An Arapaho tribal official last week endorsed Rep. Liz Cheney for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House Seat, passing over his fellow tribal member who is also vying for the position.
“I am proud to endorse Liz Cheney for Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Lee Spoonhunter, Northern Arapaho Business Council member, in a June 1 Facebook post. “I have firsthand knowledge of Liz’s commitment and actions to our Northern Arapaho people.”
A Republican incumbent, Cheney faces a crowded pool in her party’s race in the Aug. 16 primary election. The Republican field includes Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman, Sheridan businesswoman Robyn Belinskey, retired Army Colonel Denton Knapp, and State Sen. Anthony Bouchard.
Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull, an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is also running for the U.S. House. She faces Meghan Jensen of Rock Springs and Steve Helling, an attorney, in the primary.
‘Tribe Has Called Upon Her’
Spoonhunter, who formerly held positions of tribal chairman and co-chairman, said Cheney has “embodied” the qualities of selflessness and cooperation, “which are valued by our people.”
“Every time the Northern Arapaho Tribe has called upon her, she has delivered on our requests, which strengthen(s) my trust in her,” said Spoonhunter, adding that indigenous people have been let down by the government “too many times” in the past.
“Her strong commitment to the needs of our tribe as well as the people of Wyoming is unmatched,” Spoonhunter said, adding “Natives ride for the brand!”
Cheney responded in kind.
“Deeply honored and moved by Chairman Spoonhunter’s comments,” Cheney shared on her campaign Facebook page, with a link to the council member’s announcement.
“It’s been a privilege to work with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes, and I’m absolutely committed to ensuring they have a seat at the table and their voice is heard in Congress. I appreciate his support and want to thank him for all the work that he does,” she said.
Cheney’s office by Monday morning did not respond to a request for additional comment. Spoonhunter, likewise, declined to comment beyond his Facebook post.
Spoonhunter is not registered to vote and also did not register in 2018 or 2020, according to the Fremont County Clerk’s office.
There were more than 500 responses to the post via the Cheney campaign’s Facebook page on Monday. Many of the comments debated Cheney’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
‘People of Wind River’
Addressing the endorsement, Grey Bull told Cowboy State Daily in an email that indigenous people as a whole and members of the same tribe can’t be expected to be “homogenous” on politics or anything else.
“We have our different priorities, personalities, opinions and politics,” she said. “Those differences are essential and beautiful.”
Despite Spoonhunter’s announcement, Grey Bull said she has “huge love and respect for councilman Lee Spoonhunter and his family” and cares for them “deeply.”
“I admire the work Lee has done for our community, including his work with Representative Cheney,” she said.
She emphasized that whatever the outcome of the race, officials and tribal members should “work together, including across our political disagreements” to develop programs on the reservation such as crisis shelters and veterans’ support.
Grey Bull’s campaign team believes it would be a “costly mistake to not run a candidate in this election,” she said. “It would hurt Indigenous people of Wind River, it would weaken the Wyoming Democratic Party, and it would cede power to a party that has failed to take care of ordinary working families in Wyoming.
“So we’re pushing ahead with this campaign and we invite like-minded folks to join us.”
Grey Bull said some priorities of her campaign include Wyoming’s energy and environment, providing health insurance to all state residents, expanding programs for missing and murdered indigenous women and children and veterans’ care.