Tribal Chairmen decline to elaborate on EPA decision due to court action

(Riverton, Wyo.) – The respective chairman of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation sat together today at the Select Committee on Tribal Relations. The two, Darrel O’Neal, Sr. and Darwin St. Clair, Jr., both declined to give much testimony on the boundary issue raised by a recent Environmental Protection Agency Department ruling, stating that the issue is now in court and would be decided there.

Wyoming Attorney General Peter K. Michael said the EPA had granted a partial stay of its order, which the state did not object to, but that the state’s formal supplemental response to the lawsuit would be filed on Tuesday. “The State of Wyoming has no problem with the air quality sampling,” he said. What Michael said the state is concerned with is that portion of the reservation north of the Wind River that was indicated as being part of the reservation.

The two tribal chairman, did, however make brief statements:

Darrel O’Neal Sr., Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, said it “would be inappropriate to provide formal testimony at this time as Governor Mead said he would use all of the state’s considerable resources to fight this in court.  Wyoming has put this matter into federal courts. The EPA decision has no effect on land ownership,” he said. O’Neal also noted  that the Northern Arapaho Tribe “is the single largest employer in Fremont County and generates millions in revenues. Mutual respect and cooperation with local governments will alleviate concerns about the EPA ruling,” he said.  O’Neal urged the state and local governments “to remain open about the discussion about what it means and what it does not mean for local residents.”

Darwin St. Clair, Jr., the ESBC Chairman, started his presentation with a history lesson saying that his people had been here for at least 4,000 years and possibly as long as 8,000 years on the basis of archaeological evidence and stories passed down through the ages. “We’ve always been here and this land has been a high use land for a variety of tribes because of its big game hunting, natural herds and other things the tribes used,” he said. “As far as the Eastern Shoshone is concerned, we’ve always maintained that this is our land,” he said. “We are the caretakers of this place. And now to have some act in Congress (proposed) tell us this is not our land is something hard to swallow, and I can’t fathom that this is the case.” He also said that even though the courts would decide the issue, “that doesn’t take care of the social issues, it doesn’t take care of the racism that goes both ways. It’s stirred up a lot of issues.”