By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
A “quarantine camp” designed to house transient members of the Northern Arapaho Indian Tribe who test positive for COVID is back in operation.
After a brief shutdown, the camp established on the Wind River Indian Reservation reopened about three weeks ago, albeit without the presence of federal police who guarded it when it was first opened.
In May 2020, the tribe established a quarantine camp on the Wind River Indian Reservation to house transient tribal members testing positive for COVID-19.
At that time, tribal authorities partnered with the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and Riverton Police Department to test the wanderers — who were located in Riverton — for COVID and then transport them to the camp for two-week quarantines if necessary.
U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs officers guarded the COVID camp when it was first established to enforce the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s quarantine order, violation of which could result in a jail sentence of up to 30 days.
No Police Presence
There was no police presence at the camp Thursday morning when Cowboy State Daily surveyed the premises.
“No, there’s nothing like that anymore,” said Northern Arapaho Tribal health officer Dr. Paul Ebbert.
A half-dozen trailers sat parallel to each other about one-half mile east of the Great Plains Hall in Arapahoe, surrounded by barbed-wire-topped fences – but the main gate was open.
Quarantine times have dropped to about five days, matching up with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The camp has also been opened to more people, Ebbert said.
“It’s not just for transient individuals anymore, and it hasn’t been for quite a while,” he said. “But we’re still using it.”
Ebbert said the camp now is for any COVID-positive individual in need of isolation, a concern because multi-generational homes are prevalent on the reservation.
“It’s to take you out of a home where someone else is high-risk,” he said.
Ebbert did not know the exact number of camp residents currently, but thought it was “pretty low,” offering a rough estimate of four people.
In a separate interview with Cowboy State Daily, Jordan Dresser, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, said that tribal medical staff still are monitoring transient tribal members’ health “quite a bit.”
According to a Jan. 13 post to its official Facebook page, the NABC voted unanimously to stop sponsoring hotel quarantines for COVID-positive tribal members.
“Open the COVID camp. Atleast (sic),” wrote post commenter Mary Warren Killsontop soon after the statement was published.
Killsontop did not respond to a message requesting further comment.
The COVID camp closed about five months ago and was reopened about three weeks ago, according to tribal authorities. Ebbert said the camp was closed to accommodate its change of location from the Arapahoe powwow grounds to a site near Wind River Family and Community Healthcare in Arapahoe.
Clinic staff oversee the camp and its residents, Ebbert said.
Dresser said hotel quarantine funding was cut for multiple reasons, including the tribe’s high vaccination rate, its dwindling access to COVID funds, the reopening of the COVID camp and the faster and less detectable spread of the Omicron variant.
Tribal spending is not tracked publicly as Wyoming state expenditures are on Wyopen.gov.
As of October 2021, the NAT had received $67.58 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding.