Wyoming gunman who shot two men was ‘hunting’ for homeless people: prosecutor

By David Ferguson, Rawstory

A Riverton, Wyoming man reportedly broke into a detox center over the weekend and shot two sleeping men in the head, killing one, because he was tired of cleaning up after homeless people.

The Associated Press reported that Roy Clyde, a 32-year-old city parks employee, was resentful of the homeless people he has to clean up after as part of his daily duties.

Riverton Police Department spokesman Capt. Eric Murphy told the AP that Clyde snuck into the Center of Hope recovery facility and shot the two men as they slept. Clyde is a 13-year city employee and was apparently acting out of rage at people known as “park rangers,” Native Americans who leave nearby Wind River Indian Reservation — where drinking is illegal — to drink in the city’s public parks.

“(B)asically he was angry at that, and that’s what precipitated him to go and do this violent act,” Murphy said.

After shooting the men, Clyde called police on himself and surrendered when they arrived, not far from Center of Hope.

Murphy told the AP that neither of the two victims nor anyone else at Center of Hope is currently homeless. The recovery center specializes in detox and addiction therapy and serves recovering people from all walks of life.

Wind River Reservation is home to both Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Native Americans. A spokesperson for the reservation said that both of the shooting victims were Northern Arapaho.

Clyde told police that he was specifically targeting “park rangers” and would have gunned down anyone he met who matched that description, but that whether they were white or Native American was immaterial.

Murphy told the AP that police bring all kinds of people with substance abuse problems to Center of Hope.

“They have different levels of treatment,” he said. “If they encounter somebody who’s intoxicated, they can take them there for the evening until they sober up.”

Prosecutor Patrick LeBrun argued for no bond in the case on Monday, accusing Clyde of going “hunting for people.”

“There’s no other way to say it,” he said.

Riverton hospital moves to enter EPA tribal boundary dispute

Riverton hospital moves to enter EPA tribal boundary dispute

By Ben Neary, Associated Press

Riverton Memorial Hospital maintains that a recent medical malpractice case filed against it in tribal court on the Wind River Indian Reservation underscores the problems the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created in its recent decision that the city of Riverton and surrounding lands remain legally Indian Country.

Tribal spokesmen, however, say the tribal court has handled claims against the hospital for years and question why it would raise jurisdictional questions now.

The EPA’s 2013 decision that Riverton and more than 1 million acres of surrounding land remain part of the Wind River Indian Reservation came in response to a joint application from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to treat their joint Wind River Indian Reservation essentially as a separate state for purposes of administering the federal Clean Air Act.

The hospital on Wednesday asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to allow it to file a friend-of-the-court brief. The hospital wants to join the state of Wyoming, the City of Riverton, Fremont County and others in fighting the EPA ruling.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead maintains Congress extinguished the land’s reservation status 100 years ago when it opened the area to settlement by non-Indians.

In protesting the EPA decision, Mead and other Wyoming officials have said that a court ruling establishing Riverton remains legally on the reservation would affect provision of state services, including law enforcement protection, to non-Indian residents there.

In the malpractice case pending in tribal court, Riverton lawyer John Vincent represents Cody Armajo, a Northern Arapaho woman. The lawsuit alleges she was taken to the hospital in February 2013 complaining of an injury to her eye but that a doctor there examined her and found nothing much wrong.

The lawsuit states that Armajo was ultimately transported to jail in Lander and jail personnel took her to another hospital when she continued to complain of pain. Doctors there determined she had been shot in the eye and a bullet lodged in her head.

The Riverton hospital’s request to dismiss Armajo’s case is pending in tribal court. The hospital’s arguments filed with the federal court this week state that tribal court is a quagmire where rules and the law are ill-defined.

“This is the impact of the EPA’s decision: a non-Indian business has been hailed into tribal court,” the hospital’s lawyers wrote to the appeals court. “The expansion of the tribes’ jurisdiction over an entire city has already begun to have negative consequences on the city’s businesses.”

Patrick J. Murphy, a Casper lawyer representing the hospital, didn’t immediately return a telephone call to his office on Thursday seeking comment.

Vincent, a former mayor of Riverton, said Thursday that the tribal court had handled medical malpractice claims against the hospital before the EPA ruling. “I don’t know all of a sudden why this case would stir the controversy up,” he said.

The appeals court gave other parties including the tribes until June 8 to file a response to the hospital’s request to enter the case. Mark Howell, spokesman for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, said Thursday the tribe would oppose the hospital’s request.

Richard Brannan, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Council, issued a statement Thursday saying the Riverton Hospital receives millions of dollars in funding through the Indian Health Service each year for treatment of tribal members.

“This is not the first time that they’ve had to manage claims for medical negligence in tribal court,” Brannan said. He said the Council is confident the hospital will have a fair opportunity to present all its defenses.

Ronald Oldman, a spokesman for the tribe, issued a statement saying the tribe is actively monitoring Armajo’s case.

“A tribal member was walking down the street in Riverton. She was shot at random by an unknown gunman, and taken to the Riverton hospital with a bullet hole in her head,” Oldman said. “Hospital staff failed to notice the gunshot wound and discharged her.”

Wyoming tribe seeks to exclude Andrew Yellowbear from reservation boundary case

By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

The Northern Arapaho Tribe is seeking to exclude one of its members from participating in a lawsuit over the boundary of the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Andrew Yellowbear, Jr., is serving a life sentence in state prison in connection with the 2004 murder of his young daughter in Riverton.

State and federal courts have rejected Yellowbear’s claim that the state lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him on the grounds that Riverton remained Indian County. He’s seeking to get involved in the current boundary dispute in yet another attempt to get his conviction overturned.

A federal appeals court in Denver is hearing the state of Wyoming’s appeal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that more than 1 million acres around Riverton remain legally “Indian Country.”

The EPA recently determined that a 1905 act of Congress that opened reservation lands to settlement by non-Indians didn’t serve to remove the land’s legal status as Indian Country. The Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe share the reservation in central Wyoming.

Aided by Diane Courselle, a law professor at the University of Wyoming, Yellowbear recently filed papers seeking to file a “friend of the court” brief in the current boundary dispute.

Courselle, in her proposed brief in the case, says the boundary issue is, “crucial to the determination of whether Wyoming had jurisdiction to prosecute Mr. Yellowbear or whether the United States has exclusive jurisdiction.”

The EPA addressed the boundary issue in approving an application from the tribes to treat the reservation similarly to a state in terms of consulting with them about air quality issues. Wyoming, as well as Riverton and Fremont County, are opposing the federal agency’s decision, saying it would have drastic effects on taxation and provision of government services in the disputed area.

Although Yellowbear seeks to side with the tribes’ position that the disputed land remains in the reservation, both tribes filed notice that they oppose his involvement. The Northern Arapaho Tribe filed a brief and Riverton and Fremont County filed a joint brief on Friday spelling out their opposition to his involvement.

“We do not want our legitimate efforts to protect our reservation boundaries to be aligned with someone who does not have the tribe’s best interests at heart and is simply trying to get out of jail,” said Darrell O’Neal, a member of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, in a statement.

Dean Goggles, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, issued a statement saying that Yellowbear “is just muddying the waters and offers not new facts or viewpoints.”

Efforts to reach Courselle were unsuccessful Friday. Efforts to reach a lawyer for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe were also unsuccessful.

In their briefs, the Northern Arapaho, Riverton and Fremont County state that federal law is clear that Yellowbear’s state court conviction would stand even if the courts rule that Riverton remains Indian Country.

As a state prisoner, Yellowbear has filed several legal challenges seeking access to Native American religious materials and facilities. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Yellowbear in a 2008 federal lawsuit against the Wyoming Department of Corrections that secured his right to have eagle feathers in prison.

Leaps and boundaries for Wyoming tribes

State battles Wind River tribes over expanded reservation and greater stake in energy management.

By Joshua Zaffos, High Country News

Riverton, Wyoming, looks like an All-American boomtown, fronted along a busy strip of hotels and fast food joints with steady traffic from industry trucks and pickups. But the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes are arguing that Riverton is part of the Wind River Indian Reservation – and the Environmental Protection Agency agrees. That determination, now before the courts, could allow tribes to have greater involvement in energy development rules and also strike a significant win for tribes after centuries of losing ground.

A 1905 Congressional act opened nearly 1 million acres of Wind River reservation lands in central Wyoming for non-Indian homesteaders, miners and new towns. Later acts restored much of that area as part of the reservation, but 171,000 acres, including Riverton, were never officially returned to the tribes. Despite the developments, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone, who share the reservation, say the lands have always remained under tribal ownership.

The matter boiled over in 2008 after the Wind River tribes applied to the EPA for “treatment as a state” designation under the Clean Air Act, which would allow them to implement and manage air-quality programs on their shared reservation. In a region heavily reliant on the production from thousands of oil and gas wells, the additional oversight – and a change in jurisdiction – poses some uncertainty for the industry.

The EPA approved the tribes’ request in late 2013 and, as part of the proceedings, reviewed the reservation’s boundaries. After studying historical records, the EPA announced that the disputed lands are still part of the Wind River reservation.

“It’s a big deal for the Wind River tribes and for Wyoming because jurisdiction is what sovereign governments are all about,” says Debra Donahue, professor at University of Wyoming College of Law. “It’s important for the tribes just as an affirmation that the lands are still within the reservation and they are the primary sovereigns within that territory.”

The state of Wyoming, the Wyoming Farm Bureau, and Devon Energy, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the country, all sued EPA over the outcome and asked the Tenth Circuit Appeals Court to review the decision. This month, ten other states filed an amicus brief, asking the court to fully review EPA’s boundary determination, and questioning why the agency was wading into Indian law and boundary disputes.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, R, has said the EPA’s determination sets a “dangerous precedent” for administrative agency intervention in tribal boundary and state sovereignty issues. Mead has also battled the EPA – and complained of other dangerous precedents – over President Obama’s proposed stricter rules and carbon controls for coal-fired power plants, and in defense of the state’s own plan to reduce power-plant haze and improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas, which is more lax than federal plans. Wyoming won backing from the courts on the latter issue last September, allowing coal plants to avoid installing new pollution controls.

If the appeals court upholds the EPA’s boundary designations, the state can still tax local citizens and businesses in the Riverton area. According to the Equality State Policy Center, non-Indian people would be minimally impacted, although some new tax advantages could benefit businesses. Enrolled tribal members in the extended area, however, would be under tribal jurisdiction in criminal or legal cases, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal courts would have more authority.

Under the Wind River tribe-as-state application, the tribes aren’t seeking all-out regulatory authority, but they would gain the right to monitor local air quality and to comment on regional projects that could impact environmental health. The state would maintain regulatory control over the oil and gas industry, and it’s doubtful the decision would affect energy development. Along with the rest of Wyoming, the Wind River tribes rely heavily on oil and gas for government revenues, but some homes on the reservation have hazardous drinking water, possibly linked to industry activity, and the EPA has even ordered some residents to ventilate homes when bathing or running taps.

Many observers expect the appeals court to overturn the EPA’s decision. Donahue says courts are typically reluctant to find in favor of tribes in such boundary disputes.

But one detail in the case could prove essential for the tribes’ argument: The century-old law behind the dispute didn’t set a single sum payment for the territory, like many other Indian Country purchases, but instead allowed for settlers to buy ceded lands one parcel at a time. “The U.S. Supreme Court has said that distinction is significant,” Donahue says, since it’s been interpreted to mean Congress wasn’t reducing the reservation boundary while the tribes retained an interest in the area. If the appeals court or the Supreme Court upholds that view, tribes with similar circumstances could pick up the strategy.

Native American politics heat up in Wyoming

BEN NEARY, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — American Indians in Wyoming increasingly are asserting themselves, fighting for more say on environmental issues and fielding more candidates in state and local elections.

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes share the Wind River Indian Reservation, a block of land in central Wyoming that’s roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park.

Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, announced early this year he’s not seeking re-election to the Legislature after 10 years of representing a district centered on the reservation. Yet Goggles, a Northern Arapaho and the only Indian in the Legislature, said it’s critical that the tribes continue to have a political presence in the state.

“There are issues that are unique to this reservation, and to the other Native Americans that reside here,” Goggles said. “That perspective should not get lost.”

Democrat Andi Clifford, a Northern Arapaho, is running for Wyoming House of Representatives seeking the District 33 seat held by Goggles, her uncle. Clifford, 42, works as a manager at the Wind River Hotel and Casino.

“We have 2.2 million acres with a lot of resources in our land and water,” Clifford said. “We want to be sitting at the table. We want to start discussing things that impact us and start having those conversations, and people to respect those conversations and respect where we’re coming from, because we live here.”

Gary Collins, tribal liaison between the Northern Arapaho Tribe and the state of Wyoming, said he counts seven Native American candidates in area legislative and local elections this year, up from three in 2012.

Collins, a Northern Arapaho, said a victory he and other tribal members won in a Voting Rights Act lawsuit against Fremont County a few years ago has inspired greater political involvement among Wyoming Indians.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in 2010 ruled Fremont County’s system of at-large voting for county commissioner elections left Indians disenfranchised. Despite bitter opposition from county officials, Johnson ordered the county to establish voting districts to ensure Indian representation.

“The long history of discrimination against Indians in the United States, Wyoming and Fremont County is undeniable,” Johnson wrote in his 2010 decision. “The evidence presented to this court reveals that discrimination is ongoing and the effects of historical discrimination remain palpable.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added to local tensions late last year when it ruled that lands around Riverton, a town on the reservation’s eastern boundary, legally remain Indian Country.

The EPA addressed the boundary issue when it granted a request from both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to treat their reservation as a separate state under the federal Clean Air Act.

Wyoming, together with Riverton, Fremont County and other groups, has appealed the EPA decision in federal court in Denver. The tribes have entered the lawsuit, too, arguing to uphold the federal agency’s position.

The tribal boundary dispute also drew the attention of a national group that’s dedicated to ending tribal sovereignty. The Citizens Equal Rights Alliance held a workshop in Riverton in June, saying they wanted to instruct local officials how to fight over federal government overreach.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, is a veteran state lawmaker and a non-Indian. He faces Democratic challenger Sergio Maldonado Sr., a Northern Arapaho, in November’s general election.

Case said he was invited to the CERA workshop but didn’t attend. Although he said he believes the state ultimately will win on the boundary issue in court, he said he regarded CERA’s presence as unhelpful and divisive.

Case served as chairman of the legislative committee that redrew legislative districts after the 2010 census. He said the committee was careful not to dilute Native American voting strength and credits that as a factor in their increasing involvement.

Case said all voters in his district will have to assess which candidate they believe can do the best job. “I’m not native, but I really try very hard to do a good job of representing them,” Case said.

Kimberly Varilek, attorney general for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, said she believes both the Voting Rights Act ruling and the uproar over the EPA boundary decision both have given tribal members hope that they have a chance to play a greater role in politics beyond the reservation boundaries.

“I’ve noticed that there’s more interest in regards to tribal members,” Varilek said. “Potentially, maybe they feel like there’s more access.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wyoming tribes start getting federal payments

By Benjamin Storrow, Casper-Star Tribune

James C'Hair shows settlement checks from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians received by him and his wife Wednesday outside Atlantic City Federal Credit Union in Riverton.Ryan Dorgan | Star-Tribune
James C’Hair shows settlement checks from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians received by him and his wife Wednesday outside Atlantic City Federal Credit Union in Riverton.
Ryan Dorgan | Star-Tribune

LANDER, Wyo. (AP) – The first installment in a $157 million federal settlement began to pour into the Wind River Indian Reservation this week, as members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe started receiving $6,300 checks in the mail.

The impact of the cash infusion was almost immediately evident on the reservation and in surrounding communities, where many tribal members went to deposit their checks.

Riverton and Lander, both straddling the reservation border, were bustling. Banks saw long lines. Car dealerships and auto parts stores reported brisk business. And law enforcement in both communities was highly visible, posting cruisers at banks in what authorities said was an effort to protect tribal members cashing checks from would-be assailants.

Many tribal members welcomed the injection of money into a reservation long beset by poverty. Unemployment there is almost double the state average, while average family income lags far behind state and national standards.

But they also expressed trepidation that the money could lead to an increase in crime, and they worried that many tribal members might squander the once-in-a-lifetime payday.

“People need to be smart and budget their money,’’ said Randee Iron Cloud, of Ethete, who was with her husband, Norman, at the Atlantic City Federal Credit Union in Lander. “They need to think about the needs of the kids above all else.’’

The couple said they planned to use the money to pay down debt on their car and to take their five children on a trip to Albuquerque.

The settlement stems from a 1970s lawsuit brought by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes against the federal government for its failure to properly collect mineral royalties from oil and gas development on tribal lands.

The total settlement is worth $157 million and will be split evenly between Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribal members.

Of the total, $10 million will be used to repair environmental degradation resulting from oil and gas operations.

Federal law requires that 85 percent of Native American mineral royalties be paid to individual tribal members, with the remaining 15 percent going to the tribes themselves.

The distributions to individual members varies by tribe, as the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone have different-sized membership rolls. Northern Arapaho members will receive $6,300 each, while Eastern Shoshone members are to receive $15,000. Eastern Shoshone members are expected to receive their checks next week.

Overton Sankey, who works at a local Head Start, said most tribal members have long prepared to receive their checks and made plans to save the money or use it for bigger purchases like cars.

While Sankey is not a tribal member, his wife is, and she received a check. The couple intend to use the money for home repairs, but not before going on a trip.

“We haven’t had a vacation in years,’’ Sankey said while playing the slots at the Wind River Casino. “We’re going to work on the house when we get back.’’

Businesses were bustling in Lander and Riverton. A parade of cars for sale lined U.S. Highway 287 approaching the Atlantic City Federal Credit Union in Lander. Inside the bank, Vice President of Member Services Kyleen West said the credit union had seen a steady stream of customers.

The bank was cashing checks from members and nonmembers alike. It would continue to do so until it ran out of money. A first pot of cash set aside to accommodate the settlements would likely be exhausted, West said, noting that a second installment was also due to arrive to meet the second round of checks.

As of midday Wednesday, all was going smoothly, she said. Local banks worked with the tribes in advance to encourage members to create bank accounts where they could deposit money. The bank has seen a rise in the number of new accounts as a result, she said.

“I have been very pleased with the way the tribes have worked with the banking industry, local law enforcement and the community,’’ West said.

In Riverton, Bobbi Higgs, manager of an O’Reilly Auto Parts, said the store was busier Wednesday than it is on strong Saturdays. Six cars for sale were stationed in the parking lot outside, an oddity in its own right, she said. Many of the new car owners then came into the store to buy parts, Higgs added.

“Everyone is selling what they can,’’ she said. In the adjacent Ace Hardware parking lot, a relatively new 35-foot camper sold quickly Wednesday morning, she said.

Law enforcement was ubiquitous in both communities. Police cars were parked outside banks, and officers stood by the doors.

Police officers from around the state were called in to help. Cruisers from Cody, Jackson and Green River were stationed in front of banks in Lander, while a trailer bearing the name of the Sweetwater County bomb squad helped form a temporary command center outside Atlantic City Federal Credit Union.

Lander Police Chief Jim Carey said the settlement had been well publicized, and authorities worried about outsiders who might potentially prey on tribal members cashing their checks.

“We want to send a message that anyone who wants to do violence to our citizens won’t be allowed to,’’ Carey said. “Our mission today is to prevent violent crime and make sure they can get their checks in a safe manner.’’
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

Team with 17 Mile Road Project to receive award

Team members of the 17 Mile Road Project included, from left, Leticia Black of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Colette Friday, Nadine Vasquez and Wildene Trosper all of the Shoshone and Arapaho Department of Transportation. Photo provided by WyDOT
Team members of the 17 Mile Road Project included, from left, Leticia Black of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Colette Friday, Nadine Vasquez and Wildene Trosper all of the Shoshone and Arapaho Department of Transportation. Photo provided by WyDOT

By The Ranger staff reports

The Wyoming Department of Transportation’s 17 Mile Road Project Team will be recognized with a national award for its work on right-of-way issues during the final reconstruction on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials will recognize this group of state and federal workers and Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal transportation officials with the 2014 Federal Highway Administration Excellence in Right-of-Way Leadership Honorable Mention Award.

The following individuals were recognized for their work: Kevin Lebeda of Cheyenne of WyDOT, Letitia Black of Bureau of Indian Affairs, Howard Brown of Shoshone and Arapaho DOT, Wildene Trosper of Shoshone and Arapaho DOT, Colette Friday of Shoshone and Arapaho DOT, Nadine Vasquez of Shoshone and Arapaho DOT, Nicole Brown of Shoshone and Arapaho DOT, Emily Underwood of Shoshone and Arapaho DOT.

WyDOT’s Right-of-Way Program in Cheyenne, Shoshone and Arapaho Department of Transportation, and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs also were honored.

“Leadership qualities were magnified by everyone on the team,” said Tim Payne of Northern Engineering and Consulting of Arapahoe, who wrote the award nomination. “In order for all right-of-way issues to be resolved, every individual at one time or another spent a remarkable amount of energy, effort, perseverance and commitment to the greater good of the team.”

Award winners will be recognized during the AASHTO Subcommittee on Right-of-Way, Utilities, and Outdoor Advertising Council Control conference April 27 to May 1 in Salt Lake City.

“The FHWA Excellence in Right-of-Way Awards recognizes outstanding innovations that enhance the right-of-way professional’s ability to meet the challenges associated with acquiring real property for federal-aid projects,” said Gloria M. Shephard, associate administrator for planning, environmental and realty with the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, D.C.