(Riverton, Wyo.) – Eastern Shoshone Tribal Liaison Sara Robinson told the Select Committee on Tribal Relations today that she is leaving her position to join the Fremont County Attorney’s Office as a juvenile prosecutor. Robinson said the primary reason for her departure was the disrespect she was shown as a woman, and moreso as a Tribal woman, in that position, from the Governor on down including members of the State Legislature. Robinson said the liaisons have dealt with a number of frustrating issues and she called for the liaison system to be restructured.
Robinson didn’t hold back when Committee Chairman Sen. Cale Case asked her what she meant about being a Tribal woman.
She said that for the most part, legislators and state employees don’t know about the reservation or tribal culture and she said it was obvious to her that she was being treated differently than Northern Arapaho Liaison Gary Collins. “He even saw it and told me,” she said.
Robinson said she was not treated well during the legislature and was called disingenuous. “There are not very many women, and not many minorities (in leadership), and when we talked about the gender wage gap in Wyoming and what that means I was treated like I was a criminal. That’s how I felt,” she said. “Being a woman in Wyoming is hard enough with all the boundaries, they follow you wherever you go.”
Robinson also said that she was ignored by the Governor, the Chairman of the Joint Appropriations Committee. “At no time was I ever given the opportunity to talk with the governor or to Mr. Bebout. I listened to the tapes from the senate about how they discussed the Tribes, the Liaisons and Tribal Government, and it was disgusting. That’s the world we have to live in. It’s been tough and difficult, but I was raised in a strong traditional family and you step over it and move along, and that’s what I’ve done.”
As a solution to the problem, Robinson offered the committee a list of reading materials of tribal government, tribal law and other books about the Reservation that she felt would be necessary for the outside world to understand tribal culture.
St. Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, and co-chair of the committee, came to Robinson’s defense. “I’d like to echo her frustrations. I’ve experienced the same as the only Native American member of the state legislature,” he said. “But I took an oath and you learn early that you can’t take it personal.” He said the boundaries Robinson mentioned “were not geographical, but racial boundaries. Many of us know there are circles we don’t belong in, and we make our own way.”
Chairman Case appointed Rep. Lloyd Larsen to work with Robinson and the business council to resolve some of the issues Robinson had brought to the committee’s attention before the meeting, including reimbursement issues for work and mileage, which had been withheld by the state. He also asked that the item of tribal liaisons be placed on the agenda for the next Select Committee meeting to work on how the positions can move forward in the future.