Anti-sovereignty group to stage meetings over EPA ruling today and tomorrow in Riverton

(Riverton, Wyo.) – A meeting of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance scheduled for this morning at Riverton City Hall, and a workshop at the Fremont County Fairgrounds over the weekend, is being sponsored by a Wisconsin group which the Equality State Policy Center reported Thursday is known for its work to end tribal sovereignty. ESPC Executive Director Dan Neal said the group “has inserted itself into the discussion over an EPA ruling earlier this year that that reset the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation. That decision has created considerable debate and has increased tensions between the Tribes and non-tribal members. It has also lead to an appeal of the decision filed by the State against the EPA decision.

Neal also said that an organization that tracks anti-Indian groups, Borderlands Research, has documented efforts by the Wisconsin group “to exploit public misunderstanding of the law governing Indian Country and tribal sovereignty.” Borderlands Research is based in Washington State. 

Riverton Police Chief Mike Broadhead originally requested that today’s 10 a.m. meeting not be allowed at Riverton City Hall due to CERA’s anti-indian efforts, but he was overruled by Mayor Ron Warpness and City Administrator Steven Weaver. Warpness told earlier this week that he favored open discussion of the topic, that he had read the group’s website and that he didn’t find anything objectionable that was printed there.

“Both tribal members and non-tribal people need objective information about the determination and its potential effect on their lives and business,” Neal said in a news release issued Thursday afternoon. “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 “We hope that good, objective information will increase understanding and help defuse the situation.”

Titled “The Wind River Reservation Boundary Dispute – Some Facts,” the report uses a question-and-answer format to help explain the matter. The report is available online  by clicking here.

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.

Unfortunately, tensions have been heightened by two groups known for their opposition to tribal sovereignty: the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) and the Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF). Those groups have scheduled a workshop for elected officials, key staff, legal counsel and law enforcement this morning Riverton City Hall that was first advertised as closed to the public and media. After that plan was reported earlier this week, Elaine Willman, the CERA Event Coordinator, contacted and noted that the media was invited to sit in. The event, however, remains closed to the public according to its sponsors. But because the mini-workshop is being held at the city council chambers, Warpness and Weaver both said at this week’s city council meeting that the public could not be excluded.

The two groups will stage a conference Saturday at the Fremont County Fairgrounds, which they say will “educate state, county and local leaders, and citizens with specifics of federal Indian policy.”