Federal EPA Ruling: Riverton is part of Indian Country, 1905 law did not diminish reservation!

The EPA just ruled that Riverton, a town of about 10,000 population, surrounded by the Wind River Reservation (Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone land) but on nominally non-tribal land*, is a part of the reservation. The state government is PISSED and the comments sections of various online write ups are already going full racist. It's a complicated and really unexpected decision, even from the tribes' perspective (a lot of tribal leaders really didn't know it was going to go their way, say some friends who are covering the story). This is all going down in the context of the reservation finally getting the right to be considered a state under the Clean Air Act and regulate their own air quality. 

The homestead act in 1905 opened lands north of the Wind River and South of owl creek to homesteading.  The land that was not homesteaded was then put into tribal trust by congress with joint federal tribal authority.  This has been an ongoing point of contention  between the Northern Arapahoe, Eastern Shoshone tribes, Fremont County, the city of Riverton and the State of Wyoming for years.

The most immediate concern is judicial jurisdiction, as non Indians cannot be tried in tribal court, and cannot be arrested by tribal police for any crime that is not a federal crime.  This also brings up property rights matters, as well as taxation issues, as there is no authority for the state of Wyoming to tax on the reservation.  There have already been numerous calls to both the City of Riverton, and Fremont County demanding return of sales tax money paid by tribal members.

This is going to get real interesting here on the home front for the next few years as this is litigated, to determine who has jurisdiction to do what.

Tags: American, EPA, Federal, Native, Regulations, Reservation

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This is going to get real interesting as Riverton has always claimed that it was not part of the reservation and will now be subject to tribal authority.   The racial tensions that have been boiling under the surface for many years are starting to bubble over now.  The racism from both sides is really starting to be seen on many of the social media, and forum sites. 

It is my hope that this will force negotiations from all governing bodies involved and we will all be better for it.

This is very interesting and I will be following it closely hereon. Thank you for posting this and bringing it to our attention.

It indeed will take some serious and open minded negotiations from both sides to bring about a system of law enforcement and municipal governing. As far as the highway and other such maintenance is concerned, I really don't see a problem if both sides cooperate. Perhaps there are those who are ready and willing to make a mountain out of what could be a mole hill in  regards to the incident. And no, I am not minimizing the impact of the decision, merely stating that there is a way to handle the situation in an intelligent and positive manner if all sides are willing to work together. 

The main thing IMHO, is the effect of the racism on both sides. Both sides needs the other, and there is bound to be some level playing ground that both sides can participate from. So I think that once the shock of the change wears off and litigation is out of the way, the two sides can work together to find a solution that is favorable for both sides.

I don't think anyone wants another "Indian War" that only leads to more hate and needless loss of life. But, as we well know, there are always such demented elements that are merely waiting for the opportunity to react.

This is just my opinion.

What would be really interesting is to compare the final treaty with the Enabling Act for Wyoming.  Betcha Wyoming didn't get all they thought they did.

1stwarrior, this has been litigated over and over in the state supreme court, with the determination that the reservation has been diminished.  I guess that in my opinion I question whether or not the EPA has the legal authority to determine land boundaries.

On water/air/compliance issues - yes they do - environmental regulations know no boundaries, they are multi-jurisdictional.  In the Clean Air Act, tribes have two different types of jurisdiction - lands within the boundaries of the reservation, the tribe is delegated Federal Authority.  All sources within reservation boundaries are under tribal jurisdiction.  Other areas within the tribes jurisdiction appears to mean "Indian Country" if the tribe can show they have inherent authority (aboriginal sovereignty).  They work from the aspect that "Indian Country" has control - the Wind River tribes are Indian Country and, if I'm not mistaken, share regulatory authority with EPA on this issue.  SCOTUS has stated in two other cases that, in the event the EPA allows the tribes to share the regulatory authorities, the tribes are considered equal to the Feds in their sovereignty over "Indian Country".  I'll have to do more research.

What youll most likely see is a revisitation to the original; treaty boundries and a current survey completed as to where those boundries actually are  to compensate for subsiquent annexation over the yrs , thus affecting municipal services and what and where certain taxes can be applied . nothing like dividing a town .

 one of the reasons I suspect the states pissed is that Riverton is a major confluence of a couple of state highways that skirt the Reservation borders if those lands are found to be within the rez it becomes the rezs responsibility for maint and upkeep, not the states, now take into account the recent highway upgrade heading west over Togetee Pass to Yellowstone and Jackson hole that's a chunk of state funding right there they would loose  . be careful what you wish for is a good axiom , you just might get it , and not like what you get in the end.

You are right Mark, but there are other reasons that the state is pissed, mainly the loss of sales tax revenue, and property tax revenue. 

It is going to be a shame if Riverton is held to be reservation, as those of us who live here know what the corruption in tribal government is like.  Can you just imagine them trying to operate a town with a population of 10,000.

The other problems are law enforcement jurisdictional issues, as if Riverton is determined to be part of the reservation, we will effectively be lawless.  No zoning or city ordinances will any longer apply.  Tribal police are only able to arrest non Indians for certain offenses on the reservation, mainly violent crime.  And state law does not apply on the reservation so there is basically no law other than you cannot kill someone.

I can see this becoming violent, quite easily, with all the racial tensions that exist in our community. 

The Homestead act of 1905 is coming back to bite some in the ass.

Yep, and it is going to get real interesting around here, like I have stated I really hope this does not turn violent before, it is settled.  I think this one will be headed to the Superme  Court.

I'm sure that it will be headed to SCOTUS. I don't know if the EPA has the power to make this decision.

I don't understand . Since when does the EPA have any jurisdiction over the decision for tribal boundaries ?

that is the question that many of us have!  Did the EPA over step it's authority.  The tribes, have claimed for the last 100 years that Riverton was not withdrawn from the reservation, and that they should have administrative controls over the town, and that the reservation was not diminished by the 1905 land act.  The state supreme court has ruled otherwise, and the EPA has gone against years of judicial interpretation of the law.  I will try to post a link to the ruling, but if this is upheld this has many consequence far outreaching just the ability to monitor air quality.

 

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