(Riverton, Wyo.) – A letter sent to Fremont County’s elected officials from the Northern Arapaho Tribe on Thursday is filled with inaccuracies and misinformation, Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness said Friday morning. The mayor had not seen the letter nor news release until County10.com had asked him for comment this morning. A copy was provided for him to read.
The tribe, through its attorney, issued a news release expressing “dismay that the City of Riverton will host an advocacy group known for it efforts to destroy Native American tribal rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution,” said the lead paragraph of the news release. In an accompanying letter from the Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, Darrell O’Neal Sr., the letter inferred that the city, and Fremont County, agreed with the group’s aims because they had allowed them to meet in public facilities. The letter also alleged that the meeting of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, or CERA, is closed to the public, which Warpness said was not true. A flyer promoting the event, however, said neither the public nor the media would be allowed at one workshop. “It’s a public meeting space, the public cannot be barred from it,” Warpness said.
CERA has planned “a large regional conference at the Fremont County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 14th,” and has invited elected officials, legal counsels and law enforcement to to a June 13th workshop at Riverton City Hall.
Among the topics to be discussed at the forum is the EPA decision which granted the Tribes “state status” for air quality monitoring. The EPA decision also reinstated the original boundaries of the reservation, which would place Riverton, Kinnear, Pavillion and much of the land north of Highway 26 in central Fremont County within the boundaries of the WRIR. Those areas were withdrawn by Congress in 1906. To counter the EPA ruling, the state’s congressional delegation has proposed making the 1906 withdrawal area permanent.
“People can use our facility for non-commercial uses,” Warpness said. “We studied this request at length and both Steven (City Administrator Steven Weaver) and myself concluded it would be good to have the discussion. And it should be noted that our Chief of Police, Mike Broadhead, advised against holding the meeting because of CERA’s reputation in the Native American Community.”
“We are concerned about the recently publicized meetings of CERA in Riverton,” O’Neal wrote. “Apparently the County and City have agreed to provide these public locations for use by CERA. ‘Citizen Sovereignty’ and other references in the CERA flyers are thinly disguised efforts to incite distrust and racial division in our communities.”
Not so, said Warpness. “I think there is obviously a great deal of misinformation in the letter. It’s hard to respond to overall, and I don’t think it is helpful to have that reaction when you have an organization purportedly trying to bring more discussion on this issue. It’s something the Tribes have always advocated, to sit down and talk and have discussion, but it appears they only want to have discussion on one side of the issue,” he said. “In any war, or debate, or disagreement, truth is the first casualty.”
In the news release, the tribe cites “commentators” who have called CERA “anti-Indian” and “hate groups,” but those commentators are not identified.
“For me, it is disappointing that Riverton’s response to the Tribe’s May 6th “Mending Fences” symposium is a divisive, anti-Indian group that spouts offensive rhetoric and legal theories blatantly distorting Native American Law,” O’Neal was quoted as saying in the release.
Warpness said he took heat from some Riverton residents for even appearing at that symposium to listen to the debate there. “I don’t know how people can have such itty bitty minds,” he said.
County10’s request for comment from the Eastern Shoshone Business Council was not immediately returned.