Tension over EPA, Wind River Reservation boundary

Wisconsin groups dispute tribal authority, fuel fire

ESPC  report addresses questions about Indian Country law

Tribes scorn revival of assimilation and termination ideas

The Equality State Policy Center moved this week to provide objective information about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determination that Riverton and other lands lie within the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation. The EPA determination has been challenged by the State of Wyoming and others. Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming congressional delegation claim the EPA exceeded its authority when it made the decision. The decision and subsequent comments by local leaders in Fremont County stirred political and racial tensions.in Fremont County. When a Wisconsin group – identified in 1994 as a “hate group,” according to the Casper Star-Tribune – announced plans for a workshop and conference June 13 and 14 in Riverton, Wind River tribal leaders quickly responded. They went to the news media with assertions that the groups, the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) and the Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF), use bigoted language and misrepresent the historic treaties and federal law that establish the legal framework under which tribal nations operate. “CERA’s dangerous ideas hark back to deeply harmful United States policies promoting Native American assimilation and termination of tribes and reservations,” Dean Goggles, who sits on the Northern Arapaho Business Council, told the Associated Press. The ESPC has compiled a report explaining the administrative and legal process that produced the boundary determination and answering other questions about its effects on people living in the disputed area. Titled “The Wind River Reservation Boundary Dispute – Some Facts,” the report uses a question-and-answer format to help explain the matter. The report notes that in 2008, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes jointly filed an application with the EPA for “Treatment as a State” (TAS) under the Clean Air Act. As part of the process, federal law required the EPA to determine whether the 1905 opening of 171,000 acres of reservation land to white settlement extinguished the reservation status of the land. On Dec. 13, 2013, the EPA approved the Tribes’ TAS status. It also issued an 83-page legal analysis concluding that the 171,000-acre area remains part of the reservation. The EPA decision is under appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Judicial District.

Wisconsin groups oppose tribal sovereignty

Unfortunately, tensions have been heightened by CERA and CERF, two groups known for their opposition to tribal sovereignty. Leaders of CER and CERF routinely distort facts about tribal sovereignty, according to Borderlands Research and Education (BRE), a Washington state group that tracks “anti-Indianism.” A recently released Borderlands bulletin lists a number of CERA/CERF distortions of the legal status of tribes and their treaty rights. You can read the Bulletin here.

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