Federal EPA Ruling: Riverton is part of Indian Country, 1905 law did not diminish Tribe’s claim; Wyoming to appeal

Wind River Indian Reservation, including areas north of the Wind River.  (USGS Map) 

UPDATE: This post has been corrected. There was an error in the Governor’s statement provided to County10.com. There is no 60 day comment period.

(Cheyenne,  Wyo.) – The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an unpublished decision that congressional action in 1905 did not change the legal status of some 1.5 million acres north of the Wind River including Kinnear, Pavillion and Riverton. The EPA ruling said the federal law enacted by the 53rd Congress that opened up reservation lands around Riverton did not extinguish the land’s reservation status.

The ruling was made in a Tribal petition to the EPA to have the Wind River Reservation treated as a separate state for purposes of implementing the Clean Air Act.

Fremont County, the State of Wyoming, and Wyoming legislators had filed comments in the application opposing the Tribe’s application.

Governor Matt Mead’s office was informed of the decision at 6 p.m. Monday night. The EPA had apparently transmitted copies of the decision to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes on Friday.

Mead had a strong reaction to the ruling: “The State received the EPA’s unpublished decision granting the Tribes “Treatment As State” status at a 6 p.m. meeting on December 9, 2013. The changes put forward by the EPA would not go into effect until this decision is published in the Federal Register,” he said. “It is outrageous to me that a regulatory agency has proposed changing jurisdictional boundaries established by history and the Courts. I have asked the Attorney General to challenge this decision and defend the existing boundaries of the reservation.”

In his letter last August opposing the application, Mead wrote: “”The tribes’ application, if granted, has implications for criminal law, civil law, water law and taxation. It also takes away the voices of citizens in Kinnear, Riverton and Pavillion.”

Riverton City Administrator Steven Weaver said city hall has already been receiving calls on the ruling. He said some tribal members, who were not identified, have been calling wanting their sales taxes refunded, while other city residents are enraged at the ruling. “This certainly doesn’t help the relationships we’ve been trying to build with the reservation,” Weaver said. He also reiterated what the governor had said, noting that the ruling is from a regulatory agency and pertains only to the Clean Air Act.

A formal statement from the city is copied below.

In a prepared statement, Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Darrell O’Neal Sr. said his tribe was “extremely pleased” with the EPA ruling. “It affirms what the tribe has believed all along, that Riverton and the area north of the Big Wind River is a part of the Reservation.”

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett also reacted to the ruling this morning. “Until the U.S. Supreme Court says otherwise, it’s business as usual in my office.”

UPDATE at 11:37 a.m.

Copied below is the statement from the City of Riverton:

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.35.11 AM



  1. Jean Harris

    Bring it on, Matt Mead. The Supreme Court will most likely rule in favor of the previous rulings established by THREE different federal agencies. Cant argue with the fact…anymore.

  2. Patchs Nerfherder

    "history and the courts" yeah courts that were ruled and laws made to benefit white people and history what about the stores and bars that had signs saying "No dogs, No Indians allowed".

  3. Randy Ray

    So when is it the EPA's job to set land boundries?? I think they need to stick to what they were formed to do and that's police the polluters, not stick their noses in something they have NO authority on!!

  4. Trish Thorpe

    I say give it back. cant honor contract, DONT MAKE ONE!

  5. Sofa Spud

    People should read the EPA ruling: "With regard to the lands subject to Section 1 of the 1953 Act, 67 Stat. 592 (1953), consistent with the Tribes' request that EPA's TAS decision not address the lands described in the 1953 Act at this time, the lands are not included in the geographic scope of approval for this decision. EPA's TAS decision therefore does not address the 1953 Act area."

  6. Kevin McGehee

    The Supreme Court generally gives court rulings more weight than administrative ones.

  7. Jt Trosper

    wyoming bases its case on decades old decisions pitting tribal
    members going against a court in wyoming heard by a judge
    appointed by wyo….you honestly think a paid wyo judge in the
    60's ….when signs like " no dogs or indians allowed" were
    posted in riverton would go against his bosses…and make
    a fair ruling for a indian…thats like a black man in the 1960s
    getting a fair trial in mississippi.

    facts are…the water case stated the lands in question
    did not lose its tribal identity and gave them a 1868 water right
    confirmed by the wsc and affirmed by the ussc

    riverton is indian country…get used to it

  8. Jt Trosper

    @kevin mcgehee…and the supreme court already agreed when it allowed
    the water case and confirmed the wyo supreme courts agreement
    of special master roncalio that the res was not diminished

  9. Brian Willow Sr.

    so..it don't deal with..e.p.a…only..sen case. stated that it does..

  10. Stephen Fasthorse

    So what you saying Sofa?? No parade through downtown Riverton??? Hehehehe

  11. Stephen Fasthorse

    Lmao, we must remember that this was for clean air!! Anyone can assume anything, but I do believe this was to help with funding for both tribes. And not a land grab! Lol

  12. Chandra L. Osborne

    I agree Riverton is in Reservation Territory. But also agree that if this is the case any expenses that have taken place since 1905 should be reimbursed to the City of Riverton by the Tribes.

  13. Gabriel Moss

    this whole country is the result of of a hostile takeover. if it was back in the old days the government would just move us or exterminate us and hide the real story with an indian uprising shutdown story… from sand creek massacre to the trail of tears. all of the land that covers this country was taken and we were given the leftovers and yet that same greed still is in the mind set of a lot of ignorant people. just because the laws say its legal doesn't make it right. so if you live in riverton and aren't enrolled as a native American, thank a native American for the land you own the house you live in. im not hostile or angry, I just tell it like it is.

  14. Gina Michelle Blue-Gamble

    so true!!

  15. Jimmie Cassity

    We can only hope that for the good of both the City of Riverton and the Tribes, that this will open the door for more cooperation and communications between our two communities. That would be a benefit to all of us!

  16. Kelli Thayer

    Actually, the EPA is given very broad authority to do what it deems necessary to keep pollution at bay. That being said, this appears more of a way for the EPA to avoid it's responsibility by saying that it is not up to them to keep these areas clean. To avoid going to court for not doing its duties, it simply says that it has no authority over this particular piece of land.

  17. Keith Ogden

    Let's not hope this can be true.. Time to fight for some of the rest of us!!

  18. Wolf Paws

    Ok so all this talk about what the EPA "supposedly" said….but where IS the document that the EPA put forward making this claim? It helps if you know both sides of an argument. The EPA just wants to take Riverton, Pavillion, and Kinnear into consideration because they fall within the 50 mile radius of the reservation. The EPA is studying the air quality of the reservation, and that's the area they are looking at. They don't have the legal authority to claim what land belongs to who.

  19. Taylor Kraft

    State courts have heard at least two cases on the boundary in the last three decades — one 1980s Wyoming Supreme Court case found that Riverton was part of the reservation, and another state high court case in 2008, which found that the town was in Wyoming.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/08/epa-overrides-congress-hands-over-town-to-indian-tribes/#ixzz2pvdKOLCD

  20. Taylor Kraft

    State courts have heard at least two cases on the boundary in the last three decades — one 1980s Wyoming Supreme Court case found that Riverton was part of the reservation, and another state high court case in 2008, which found that the town was in Wyoming.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/08/epa-overrides-congress-hands-over-town-to-indian-tribes/#ixzz2pvdKOLCD

  21. Daniel Dief

    Same old stuff, white is f—-ing the Indian again

  22. Early Ranch

    The Res is just another bad experiment put on by the Government. They have destroyed a class of people by segregation and welfare.

  23. Anne-Marie R. Foster

    I don't see the Crow listed as residents of the reservation. Since they were pushed out by Shoshone & Arapahoe tribes, shouldn't the land then rightfully belong to them as the first residents? The funniest think about usurpation of land – somebody was always there before you. Hostile land grabs aren't restricted to the US. As a Viking descendent, I resent that my pagan beliefs and entire way of life was eradicated by the enforced conversion to Christianity – long before the United States was even discovered outside my ancestors. Of course, having some Italian ancestors as well, I need to praise and defend them for populating the world and bringing "enlightenment" to the heathens in the North. And before that there were Picts, Celts, Goths, Visgoths – they all pushed or were pushed out of their "native" lands and slaughtered. Yet oddly enough, we don't hear cries for reparations and justice from the survivors of those massacres – it's history and cannot be mended by returning what was taken. The only way to heal is to go forward and learn from history – not to repeat it nor to make apologies for what happened. Moments of tragedy and times of joy all blend to make this world what it is and each human has the choice to embrace the present, be mindful of the future and acknowledge the past while understanding that all those steps are what it took to get each individual to this exact space in time.

  24. Michael Mallonee

    The above link is a good read and it explains alot.

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