obstacle that prevents some tribal members from finding and keeping a steady job.

"The three biggest barriers to employment for our tribal people are always childcare, transportation and substance abuse. Today, we are hitting one of those barriers," said Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Lee Spoonhunter said.

Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal leaders estimate that the unemployment rate is more than 50 percent on the Wind River Reservation, compared to just 4 percent in greater Fremont County.

The new center will provide 24-hour care to children from infancy to age 10 and will offer a sliding-fee option for low income families. It's located within close walking distance of the Wind River Hotel and Casino, which employs more than 500 people.

"We're always taught by our elders that our children are sacred. At full capacity, this building here will be able to house 250 children," Spoonhunter said.

The center is named in honor of the late Norman Willow Sr., "Red Wolf," a former Business Council member and lifelong tribal leader who was dedicated to serving and uplifting Northern Arapaho youth. Willow's widow and children were honored at Thursday's ceremony.

The Tribe paid for the $4.5 million center through Indian Community Development Block Grant Program and with loans. Though an opening date hasn't yet been announced, tribal leaders say they hope to begin serving Native and non-Native families in early 2020.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at smaher4@uwyo.edu.

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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