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Wind River Indian Reservation

Supreme Court Ruling Expands Ability To Prosecute Non-Natives For Reservation Crimes

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming prosecutors can now charge people who are not American Indians for crimes they commit on a reservation against American Indian victims, according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday.

When a tribal reservation such as Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation falls within state borders, crimes committed by Indians generally may only be prosecuted by tribal or federal authorities. 

Crimes by non-native people against other non-native victims, meanwhile, can be prosecuted by the state.  

But in the case of crimes by non-native people against Native Americans, the law has not been entirely clear on how to proceed.   

Until now.  

“(The ruling) allows me to prosecute a non-native, who commits a crime against a native person on the reservation,” said Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun. 

LeBrun said he also believes that because the Supreme Court opinion is merely clarifying a longstanding ambiguity in Indian law, it also may apply retroactively to previous cases where no charges were filed because of uncertainty.  

But LeBrun, who for more than seven years has had the tricky job of prosecuting crimes in a county containing an Indian reservation, said no uncharged cases come to mind.  

Abortion Jurisdiction 

Reflecting on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, LeBrun on Wednesday told Cowboy State Daily that he has a clear-cut ability to prosecute non-natives for performing abortions on the reservation if the person receiving the abortion is also non-native.  

Wyoming is slated to outlaw nearly all abortions in less than a month, but the Wind River Indian Reservation has no tribal or federal law against abortion for American Indians.  

“If I have jurisdiction, I’ll prosecute,” LeBrun said Wednesday.   

But LeBrun said Wednesday’s ruling could also mean his jurisdiction would expand to abortionists performing the operation on American Indians.  

In the case of a white doctor aborting a native baby carried by a white mother, LeBrun said he’d look at each case as it comes, considering all facts and details on an individual basis.  

“(The ruling) does open up that option… but I never comment on specific cases,” he said.  

Even given federal jurisdiction over natives, an abortionist hoping to operate on the reservation still faces a series of hurdles,  such as obtaining and keeping a state medical license, as Wyoming lawmakers look to tighten those criteria following the new abortion ban. 

AOC’s Plan To Put Abortion Clinics On Fed Land In Wyoming Not Very Feasible | Cowboy State Daily

Riverton Still Not Tribal Land 

The Supreme Court’s new ruling was given in response to Oklahoma vs. Castro-Huerta, in which a non-native man had argued unsuccessfully that the state could not convict him for severely neglecting his American Indian stepdaughter on the reservation.  

Blind and suffering from cerebral palsy, the 5-year-old girl in 2015 was found dehydrated, weighing just 19 pounds, and covered in lice and excrement. 

But the Castro-Huerta decision also narrows the 2020 court precedent in McGirt vs. Oklahoma.  

In McGirt, the high court gave huge portions of Oklahoma back to the Creek Nation, saying the tribe’s reservation was wrongly diminished by the state.   

Although the federal government in recent years argued that the Wind River Indian Reservation was wrongly diminished in 1905 and the town of Riverton, therefore, should be under tribal and federal control, the Supreme Court in 2018 rejected that argument, saying Congress was clear in its intent to diminish the reservation more than a century ago.  

McGirt didn’t change that, said LeBrun.  

“In McGirt, tribal members were allowed to sell their land to non-natives,” he said. Once non-natives had acquired a significant portion of land formerly owned by tribal members, “frankly, Oklahoma just took jurisdiction.”  

But in Wyoming vs. EPA, the decade-long case affirming Riverton as a town under state jurisdiction, the court upheld the 1905 Act, a specific Congressional statement that diminished the Wind River Indian Reservation.  

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Former Wind River Indian Reservation Police Officer Killed In Gunfight

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A former Wind River Indian Reservation police officer was shot and killed Thursday in Arizona when a traffic stop became a gunfight, authorities say.   

Officer Adrian Lopez Sr., 35, died Thursday while on duty, the Navajo County, Arizona Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday to Cowboy State Daily.   

Lopez served on the Wind River Indian Reservation as a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer in 2021. 

“We offer our condolences to the family of officer Lopez, who not too long ago was serving the Wind River Indian Reservation,” the Eastern Shoshone Tribe announced Saturday on its social media page.   

Lopez, a White Mountain Police officer serving on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, had stopped a car driven by Kevin Dwight Nashio, 25, of Whiteriver, according to police authorities speaking at a televised press conference.   

Nashio reportedly shot and killed Lopez, stole his police vehicle, and led other officers on a 40-mile car chase.   

“During that vehicle pursuit in a very primitive, rugged area, a rolling gun battle took place between the officers and the suspect as he was fleeing,” said Brian Swanty, Navajo County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy at the press conference.   

Nashio crashed the vehicle into a tree, then engaged in a gun battle with Sgt. Lonnie Thompson, 29. Nashio was killed and Thompson sustained non-life-threatening injuries, ABC News reported. 

“Last night a wife lost her husband,” said Kacey Velasquez, chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe during the press conference. “Children lost their father. Our tribe has lost a beacon of light.”    

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken over the investigation, but did not respond Monday morning to a voicemail requesting comment.   

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St. Stephen’s Principal, Administrator Not At Lewd Party & Should Not Have Been Canned, Individuals Say

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

In the federal report alleging sexual misconduct and other wrongful behavior at St. Stephen’s Indian School, two staff members were incorrectly implicated, according to participants at a press conference and one former school board member.  

Following a Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) report completed in April, the Intertribal Business Council, which is the joint governing body of the Wind River Indian Reservation, voted to fire the entire St. Stephen’s Indian School Board. It also voted to fire elementary school principal Greg Juneau, superintendent Frank No Runner, meals supervisor Pattee Bement, and high school principal Matt Mortimore.  

Whether the tribal government had the authority to fire staffers at St. Stephen’s is not certain. The school is a private 501c3 corporation on private land within reservation boundaries.

Individuals have since approached Cowboy State Daily and other media outlets to say they believe Mortimore and his wife Macey Mortimore, an administrator at the school, were not guilty of the accusations leveled against them by the Bureau of Indian Education and dispatched to the press May 9 by the council.  

The Mortimores were alleged to have attended a party in 2017 at which a teenage girl danced topless on a table, according to a written statement by a BIE witness who refused to testify verbally.  

Juneau and No Runner also were named in connection with the party, which was reportedly at No Runner’s home. The two were linked to additional claims of sexual harassment, drug use on and off campus, and misspending of school funds. No Runner was accused of nepotism.  

Neither No Runner nor Juneau responded immediately to voicemails requesting comment.   

Six people involved with the school, including five staff members, held a press conference Wednesday evening by virtual link. The individuals expressed frustration with what they called inaccuracies in the BIE report. 

‘They Were That School’ 

“I’m not sure the entirety of that report was accurate,” said a participant at the press conference who said they preferred to remain anonymous out of a fear of being “targeted” by people in power or other community members.  

“We, I know, 100 percent, do not believe the things that were written about Matt and Macey; we felt confident in their leadership,” the participant continued. “They ran that school. They were that school. Macey, to the last minute, was in there making sure kids got graduated.”  

The same source said the BIE investigation did not follow up with the Mortimores sufficiently and took witness testimony against them at face value with little additional research. 

Neither the BIE nor the council responded by Thursday morning to emails requesting comment.  

Staff Member Of The Year  

Matt Mortimore was notified of his termination in May via news release, along with other staffers who were fired.  

Macey Mortimore was able to continue working at the school, even winning the “staff member of the year” award in mid-May. But on Friday she was informed she’d been placed on unpaid suspension by an education panel of tribal officials who are overseeing the school in the absence of its elected board.  

The stepparent of a St. Stephen’s student said at the press conference they did not believe the Mortimores committed the alleged misdeeds, adding that the students and school relied on the pair heavily.  

“Just seeing Matt and Macey’s name(s) and knowing that it’s not true, it’s just not fair to everybody that’s involved,” said the source.  

“Losing Matt and Macey (at the school) felt like a death,” said a third participant at the press conference. However, the speakers emphasized that they did not intend to defend No Runner or Juneau. 

Treatment 

An individual at the press conference noted that Matt Mortimore had been on leave prior to the report’s completion.

Three additional individuals who did not attend the press conference, two of whom were independent of one another, confirmed that Mortimore had been placed on administrative leave in March to seek alcohol treatment voluntarily.   

Board Member Recollection 

Dominic Littleshield, a former school board member who served during the events alleged, also doubted the Mortimores’ involvement in the sexual misconduct alleged in the report. 

“I don’t know why Matt Mortimore is in (the report),” Littleshield said in a phone interview with Cowboy State Daily the week the report was released. 

He said Mortimore didn’t fit the behavior description.  

“They’ve never gone to the parties” featuring lewd activity, Littleshield continued. “Him and his wife too, Macey… I don’t think those two were even there.”  

BIE Takeover 

The BIE is slated to take over the school in the coming days, as part of a federal “retrocession” process by which tribal governments can request federal takeover of other organizations serving tribal members. 

All staff members were told last week by BIE officials that they will have to reapply for their own jobs, in a pool open to competitors nationwide, press conference sources stated.   

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Documents Indicate Tribes Have No Firing Power Over St. Stephen’s Staff, Board

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

The tribal governments of the Wind River Indian Reservation lacked the authority to oust the school board of St. Stephen’s Indian School last week, publicly available documents suggest.

While the Intertribal Business Council can ask federal agencies to take over other tribal organizations, there seems to be no language allowing it to fire the private school’s top officials as it did last week, according to public documents.  

After an independent U.S. Bureau of Indian Education report alleged sexual misconduct, drug use, fraudulent and improper behavior by top school officials, the Intertribal Business Council on May 9 announced its vote to fire the school’s board, superintendent, two principals and a meals supervisor.  

The council, which is comprised of the executive boards of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, also announced that it would be turning the school over to the control of the federal BIE. 

But public documents indicate that the tribal governments don’t own or control the school – and therefore aren’t capable of firing its elected board or employees.    

St. Stephen’s Indian School belongs to a private 501c3 nonprofit organization, the St. Stephen’s Indian School Educational Association.  

Registered in the state of Wyoming, the nonprofit group’s founding documents placed an elected school board in charge of the school’s operations.  

The board members are elected by members of the school district, that is: any parent of a student or resident of the Wind River Indian Reservation who attends at least one school board meeting a year or who expresses a wish in writing to become a member of the district.  

The most recent election was held in March.  

From Church To School 

St. Stephen’s Mission, a church, transferred the school in 1975 into the control of the nonprofit group, which a 2016 school financial report deemed a “local community group.”  

The association remains active today, according to documents filed with the secretary of state’s office.  

A law known as the “Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act,” which passed in 1975, the same year the St. Stephen’s nonprofit organization was incorporated, gives the federal government the right and in some instances the obligation to fund organizations controlled by “Indians.”  

That law also states that those in control of the organizations, such as school boards, will determine their policies and direction.   

“Parental and community control of the educational process is of crucial importance to the Indian people,” reads the act.  

Although the act specified a possible $10,000 fine and two-year prison term for embezzlers of federal funds to American Indian organizations, it does not appear to authorize tribal governments to fire leaders of a private organization.   

Federal law does allow for a process called “retrocession,” in which a tribal government may ask the federal government to take over another tribal organization. In that event, the federal government may take over operations within 120 days.  

However, the statute does not specify that tribal councils themselves can fire elected school board members in a private organization.  

Private Lands 

The St. Stephen’s Indian School site is also private, according to Fremont County land records  

Fremont County’s map system shows that 37.83 acres, which contain an elementary school, high school, a classroom building and outbuildings are owned by the nonprofit organization.   

This land was turned over to the St. Stephen’s Indian School Educational Association in 1999 by the St. Stephen’s Indian Mission, which still owns 287 acres of land next door.  

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has constructed buildings on the school’s plot with its own funds, even placing a plaque on the high school building that reads: “Owner: Bureau of Indian Affairs.”  

The BIA public affairs office did not return a voicemail requesting clarification.   

The BIE, likewise, did not return an email requesting more information.  

Policies 

Some portions of St. Stephen’s Indian School’s policies are missing from the school’s website, but the majority are still are available.   

“The board has those powers which are expressly granted to it by the (nonprofit) association,” reads the policy, “and also those powers which may be reasonably implied.”  

A later section of the policy that defines the board’s relationship with the tribes states that the school board “desires to maintain the best possible working relationship” with both tribal councils – Arapaho and Shoshone – and that it should communicate with the tribal leaders.   

There may be more governing information within the school’s bylaws. However, neither the school, the Northern Arapaho Tribe, nor the school’s attorney, Mark White of Riverton, had agreed by 4 p.m. Tuesday to allow a Cowboy State Daily reporter to view the bylaws.   

The Eastern Shoshone Business Council spokeswoman told Cowboy State Daily in an email that she did not have the organization’s bylaws.

The spokeswoman also said the Eastern Shoshone Business Council’s chairman, John St. Clair, would not be available for comment until Wednesday.

The chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council did not respond to questions posed to his spokesman by Tuesday afternoon.  

Numerous school board members and school personnel declined to comment.   

Blakke Bertram, acting superintendent for the school, dispatched a Monday press release stating that the school, BIE, and intertribal council are “working hard” to address all policies to prevent the alleged misdeeds from “happening again.”  

“We ensure to our community that our staff will conduct themselves with professionalism and in best practices in helping our students” learn safely for the nine days remaining in the school year.

Staff Removed

The BIE’s report alleged drug use and sexual misconduct on the part of former Superintendent Frank No Runner and elementary school Principal Greg Juneau.

The Intertribal Business Council announced May 9 it had fired

No Runner, Juneau, high school Principal Matt Mortimore and meals supervisor Pattee Bement, along with the school board, in the wake of the report’s release.

The FBI is looking into the allegations, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Cheyenne. 

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Reservation School Meltdown: Mass Firings After Allegations of Drugs, Corruption, Sexual Misconduct

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

After a federal investigation alleged sexual misconduct, drug use, misspending, nepotism, intimidation and corruption among St. Stephen’s Indian School leaders, the school’s superintendent, two principals and other officials have been fired.

The school’s entire school board has also been fired by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, the two announced in a statement, and the school is being temporarily run by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education.

The firings followed an investigation by the BIE that was completed in April at the request of the tribes.

Topless Dancing 

The report included allegations of many misdeeds by Superintendent Frank No Runner, including sexual misconduct involving students.  

Witnesses interviewed by the BIE testified that No Runner asked a female teenage student who babysat his children if she would have sex with him for money. The babysitter is reported to have grabbed her things and left No Runner’s house after his advance.   

Another girl was spotted dancing topless at an alcohol-fueled party at No Runner’s house while she was 17 and still a student at the school.  

When two of the girl’s friends went to No Runner’s house to pick up the girl, who is identified in the report as “Witness 5,” they saw her on the coffee table “dancing topless and being encouraged by the adults in the room.”  

The report identified some of the adults as No Runner, St. Stephen’s Elementary School Principal Greg Juneau; St. Stephen’s Food Supervisor Pattee Bement — later No Runner’s wife — and St. Stephen’s High School Principal Matthew Mortimore.

Multiple witnesses also testified that No Runner asked students and former students for nude photos and sex or to attend parties at his house. 

No Runner himself testified that he’d sent $100 to “Witness 5” during a regional basketball tournament in the same year, although he also testified the money “was not for (nude) pictures.”  

On one occasion, the report said, No Runner offered a girl $400 to come to his house party with her friends.  

“(The girl) really needed the money,” testified one source in the report. “And she would go to his house for the money and stay for a bit and leave.”  

No Runner had bragged to a friend roughly three years after the topless-dancing incident that “Witness 5,” when she was 20, slept with him on his 40th birthday, the report said.  

Another female known as “Witness 6” said she left her job at the school because No Runner and Juneau kept trying to show her and her boyfriend, who also worked at the school, nude pictures of girls. 

“Witness 6” also claimed the two men directed sexual comments at her and asked her at inappropriate times of the night to come to their homes.  

The school declined to provide contact information for Frank No Runner, instead relaying a Cowboy State Daily reporter to the acting superintendent’s voicemail.  

No one from the school returned the voicemail requesting comment on Tuesday morning.  

Bement and Mortimore did not respond Tuesday morning to social media messages requesting comment.  

‘Takes Two To Tango’ 

No Runner told investigators that he’d also had an affair with “Witness 4.”  

“Witness 4” did not corroborate this claim, according to the BIE report.  

“She was of age and a willing participant,” said No Runner’s testimony.  

In other exhibits, Bement, who was then No Runner’s girlfriend, began messaging “Witness 4” woman on Facebook, asking if “Witness 4” wanted to meet No Runner at the Holiday Inn, “because he’s game.”  

When “Witness 4” didn’t respond, Bement wrote “It takes two to tango right,” followed by “Honey do you still want to get (expletive),” according to the report.  

“It is unclear,” wrote the investigator, “if Bement was harassing ‘Witness 4’ on this occasion, or if she was soliciting sex for No Runner.”  

Either way, “Witness 4” got a restraining order against Bement.  

The relationship between No Runner and “Witness 4” ended in 2021, the report said, roughly around the time the woman’s boyfriend started trying to fight No Runner.  

Superintendent’s Hot Box, Principal’s Cocaine 

No Runner and Juneau are accused of smoking marijuana both on and off school premises.  

Many of the alleged incidents occurred at No Runner’s house, which is on campus in a St. Stephen’s Indian Mission home.   

No Runner’s neighbor testified that she knew of frequent parties at the man’s house, and on one occasion she law “a lot of weed and alcohol in the house,” and students drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.  

A school employee testified that on a school-sponsored trip to New Orleans for a “No Kid Hungry” training, No Runner and Bement smoked marijuana in the car with the windows shut, which “hot boxed” the employee while she sat in the back seat.   

“She was really upset because she felt as if she was forced to inhale the second-hand marijuana smoke,” the report states.  

Another witness said she saw Juneau use cocaine at No Runner’s house, adding that he offered her some.  

There were ex-students at this party who, the witness said, “were not old enough to drink.”  

Yet another witness had been told by her boyfriend that No Runner smoked marijuana “with some boys outside the (school) gym.”  

Several employees testified that Juneau came to the elementary school “high” at least once a week. 

Bement also is accused of smoking marijuana on campus, in the home she and No Runner share with their children.   

Bullying, Nepotism 

Staff members testified that No Runner fast-tracked his wife, Bement, from a lower position into her role as foods supervisor, resulting in a $10,000 annual raise. She also received an additional $5,000 raise to manage a grant program.  

Before Bement filled the position, food supervision was an extra duty performed by a staff member paid a $13,000 stipend. For Bement it became a full-time position worth $50,000 per year.  

When Bement was still a long-term substitute teacher, she missed 279 days over the course of three years, the report continued, and was tardy on 78 days in that timeframe.  

“SSIS has a four-day school week,” the investigator wrote, “which when considering the number of absences, is even more alarming,” and “harmed Indian children.”  

When other staff members approached No Runner about his wife’s absenteeism, the superintendent is reported to have said things like “You are not going to fire my wife.”  

He then promoted her to the food supervisor position, the report states. 

Government Funds 

The school is federally funded.   

According to the report, the SSIS school board “inappropriately” authorized Juneau and others to pay out between $14,400 and $18,000 in federal public funds per year for employees’ rent payments without performing the required needs assessments and reviews for the funding.  

The report also accused the school board of authorizing school-funded car repairs for an employee.  

School Board member Ronnie Oldman declined to comment.  

Certification 

School leadership is accused of a failure to terminate or properly caution teachers whose certifications had expired.  

Juneau’s teaching certification was reported to have expired in 2020, and he “does not have a current valid license yet has been authorized to perform his job” at the elementary school.  

Juneau reportedly did not apply for recertification through the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board until Sept. 3, 2021. The application was canceled by PTSB three months later, the report states, because Juneau didn’t submit his fingerprints – a requirement of the background check portion of teacher certification.  

His application was reopened Jan. 1 but was still pending when the BIE report was authored.  

Credit Cards, Bullying 

No Runner is reported to have bullied at least one school parent on Facebook, created a toxic working environment for staff, showed up drunk to an alumni basketball game and used the school’s credit card for personal purchases.  

Joint Government 

“This is truly a sad day,” Jordan Dresser, Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council said in a prepared statement Monday evening. “And I regret that we as tribal leaders had no choice but to ensure a safe and orderly learning environment at St. Stephen’s Indian School by removing these individuals from the roles in which they had been entrusted.” 

Dresser’s comments came in response to the vote by both his governmental panel and the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, which oversees the Shoshone Tribe.  

Both tribes occupy the Wind River Indian Reservation.  

Those fired immediately from their roles at the school include No Runner, Juneau, Matthew Mortimore, Bement – and the entire school board: William C’Hair, John Goggles, Ronnie Oldman, and Eugene Ridge Bear.  Dominic Littleshield, another board member implicated in the report, was no longer on the school board when the accusations emerged.

John St. Clair, Chairman of the ESBC, is quoted in the statement saying “the BIE report speaks for itself,” and that the BIE investigation does not “address criminal conduct.”  

“Our action is a precautionary effort aimed at protecting our children and community.”  

Both tribes had requested the BIE investigation.  

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Death Of Ethete Woman Revives Effort To Pass Loose & Vicious Dog Ordinance On Reservation

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Photo by Clair McFarland.
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Recent dog activity on the Wind River Indian Reservation has revived efforts to implement an ordinance against loose and vicious dogs. 

The death of a woman in Ethete on April 10, while not confirmed to be the result of a dog attack, has officials once again looking at an ordinance aimed at addressing the problem of vicious dogs.

“We want this (ordinance) done,” said Darrel Lonebear Sr., a security supervisor of Northern Arapaho Housing. “People worked on this dog ordinance and it’s been put together in a great manner and fashion. Let’s make it part of a law and order code so it’s enforceable, that if people are going to keep these types of dogs around, and they do these things, (the owners) need to be punishable under the law.”  

The death of Shawna Jo Bell, 42, is still being investigated, but records from the Fremont County Coroner’s office show that on the day she died, the coroner was dispatched to a scene in response to “animal bites.”

Lonebear said some community members have speculated Bell died as the result of a dog attack, although no official cause of death has been announced.

Northern Arapaho Tribal member Deno Roman commented on his Facebook page, saying “someone has to die from a pack of wild dogs for our ‘leaders’ to do anything.” 

Roman did not respond to a message requesting further comment.  

Lonebear, who has been dealing with loose and vicious dogs for 22 years, said his job is to prevent and deal with dog attacks within the NAT Housing community. But Bell, he said, was found deceased outside the tribal housing area. 

When Lonebear drove past the scene the morning after the fatality, he said, he saw a pit bull with a rope around its neck that appeared immobile or dead. 

No Ordinance, Yet 

Loose dogs on the reservation have been a concern for years, however, reservation authorities lack the legal ability to do anything about them.

A Fort Washakie woman in 2014 died of dog injuries after being attacked by multiple dogs on Rendezvous Road on the reservation. 

In 2019, a committee comprised of housing authority, public health, Game and Fish Department, law enforcement and tribal government figures developed an ordinance to address loose and vicious dogs through possible punishments for owners – but the ordinance has not yet become law.  

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes share both the Wind River Indian Reservation and its sovereign law and order code.  

For a statute to be adopted in the law and order code, it must be approved by the Northern Arapaho Business Council, or the General Council, or both – then be approved by the Eastern Shoshone General Council and, Lonebear said, revised by the Eastern Shoshone Business Council. 

Tribal business councils are elected bodies; general councils are gatherings of every voting age member of the tribe.  

Lonebear, who is on the committee that crafted the ordinance, said it has not yet cleared the Shoshone Tribe’s attorney general.  

Dave Meyers, director of Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health, told Cowboy State Daily in an email that the ordinance was tabled for a time, pending three informational meetings with the community. Those meetings have now been “completed,” and the updated legislation “is at the attorney general’s office at this moment.” 

Once the tribe’s AG has finished revising the document, the Shoshone General Council must approve it again. Meyers said he may be chosen to present the ordinance to the people at that time, unless someone else is willing.


Loose dog on Wind River Indian Reservation (April 21, 2022)

The Cost

Lonebear said according to Indian Health Services data gathered for the legislation effort, there were 183 reports of dog bites among tribal members in Fremont County in 2017. He said there were 274 in 2018 and 225 in 2019.  

One dose of rabies vaccination costs about $2,400. A visit to the emergency room can cost about $1,000.

The BIA’s local contingent, the Wind River Police Department, is bound to enforce federal and tribal laws. Without a tribal ordinance banning vicious dogs and punishing negligent dog owners, said Lonebear, the police are limited to act.  

Housing Community

Within the tribal housing region, confronting dog-related dangers is a large part of Lonebear’s work.  

“When we get reports, we go out and follow up on the report,” said Lonebear. “Be it dog attacks, dog bites, sick and mangy type dogs.”  

If tenants in the housing communities claim ownership of the dog, security personnel ask them to help catch and detain the animals, said Lonebear. If the dog’s bite has broken someone’s skin, “we need to determine if rabies shots are in order.”  

If rabies is found to be a factor, Lonebear’s crew is required to cut the head off of the culpable dog and send it to Cheyenne for examination.  

“That doesn’t happen real often,” said Lonebear. “But it does happen.” 

Lonebear said a real concern is dogs that have begun running in packs. “They’re looking for food,” he said.  

They’re also impulsive, he added. 

“If one attacks, the others jump in,” he said.  

The dogs are an integral part of both the Northern Arapaho Housing communities and the rest of the reservation, where, Lonebear said, some homes may have up to eight dogs. Some NAT members favor the dogs for home security purposes, he noted. Many ascribe ceremonial significance to the animals as well.  

Children come outside to play with the dogs. 

“Some of these dogs, they’re mangy, they’re sick, they’re carrying disease; they might be mean and vicious – and these kids don’t know it,” said Lonebear. “If I get a vicious dog that’s attacking a child – and these pit bulls weigh 85, 90 pounds – I’m going to do something about it, here in our housing community.” 

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Central Figure In National Indian Hunting Case Faces Child Porn, Drug Charges

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily 

The champion of a national Indian hunting rights case is scheduled to face a jury May 2 on charges of methamphetamine and child pornography possession.  

Montana resident Clayvin Bryant Herrera, who won a U.S. Supreme Court victory in 2019 on whether he could hunt on federal land outside of a reservation, is to appear before a jury on May 2 to face the charges, which stem from a May 2020 traffic stop.

Hunting Case Still Argued 

Herrera is scheduled this summer to argue for a circuit court in Sheridan County to overturn the poaching conviction that sparked his national case. Herrera was convicted in 2014 for poaching multiple elk in the Big Horn National Forest, out of season and without a license.

While Herrera admitted to the crime, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that because of wording in the U.S. treaty with the Crow Indians, tribal members have a right to hunt on “unoccupied” federal lands outside the reservation.

The court’s ruling could have an impact on Eastern Shoshone Tribe hunting rights because the tribe’s 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty contains similar language to the Crow treaty.

Although the Supreme Court upheld the Crow right to hunt unoccupied federal lands, the Supreme Court in 2019 sent Herrera’s case back to Sheridan County for disposition of several undecided factors. 

An evidentiary hearing into the circumstances surrounding the case is to be held in the circuit court, where staff members from the attorney general’s office will lead the state’s case.

The main argument still remaining is whether the closed-season regulation Herrera violated was necessary for conservation purposes. The AG’s office opted not to continue arguing about whether the site where the elk were slain could be considered “occupied.” 

If Herrera wins the conservation issue, it could mean “enrolled members of the Crow Tribe do not have to obey any of Wyoming’s (game) laws when they hunt within the Big Horn National Forest,” said Christopher LaRosa, Sheridan County deputy attorney. 

LaRosa was assigned to the Herrera case before the AG’s office adopted it.  

“The remaining and more important question is, how much can the state regulate if the Crow have a treaty right to hunt in the Big Horn National Forest? How much can the state enforce on them?” asked LaRosa, rhetorically. “Then the question is, what the state government intends to do about that issue.”  

In its recent budget session the Wyoming Legislature appropriated a portion of the governor’s $3.5 million natural resource policy funding to litigate disputes over Indian treaties.  

Traffic Stop 

About one year after his landmark Supreme Court victory, Herrera’s home was flagged in March 2020 for dangerous drugs distribution, according to charging documents filed in Yellowstone County District Court, in Billings.  

A Drug Enforcement Agency special agent monitored activity at the home, eventually watching Herrera and three passengers leave the house in a white Ford Fusion.  

A Billings Police Department officer followed the vehicle and when Herrera cut off another car at an intersection, the officer performed a traffic stop.  

The officer saw a syringe cap on the car’s center console and a torch lighter on the driver’s side floorboard, court documents state. A drug-detecting dog alerted officers of a narcotics scent in the car as well.  

Authorities seized the vehicle and arrested Herrera, who was found to be carrying two syringes when he was booked into the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.   

A search of the vehicle revealed a disassembled rifle, three small baggies containing residue or drugs and two cell phones.  

Porn Phone 

A search of Herrera’s phone in May 2020 revealed 850 images of what court documents called “child explicit material,” especially pre-pubescent girls performing sex acts for adult males.  

In Montana, child pornography possession is charged as sexual abuse of children, a felony punishable by up to 100 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.  

Herrera’s meth possession charge is also a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.  

Having pleaded “not guilty” on Jan. 15, Herrera’s jury trial is scheduled tentatively for May 2.  

He attended a preparatory trial status hearing on Wednesday.  

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Riverton Man Missing In Vegas After Being Hospitalized In Fight; Misses Flight Home

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A Riverton man vacationing in Las Vegas has disappeared after missing his flight home last week.

Anthony Micheal Enos, who is known as “Mikee,” traveled to San Francisco with a friend on March 26 and stopped in Las Vegas on March 29. He was to return to Riverton on Thursday.   

After drifting into what his son’s mother, Stormy Friday, called the party scene in Las Vegas, Enos missed his return flight.  

Friday said the friend with whom Enos had been traveling disapproved of Enos’ antics in Vegas and chose to return to Riverton on his own.

Stormy Friday said she received a call from Enos early Sunday morning, when he told her he was lost in the Las Vegas streets and “intoxicated.” He pleaded for somebody to “come and get him,” Friday said.  

Friday said she began investigating Enos’ possible whereabouts on her own, calling jails and other institutions, and learned when she called Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas he was being treated there for injuries he suffered in a fight.

However, she has been unable to trace Enos since he left the hospital Sunday. 

Enos apparently lost his phone and wallet in the “altercation,” which Friday described as a street attack or a possible mugging.  

A missing person report was placed Monday with the Las Vegas Police Department. Investigators there told Friday said they may have a lead.  

Enos’ brother, Myron Arthur, arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday evening to search for Enos.  

“He’s still there waiting, and still walking, and looking everywhere,” said Friday, who added that Arthur also went to an American Indian gathering center in Las Vegas to try to gather a search party.  

“I’m just hoping that we hear something soon,” Friday continued. “I just need him to be OK and come home.”  

Friday said that although Enos struggles with a “cycle” of alcoholism, “he’s a really good person when he’s not drinking.”  

“As far as I know, I don’t think there’s really anybody out to get him or hurt him or cause any harm to him,” said Friday.  

Community Alert

Enos, 43, is described as being 6 feet, 4 inches tall with brown eyes and hair, no tattoos or piercings, weighing about 290 pounds. He is an Eastern Shoshone Tribal member. 

In a public social media post, Friday urged anyone with information to contact the Las Vegas Police Department immediately. 

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No Vote On Alcohol Sales At Wind River Casino Because Not Enough People Showed Up To Meeting

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Several major issues went undecided by the Northern Arapaho Tribe on Saturday because too few members attended a meeting of its legislative branch.

Many agenda items, including one contemplating legalizing alcohol sales in the Wind River Casino, went unheard. 

Alcohol vending on the Wind River Indian Reservation, which includes the casino, has been forbidden by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone law and order code since about the late 1970s. Before that, the federal government outlawed it in various forms beginning in 1832. 

Federal law now has a soft ban on alcohol sales in Indian Country: the practice can be legalized by host tribes, if the tribes will follow state liquor laws. 

No Quorum

Northern Arapaho Tribal policy is largely governed by gatherings of voting-age members at general council meetings, with a quorum, or required minimum attendance, of 150 people.  

According to NAT spokesman Matthew Benson, about 131 tribal members came to the Arapahoe School on Saturday to hear issues and vote.  

The meeting was cancelled.  

Another topic proposed for consideration, this one by tribal member Nicole Wagon, was a resolution to remove Janet Millard, Chief Judge of the Wind River Tribal Court, from her position.  

Wagon’s agenda item claimed that Millard did meet “the tribal enrollment requirement” of being an American Indian.  

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe, in an email to Cowboy State Daily, countered the claim that Millard is non-native, but declined to comment directly on Wagon’s proposal.  

“Both tribes approved (Millard’s) hiring,” wrote EST spokeswoman Alejandra Silva, “as she is a non-enrolled Eastern Shoshone.” 

Millard was sworn into her position in August of 2020. 

“She is a member, but not enrolled,” continued Silva.  

Wagon also was scheduled to present a ballot initiative titled “Prohibition on working for other governments,” that would have precluded tribal employees from working for any state, federal, or local government.

If it had become law, the measure could have forced State Rep. Andi LeBeau, D-Ethete, to choose between her position in the Wyoming Legislature and her job directing human resources for the Wind River Intertribal Council, which is a joint operation run by the NAT and Eastern Shoshone

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Arapaho To Consider Alcohol Sales In Wind River Casino

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily 

The sale of alcohol is prohibited on the Wind River Indian Reservation, but the Northern Arapaho tribe is considering a bid to make an exception for drinking in the reservation’s largest casino.    

The entire voting-age population of the Arapaho tribe is slated to convene Saturday in a General Council, or legislative meeting, to vote on a proposal to legalize alcohol sale within the reservation’s largest business, the Wind River Hotel and Casino.

If tribal members vote to legalize liquor sales in the casino, which sits on the reservation’s border near Riverton, 15% of alcohol revenues would be earmarked for addiction recovery services; and another 2% tax would go the tribal government, according to the council’s agenda.   

But there are more hoops to jump through.   

The Northern Arapahos share a law and order code with their reservation cohabitants, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. To amend the shared law, the Shoshones may have to sign off on the change as well – but that point is disputed. 

“In (Northern Arapaho) legal counsel’s opinion, the General Council is the final word” on Arapaho legislation, Matthew Benson, Northern Arapaho Tribe spokesman, said in a Friday interview with Cowboy State Daily.  

Benson noted further that the liquor sale exemption, if it passed, would only would apply to the area of the restaurant where bets are placed on live events and in its restaurants.  

Liquor License   

Shoshone leadership did not comment Friday morning on the proposal. The Shoshones also operate a currently-dry casino, the Shoshone Rose.   

Even with Shoshone approval, the Arapaho tribe then would have to obtain a liquor license for the casino from the Fremont County Commission, according to federal laws which say state licensing requirements apply to tribes that choose to legalize alcohol sales.   

Commissioners were divided over whether the license should be granted.

“If that’s what they want, yeah, let them go,” said Mike Jones, Fremont County commissioner, adding that the idea has surfaced several times in the past but has never been approved by the tribes.

“I’m curious if they’ll do it. They haven’t done it in the past,” he said. “But if they vote on it out there and that’s the thing they want to do, I wouldn’t have any reason to deny that.” Jones clarified that he could only speak as one commissioner.   

Jones’ fellow Commissioner Jennifer McCarty also expressed doubt that the resolution would reach her desk, but said she’d likely deny it if it did.   

“They won’t get it past (both) tribes, first of all,” said McCarty. “They’ve turned it down every time because they don’t want liquor out there.”   

McCarty said she wasn’t sure about the rest of the board, but “I would veto that.”   

A high occurrence of alcohol and substance abuse is “well documented” in American Indian communities, according to Indian Health Services. McCarty referenced those statistics.   

Travis Becker, Chair of the commission, said he would not speculate on how the vote would go.   

“I’m not going to touch that one,” he said.   

Commissioner Larry Allen could not be reached amid phone service challenges, but left a voicemail saying he had been unaware of the effort. 

Commissioner Clarence Thomas did not respond to voicemails requesting comment.   

Military Quirk  

In the federal statute banning liquor sales in “Indian Country,” Congress made an exception for U.S. Army soldiers.   

Anyone acting on behalf of the Army, according to federal law, can “introduce ardent spirits” and other liquors into Indian country without penalty. Also, any employee of the Army who “barters, donates, or furnishes (liquor) in any manner… to any Indian,” may not be penalized under the federal liquor ban.  

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Lander City Council Asks Eastern Shoshones for New Names For Squaw Creek

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily 

Lander officials are encouraging Eastern Shoshone tribal members to suggest a new name to the federal government for Squaw Creek in central Wyoming.  

Neither the city nor its host county, Fremont, possess the creek, but the U.S. Department of Interior emailed city officials requesting suggestions for renaming the creek, part of a national initiative to scrub the word “squaw” from all geographic features.  

“As I see it, it’s nothing the city is wanting to do,” Lander Mayor Monte Richardson said during a Tuesday meeting of the Lander City Council. “It’s the Department of the Interior that’s making this change. (But) we just want an opportunity to put out there and come up with some names where we could have our voices, or the citizens’ voices, heard – to come up with some names to present to the Department.”  

Councilwoman Julia Stuble agreed with the concept of seeking alternatives to the name locally. She said the U.S. Geological Survey’s suggestion – to rename squaw-titled features after nearby cites – “didn’t strike me as particularly locally driven or informed.”  

The Fremont County Commission as of Wednesday hadn’t received the same federal invitation to brainstorm new names, although the nearby road also bearing the “Squaw Creek” name is a county, not a city road.  

Shoshone Input 

“It would be a good step forward to strongly consider a name that would come from the (Eastern) Shoshone Tribe,” said Wade LeBeau, who is an EST member and activist. “Most of these things were named already by the Shoshone, because that’s how (tribal members in history) would describe where they needed to go.”  

LeBeau and his fellow tribal member Mike Garvin offered to visit the headwaters of the creek, look for natural distinctions that could become landmark titles in the Shoshone tradition and suggest them in their native language.  

Richardson seemed to welcome the idea, saying “I’d be curious to see you (Garvin) and Wade walk around up there and look it over and come back with some (suggestions).”  

Arapaho Language 

Meanwhile, some Northern Arapaho Tribal authorities have been brainstorming names in their native tongue, Arapaho.  

“We are working with our elders on the names,” Crystal C’Bearing, deputy director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office, wrote in a Wednesday message to Cowboy State Daily.

C’Bearing said there are suggested names “in our language,” and a special renaming task force is consulting with the THPO.  

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone THPO representatives were unable attend the Lander City Council meeting, Stuble said.   

Both tribes cohabit the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County. 

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Man Convicted Of Torturing, Killing 22-Month-Old Daughter Files Federal Appeal

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A man convicted in 2006 of killing his toddler daughter is asking a federal court to reverse his murder conviction, saying a recent U.S. Supreme Court case supports his claims that he was prosecuted in the wrong jurisdiction.  

Andrew Yellowbear Jr. was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2006 for abusing and murdering his 22-month-old daughter Marcella Yellowbear. The girl died July 2, 2004 after weeks of torture in a Riverton apartment.  

Because the crime occurred in Riverton, Yellowbear was convicted in state, not federal court. He has filed multiple appeals arguing that the Wind River Indian Reservation abutting the town should include Riverton within its borders, based on the 1868 Treaty between the Shoshone Tribes and the federal government.  

Therefore, Yellowbear has argued, he was convicted in the wrong court and should be freed.  

Courts have rebutted Yellowbear’s prior appeals by deferring to the Surplus Land Act of 1905, a new treaty that diminished the boundaries of the reservation and placed the town of Riverton under state, not tribal and federal, jurisdiction.  

But this time, Yellowbear’s bid for freedom cites McGirt vs. Oklahoma – a 2020 Supreme Court case that raised the standards for reviewing historical agreements in which tribes have given up portions of reservation lands to other entities.    

McGirt re-established the Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma, barring state police and prosecutors from enforcing state laws within its borders and relegating law enforcement instead to tribal and federal authorities, depending on the offense.  

In His Own Hand 

Yellowbear is representing himself in his appeal. A perpetual litigant, he has sued or petitioned for various concessions and appeals more than a dozen times throughout his imprisonment in the Wyoming Department of Corrections.  

Yellowbear wrote in his most recent petition that in 2008 he was given a new sentencing document with just one felony-murder conviction, instead of the original four, several months after his actual sentencing. He asserted that with the altered sentencing terms, he should have been given a new sentencing hearing and a chance to argue for a lesser punishment before a judge.  

Felony murder is a variant of first-degree murder punishable by life in prison with or without parole, or the death penalty. Felony murder is a murder that occurs in the course of another felony, such as child abuse. 

Yellowbear wrote that the court should consider his appeal again because it refers to the newer sentencing terms, rather than the older ones.  

He asked the court to “review anew… jurisdictional claims” in light of the McGirt standards.  

Innumerable Abrasions 

When she died on July 2, 2004, court documents state, Yellowbear’s daughter Marcella Hope Yellowbear was 22 months old, and riddled with “innumerable abrasions, wounds, burns, and broken bones.”  

The cause of her death was deemed “repetitive, abusive, blunt-force injuries,” and the manner of death was homicide.  

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Judge Hired To Enforce Reservation COVID Rules Becomes Trial Court Judge

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

During the coronavirus, only one jurisdiction in Wyoming hired a judge specifically to oversee violations of COVID-related orders and quarantine rules.  

The Wind River Tribal Court in central Wyoming hired Kevin Ferris Jr. in 2020 as COVID judge, using grant money from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Ferris’ duties, said Clarence Thomas, Tribal Court Administrator, were to handle breaches of COVID orders so that judges responsible for other matters would not be overburdened and to ease crowding in the reservation’s jail.

“It was a big deal, because we were probably the only one in the area that had a specific judge that dealt with COVID responsibilities,” Thomas said. “And it worked. It helped the BIA keep their (jail) numbers down. It helped keep the government resolutions on top of things.”  

Ferris transitioned out of his pandemic role in the summer of 2021 and is now an associate judge for the tribal court.  

Jail Crowding

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes – both sovereign governments within Wyoming – together crafted the most stringent COVID orders in the state, including stay-at-home and quarantine orders punishable by jail time and fines.  

A reservation-wide mask order still stands.  

Thomas said that although Ferris oversaw cases pertaining to breach of quarantine and other health order violations, defendants were rarely jailed for those infractions.  

And yet, the jail was overcrowded.  

“Court numbers spiked pretty high in COVID, with a lot of domestic violence, substance abuse, DUIs, a lot of things just spiked,” Thomas said. “It was a difficult time for people, and mental health-wise, people were having a hard time with it, which caused a lot of different, violent behavior.” 

Thomas said numbers are now stabilizing.

“Things are – knock on wood – moving back to normal,” he said. “But we still have high (case) numbers. We’ve always had high numbers here.”   

Thomas said having one judge to oversee the unique – yet still punishable – matter of health orders violation was helpful to the rest of the court.  

He did not have available the exact number of people who were incarcerated or fined under COVID orders.   

We Understand The Loss’ 

Thomas said although there was some court action connected with COVID order violations, most reservation residents adhered to the rules.  

“The tribes were getting hit hard by COVID and it was different – it was way different (than off the reservation),” said Thomas.  

Due to multi-generational living situations and other health factors, tribal members comprised the first several COVID fatalities in Wyoming.  

“We understand the loss,” said Thomas. “And that’s why the tribal governments did what they did, and protected the people.”  

Tribal Bar 

Formerly a BIA agent and then a court bailiff, Ferris had to pass a bar exam pertaining to the Shoshone and Arapaho Law and Order Code to be sworn in as judge. The two tribes share a court system under their intertribal program.  

Only the head judge at tribal court must have a law degree. Secondary judges may be sworn in if they pass the tribal bar exam.  

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FBI Releases Few Details About Reservation Shooting On Monday

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was releasing little information Tuesday about a Monday shooting on the Wind River Indian Reservation involving a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer.  

“A Bureau of Indian Affairs officer fired his weapon” on the Reservation, Vikki Migoya, FBI pubic affairs officer, wrote in a comment to Cowboy State Daily. “We are in the early stages of this investigation and will have no further information available while the investigation ensues.”  

The FBI has investigative authority over felony-level crimes on the Reservation ordinarily and also for matters concerning the BIA police.  

“After our agents have gathered all the facts of the shooting, we will provide our findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Wyoming for their review,” Migoya said.  

No fatality from the shooting is indicated, as the Fremont County Coroner was not called to respond to the incident.

The incident marks the fifth officer-involved shooting within Fremont County since January 2019. The prior four — three in Riverton and one in Lander — were deemed justified under Wyoming’s self-defense statutes. 

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Shoshone Tribe Offers $500 Incentive For Child Vaccinations

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily 

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe is offering its members $500 to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.

The tribe in 2021 had incentivized its members 12 and older to get the shot, and had sent 1,984 checks for $500 each as of Jan. 22 for that program, according to a public statement by Karen Snyder, the tribe’s COVID-19 funds director.  

Snyder said about 85% of the tribe’s 4,500 members are vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November extended emergency use authorization for a pediatric version of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccination shot to children aged 5 to 11 and the tribe launched its incentive program for the same age group on Feb. 1.  

 Large Response 

As of Feb. 25, the EST had received 226 applications for the incentive program for children’s vaccinations.  

These applicants were on behalf of either children age 5 to 11 who are newly eligible for vaccination or for “adult tribal members who missed the deadline in 2021,” the EST said in a statement to Cowboy State Daily.

Of those 226 applications, about 69% were filed for children. The remainder were for adults.  

EST spokeswoman Alejandra Silva said as of Monday, 214 checks have been mailed to tribal members.  

“We are doing our best to process these payments in an expeditious manner while making sure there are no duplicate payments or incomplete vaccination records,” added Snyder, who said tribal leaders “commend Shoshone tribal members for continuing to vaccinate.”  

Snyder said the program’s objective is to help the tribe lessen COVID-19 impacts to “achieve a normal lifestyle.”  

The tribe did not comment on whether any children have exhibited adverse effects following vaccination. 

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Wind River Reservation COVID Quarantine Camp Operating Again

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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.”  

Hotel Funding 

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.

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Fort Washakie Man Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison For Sexually Abusing Minors

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Fort Washakie man has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison this week for sexually abusing minors on the Wind River Indian Reservation for 14 years.

Avery Fitzgerald Brown, 27, was sentenced to 14.5 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised released this week in U.S. District Court.

In late April, Brown pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact of a minor.

“The FBI and our local, state, tribal and federal partners work tirelessly to investigate and bring to justice individuals engaged in the exploitation and sexual abuse of minors. With this sentence, a dangerous child predator has been removed from the community with a clear message that sexual abuse of our vulnerable youth will not be tolerated,” said Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “We are grateful to the dedication of our partners at the Wind River Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in this case and our shared commitment to protecting children.”

According to court records, the abuse occurred on the Wind River Indian Reservation from March 2006 to October 2020, when one of the victims disclosed in a letter to a physician with the Indian Health Service that she had been sexually assaulted by Brown multiple times.

“This case demonstrates the incredible work performed by dedicated federal agents and community members who stood up for the victims and worked tirelessly to bring this abhorrent individual to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “It takes courage for any victim – especially child victims – to come forward and disclose sexual abuse.  We should all be thankful that a young girl bravely spoke up and helped stop this defendant from hurting any other children.”

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent Adrianne N. Jahnke. Assistant United States Kerry J. Jacobson prosecuted the case.

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Indigenous People Make Up Almost 25% Of Wyoming Murder Victims

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

While making up only 3% of Wyoming’s population, the murders of indigenous people in the state accounted for almost one-quarter of the state’s murders over a 20-year period, according to a new report.

The report “Missing and Murdered Indigenous People,” prepared by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, said the murders of indigenous people made up 21% of the total seen between 2000 and 2019.

“Based on death certificate data listing homicide as the cause of death, indigenous people have a homicide rate higher than any other race/ethnicity in Wyoming,” said the report, which is to be the subject of a meeting Wednesday. “The current indigenous homicide rate in Wyoming is higher than the national indigenous homicide rate.”

The study was commissioned by the attorney general’s Division of Victim Services on behalf of Gov. Mark Gordon’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force, which is to meet Wednesday to review the document.

The study said that of the 498 murders recorded in Wyoming between 2000 and 2019, 105, 21% of the victims, were indigenous people of Wyoming. Of those, 34 were women and 71 were men.

The homicide rate among indigenous people is eight times higher than it is for white people in the state, the report said.

“The report demonstrates what leadership and members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have long known — that tribal members are disproportionately targeted as victims of violent crime,” said state Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, chair of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations.

When indigenous people were killed, they were subject to less media coverage than white people, the report said, and were portrayed differently from white murder victims, with more frequent use of violent language and negative descriptions of the victim’s character.

“The content analysis of the media coverage of murdered and missing people revealed strong racial and gender bias,” the report said. “This bias in media coverage contributes to systemic oppression and implicit bias in Wyoming.”

The report made three recommendations for addressing the issue, including the creation of an indigenous advocacy position or response team to help families with the reporting and investigation process.

“The advocate can serve as a communication point-person, helping to reduce the emotional burden for families of repeating incident details to multiple agencies,” it said.

The study noted that researchers had a difficult time obtaining data for their report, due in part to the misclassification of victims as white, Hispanic or Asian rather than indigenous. In addition, the study said, many agencies do not keep track of race or tribal affiliation in their reports on deaths.

As a result, the state needs to develop consistent protocols and data systems for murdered and missing indigenous people, the study said.

It also recommended raising community awareness about murdered and missing indigenous people.

“Altogether, the findings in this report convey a need for increased recognition and understanding of the MMIP epidemic by law enforcement, the government, the media and the public,” it said. 

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Wind River Casino To Close Again Due To COVID Spike

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Northern Arapaho tribal casinos, including the Wind River Hotel and Casino, will again temporarily close due to a spike in coronavirus cases across the state.

As of Friday afternoon, Fremont County had 401 lab-confirmed active cases and had seen 18 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, many of whom were Native American.

The Wind River Hotel and Casino, as well as all other tribal gaming facilities, will close at 12:01 a.m. on Monday and will remain closed through Nov. 30. Tribal officials hope to reopen the casinos on Dec. 1.

There will be no layoffs, furloughs or reductions in pay at this time. Casino employees will continue to be employed, though some may temporarily transition into other roles during the closure.

“We’ve seen no indication the casino is a source of virus spread in our community, but Tribal health authorities have urged the Business Council to temporarily close these facilities due to surging case numbers in Fremont County,” said Chairman Lee Spoonhunter of the Northern Arapaho Business Council. “This is a critical moment for the Arapaho people and all residents of the Wind River Reservation. If we don’t take responsible actions now – and if individuals don’t follow the guidelines and protect themselves and their loved ones – we risk losing to this virus even more of our sacred Elders, family members, friends and neighbors in the months ahead.”

Spoonhunter was diagnosed with the virus earlier this week, but has experienced only mild symptoms. He is in quarantine and continues to work on behalf of the Northern Arapaho tribe.

Some tribal departments will reduce their hours they are open to the public to prevent the spread of the virus. Some offices will temporarily be closed or conduct business via telephone.

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FCC Chairman Visits Wind River Reservation for Gigabit-Speed Broadband Deployment

in News/Technology
Wyoming broadband
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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai visited the Wind River Reservation on Tuesday to tour areas that are receiving funding from the FCC to deploy gigabit-speed broadband.

Wind River Internet is receiving over $4 million from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction to deploy gigabit speed service to 849 rural homes and businesses on the reservation.

“Bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tribal lands can be a game-changer,” said Chairman Pai.

“That’s why bridging the digital divide is my top priority,” Pai said. “I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Wind River Indian Reservation today to see firsthand the gigabit-speed broadband deployment. This will be critical to providing those living there with access to digital opportunity.”

The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in the United States.

In addition to the funding that is being made available through this auction, the FCC recently voted to launch the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which will further advance broadband deployment throughout rural America, including on Tribal lands. 

National Science Foundation funds first Wind River Start-up Challenge

in News/Business
National Science Foundation funds first Wind River Start-up Challenge
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

A recently announced entrepreneurship challenge focused on engaging future business startups in the Wind River Indian Reservation could help Native Americans return to their entrepreneurial roots, a University of Wyoming spokesperson said.

“We don’t see that much entrepreneurship or very many businesses started by community members on the reservation,” said James Trosper, executive director for University of Wyoming High Plains American Indian Research Institute. “But we used to be entrepreneurs. Both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho were very rich tribes. A lot of historians referred to the Arapaho as the ‘Phoenicians of the Plains.’”

Hosted by the UW’s business incubator, the Wyoming Technology Business Center, the Wind River Start-Up Challenge is the center’s fourth entrepreneur initiative statewide and the first to be tried outside the center’s facilities, said WTBC-Laramie Director Dave Bohling.

“No one has ever done this before with the National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) funds,” Bohling said. “So, we’re an experiment.”

When Trosper heard about the EPSCoR grant’s need for diverse recipients, he said he pitched the idea for a startup challenge on the reservation.

“The WTBC wanted to have entrepreneurship initiatives statewide,” Trosper explained. “But they didn’t have anything specifically for the reservation.”

The EPSCoR program provided the startup challenge with $50,000, which he said could be awarded to Native American entrepreneurs with successful business pitches during the next two years.

With the funding secured, WTBC decided to model the challenge after the Fisher Innovation Launchpad, a long-running startup initiative based out of UW in Laramie.

WTBC-Laramie Assistant Director Fred Schmechel said Fisher has proven the model’s efficacy.

“The university has had great success with our startup challenges,” Schmechel said. “We’re hoping this is a model that can be applied to an area that’s far less served than the rest of the state.”

Culture of dependency

Growing up on the reservation, Trosper said entrepreneurs were absent from the community.

“In the back of my mind, I always wondered ‘Why aren’t my people starting businesses,’” he said. “I was lucky, though. My mother earned a degree in optics, returned to the reservation and started a business called Wind River Optical. So, I got to watch firsthand the success entrepreneurship could provide.”

Trosper’s mother was a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe and the great granddaughter of Chief Washakie. His father was Northern Arapaho and the great grandson of Chief Friday. Thus, Trosper said he has strong ties to both tribes’ past, and he would like to see them return to their entrepreneurial roots.

“The government, when they put us on the reservation, they said, ‘You can’t leave this geographical area,’ which ended our trade routes and fur-trade economy,” he explained. “Instead, they said they would provide us blankets, rations and food. And that created a culture of dependency.”

That culture remains strong today, he said, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs reported in 2005 the Wind River Reservation unemployment rate was more than 70 percent.

“We’re not setting out to change unemployment right away,” Trosper said. “But as we start to change the culture of dependency, things are going to start to change in the community. I think entrepreneurship will have positive effect on the community as a whole.”

Pitches

While the challenge won’t officially kick off until fall, Bohling said WTBC staff will be visiting the reservation throughout the summer to work with potential participants.

“The first step is pitching an idea: who are you, what problem are you trying to solve, what’s your solution and who are your potential customers,” he said. “We’re only asking for a paragraph or two, because most proposals don’t survive as submitted.”

Prior to submitting pitches, Trosper said WTBC staff will mentor participants, refining their ideas and helping them get an idea about how much funding they might need to get started. 

“We want to provide some training right up front before the competition even starts,” he explained. “And during the competition, they will receive mentorship so they can really understand what the UW has to offer to them.”

Despite the use of terms like winner and competition, Bohling said participants are not competing against each other for funding, but rather themselves. 

“This is not a contest — the challenge part is internal,” he explained. “There will be a lot work on their part to get these pitches together and get their ideas off the ground. We provide some money, but we’re investing in sweat equity.”

Once pitch day arrives, a panel of judges will decide which ideas are viable in their current form and in the current market. If an idea isn’t funded, Schmechel said participants are encouraged to continue working with the WTBC and resubmit amended pitches in following years.

No matter the challenge’s number of participants or funded pitches, Trosper said he believes the initiative could be a catalyst for change on the reservation.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something that has to be taught,” he said. “Getting people familiar with that, it will take time. But, I think the startup challenge is a way to really get our community to start thinking about what they could do on the business level.”

The partnership between HPAIRI and WTBC was announced at the WY-Wind River: Economic Development & Entrepreneurship Symposium. Find our coverage of that event here.

Streamlining bureaucracy could improve opportunities for Native American startups

in Economic development/News
Streamlining bureaucracy could improve opportunities for Native American startups
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

LARAMIE — Complex bureaucracy could be one of the big hurdles facing Native American entrepreneurship in Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon said during a conference here.

Gordon opened the WY-Wind River: Economic Development & Entrepreneurship Symposium on Wednesday at the University of Wyoming with remarks about moving forward together with Wyoming’s Native American population, embracing the outdoors and supporting entrepreneurship. 

“If you want to start a business in this day and age, you have tools … you can tweet to the outside world, you can reach anybody in the world,” Gordon said. “But if your own government is standing in the way of getting things accomplished, it can be really frustrating.”

A streamlined process through the levels of government — tribal, state and federal — needs to be created to facilitate economic growth on the Wind River Reservation and throughout Wyoming, Gordon said.

“In this administration, we want to do everything we can to ensure entrepreneurs can thrive,” he said.

Speaker and moderator Gary Davis, the Native American Financial Services Association executive director and Native Business Magazine publisher, agreed with the governor’s statements and said unity was the key to economic development.

“If we can’t advance together, we can’t advance,” Davis said.

Progress could require difficult conversations, he added, but without them, the Native American community could forget its entrepreneurial roots.

“In the most layman’s terms, economy is to create business that generates revenue, (turning each dollar over) at least seven times … before it leaves the community,” Davis said. “I struggle to think of one community that can say they do that in Indian Country.”

To build a better environment for starting businesses, he said Native Americans need to invest in themselves and seek buy-in from their governments.

“The trick is how do we not foster dependency when advocating for economic development,” Davis added.

Following the presentations, the symposium opened a panel moderated by Davis and Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, which featured Native American influencers from around the state and ENDOW Executive Council Member Jerad Stack.

Panelist Cy Lee, an ENDOW executive council member and Wind River Development Fund executive director, discussed the potential for growing the tech industry on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Lee explained a redundancy loop for internet service was under construction on the reservation, which could lead to tech-centric job opportunities for reservation residents.

“When this loop is completed … an industry opens for growth,” he said.

By establishing the redundancy, the area on and around the reservation could have the best internet service stability in the state, Lee said. Internet stability could attract tech companies, opening a currently limited job market for reservation residents.

Another panel member, Rep. Andi Clifford, D-Riverton, touted the success of the Wind River Casino as a tribal entrepreneurial endeavor.

“When I started work (at the casino) in 2005, there were 62 employees,” Clifford said. “Before the economy and state funding crashed, we had over 800 employees. Sixty percent of those were were female. A lot of those workers were single moms and single dads.”

The biggest challenge facing the casino employees was child care, she said. A daycare is currently being developed on the reservation with a programming emphasis on Northern Arapaho culture, Clifford added. When the casino was founded, she said a large portion of the profits were leaving the community. During its expansion, the owners focused on becoming self-reliant.

“We started doing things for ourselves,” Clifford explained.

By doing so, they were able to create more jobs on the reservation and utilize previously abandoned buildings for services such as laundry.

The symposium was hosted by the High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI), and after the panel discussion, HPAIRI Director James Trosper announced a new partnership with the Wyoming Technology Business Center.

The partnership could provide Native American startups access to millions of dollars in micro-grants for market research. Additionally, the business center announced it was kicking off the Wind River Startup Challenge, an economic development initiative modeled after the Fisher Innovation Challenge and designed to financially reward entrepreneurship on the reservation.

The symposium closed with a performance by the Eagle Spirit Dancers and Singers.

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