Small turnout for CERA Workshop at Riverton City Hall; EPA decision said to be unconstitutional

(Riverton, Wyo.) – Fremont County Commission Chairman Doug Thompson was the first presenter at a Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) workshop for elected leaders, law enforcement officials and, as it turned out, the public and media this morning at Riverton City Hall. Thompson said the purpose of such a workshop, in his experience, “was not to defeat the other side, but to have an open factual forum to talk about the consequences, some unintended and some intended, of Federal Indian policy.”

The motives of CERA, and its partner the Citizens for Equal Rights Foundation (CERF), however, were questioned by local Northern Arapaho Tribal representatives who called the group “Anti-Indian.”  An investigation of the group by the Equality State Policy Center referred to CERA as being “anti-sovereignty” focused. See a background story here.

Nearly three dozen people attended the Friday workshop. (EO)

Nearly three dozen people attended the Friday workshop. (EO)

The workshop was first advertised as being closed to the public and media, in advance of a weekend workshop open to all at the Fremont Center, but the City of Riverton said the meeting had to be open to the public since it was in a public building. Anyone who arrived at city hall today could enter the meeting, where several literature tables were set up featuring the group’s newsletters and brochures.

Ironically, Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness and City Administrator Steven Weaver, who authorized use of the council chambers for the group, were absent at the session, reportedly attending a meeting in Casper.

A petition drive launched by St. Stephens resident Donelle Warren asks the the City of Riverton and Fremont County to “stop welcoming anti-Native American groups like CERT/CERA into our community.” By noon on Friday, the petition had gained 38 signatures. (The petition had a typo, the two groups are CERF and CERA). See the petition here.

In introducing the workshop this morning, CERA Vice Chairman Buch Cranford said he became involved with the organization when a California Tribe attempted to locate a casino in his home town of Plymouth, Calif. He said the community successfully blocked the casino after a 12 year battle. “The government is over reaching, out of control and it effects every person and citizen in the United States,” he said during a benediction. “My issue is with Federal Indian Policy, Land to Trust, and Casinos.”

Butch Cranford opened the Riverton meeting. (EO)

Butch Cranford opened the Riverton meeting. (EO)

Cranford did say that his group’s use of the city council chambers “is no endorsement by the City of Riverton for CERA.”

Thompson said some of the issues that he had questions on were about land to trust, treatment of reservations as states, the definition of sovereignty, and jurisdictional issues which he said were all complex and sometimes contradictory. “If you don’t ask the questions, you don’t ferret out the unintended consequences.” He also urged those in attendance, and those not at the meeting, “let’s just discuss facts in a respectful manner. We might not always agree, but we will respect each other.”

As he closed his remarks, Thompson wondered aloud, “in the principal of government, you have a voice in that government, the government that rules you. How much say will non-tribal members have under a tribal jurisdiction?”

Elaine William said the EPA decision is unconstitutional. (EO)

Elaine William said the EPA decision is unconstitutional. (EO)

The chair of CERA, Elaine Willman of Hobart, Wisconsin, told the audience that EPA’s ruling that treatment of the reservation as a state is a “benign sounding thing,” but said it has huge consequences and opens the door for regulation of not only air quality, but water quality fungicides, pesticides and other issues by Tribes. “Treatment of a tribe as a state is absolutely unconsitutional,” she said. “It is defacto creation of a state within a state, it replaces state authority, is superior to state authority and that’s the constitutional and legal conflict. More of us need to stay noisy about it.”

Willman also said the EPA has “no jurisdictional shoes, Congress never granted authority and it’s been slapped down in the courts many times.” She said the EPA’s December 2013 decision made it look like they “not only have shoes, but jackboots.” She also said decisions such as this are made behind closed doors and then published in the Federal Register without any notice. “We are all citizens, all one people, Indian Policy should’ve gone away in 1924 from they gained the right to vote.”




  1. Donelle Warren

    ;) Excellent catch! Thank you. I typed it up very quickly and the t ypo was an oversight. It is now corrected.

  2. Jt Trosper

    Elaine willman is full of crap!
    Congress authorized the epa to treat tribes in the same
    manner as a state with regards to the environment within the boundaries of a reservation…in that they must determine what are the actual boundaries.the epa determination was not done behind closed doors, the state the state ag, the gov were all involved from day one back in 2008 even our local racist commissioner Doug Thompson was…his multiple letters to the epa and congressional delegation backs that. They all knew and followed the application. They are just mad because the epa…DOI…DOJ all backed up the tribes case that the rez was never diminished.

  3. Andy Jive

    The US Constitution in what she was referring to is:
    Article 4
    Section. 3.
    New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

    The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

    Therefore, Elaine is correct.

  4. Aaron Youngchief

    No matter what comes of this. It won't change the ever going, ever existing deepseeded, dare I say genetically encoded, mindset of "whitey" & their quest to own any and everything, feeding into the lust of power and greed. Idgaf… realistically riverton is on the rez. Y'alls lease ran out… now renew the leases to both tribes or bounce the f@#* off the rez. Historically. My people have suffered much more losses than any one of ur pastry asses could ever endure.

  5. Anita Roman McLaughlin

    We are a nation within a nation. Duel citizenship, not state within a state. Reservation is not a state.

  6. Robert Ulibarri

    Actually Indians in Arizona and New Mexico were not given the right to vote until 1948 and 1949 respectfully. Further the Commerce Clause The Commerce Clause refers to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”
    The Commerce Clause refers to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”

  7. P.h. Schroeder

    Since it was lands belonging to Native Americans and then whites took it. I still want to know why these racists from Wisconsin are sticking their noses in Wyoming business.

  8. Jt Trosper

    No andi jive…your wrong

    The epa isn't creating a new state…only the ignorant believe the morons who proclaim this…treatment in the same manner as a state…is not making a state, its a policy that allows tribes who are sovereign just as a state is sovereign the same rights regarding the environment…it is not creating a

  9. Autumn G. Wallowing Bull

    So since some people of fremont county consider us a state..can we get our own D.O.T with our own lisence plates? The casino is the only place considered reservation and tax free for our enrolled members.

  10. Andy Jive

    Jt Trosper, with all due respect, unless the EPA announcement released last year was written and announced in error? I believe the EPA gave the Tribes "State Status" to monitor air over Riverton and other areas surrounding.

    That is where the State of Wyoming took issue since the Wyoming Dept of Environment Quality already does that under EPA rules. Therefore by this ruling, there are "two States" monitoring air quality over Riverton and areas abroad for the EPA.

    That is what makes this ruling "at odds" with the US Constitution – thus unconstitutional as Elaine elaborated.

  11. Jt Trosper

    Again andi…your seeing things that aren't there …its called TAS…treatment as a state….it isn't making a state….congress allows epa to delegate epa functions to a state as in Wyoming's environment quality department…further congressional authorization allows the epa to treat tribes the same….it is not making a state….merely…the state is sovereign… the tribes are sovereign and if we allow states too…why shouldn't we treat the tribes the same

  12. Raymond Produit

    Comes down to one thing, the town of Riverton went into panic mode and scared. The shoe is on the other foot now. Lets bring in these groups to help us get shoe on the other foot. But if the natives today in time were forced out of there land and homes, it would still be ok in eyes of towns people. And there first words out of there mouths would be, they deserve it, they did it to themselves.

  13. Brenda Montoya

    Bs comes down to the old story of certain people wanting to steal land again, again, and yet again.

  14. Sunni BigDay

    Time to get another small mind county commissioner out of office. Fremont county has come a long way from having signs posted on Windows and doors stating NO DOGS OR INDIANS allowed….!

  15. David Pulver

    Who do you think established the reservation in the first place? That would be congress. Also to be clear Its treatment as a state not forming or erecting a state.

    This has been allowed to other tribes and now the Northern Arapaho and Shoshone tribes are seeking "TAS" for one simple reason.

    Congress has authorized the EPA to treat Indian tribes as states. The two most prominent statutes to treat Indian tribes as states for the purposes of federal environmental regulation are —

    the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA).

  16. David Pulver

    The tribes are not a state. Its "treatment as a state" for environmental issues. Why do people not get it? CONGRESS authorizes the EPA to use TAS through the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA). Nobody is trying to take any property. Its political BS

  17. David Pulver

    Wow so bizarre how these folks representing these organizations will bend the truth to create fear in people. The tribes did nothing but what other tribes (23+) are doing and allowed to do.

    Fill out an application for treatment as a state concerning environmental issues through the EPA.

    Does anyone have an agenda?

    Well sure both sides do thats what American Politics are all about right? Its the nature of the beast, you sit and do nothing, you perish.

    Facts: EPA made a decision on "environmental" jurisdiction only. The EPA does not have power to change boundaries of private property.

    According to the EPA website Congress authorized them to do so (make a environmental decision) through Acts and federal law. You do your own homework.

    What I do see is a division of people being reinforced. Shame on the politicians and community leaders who abuse their authority of office and power to "trick" and manipulate the good people of Fremont county, wind river reservation, and Wyoming.

    I am sure there are justifiable concerns from local residents and Wy leaders but the best way is be honest and state those concerns. Not try and make everyone panic into choosing their side with mis-information especially when it fuels racial division.

    Lets Talk about the Constitution! Keep in mind tribes along with the 13 original colonies pre-existed the Constitution. Technically Tribes held more sovereignty than the States when it was written.

    Thats why tribes had treaties with the government. At first it was Congress would control commerce of tribes, now Many years of diminishing tribal sovereignty has left the tribes with "lucky" to be treated as fairly as a state.

    Whats Unconstitutional is that Tribes are not already treated as a state. Some would argue that treatment as a state is an insult to sovereignty in the first place because the States sovereignty has diminished also.

    One of the biggest misconceptions of the Constitution is that it gave us rights. We have always had those God given rights the government just granted and acknowledged them and promised to take "care" of you if all abide.

    I think it was classic nobody really came to the meeting. I am a little curious why city hall would donate the space to out of towners for this but ehhh oh well.

    Be good to one another!!

  18. Carol Hooxei Hesinee

    She's a total idiot. Geez I've seen stupid before but she wins first place. She doesn't do get homework, reservations are not states within states. She needs to go away now.

  19. Releasda Kraken

    Once again the journalistic credibility of County 10 is called into question. The basic thrust of the meeting was to make people aware of federal government over reaching. There was nothing racial about this presentation. The only racial hatred there was came from a Navajo woman who stood up to spew hate and accusations. Shoshone Tribal Chairman Sonny St. Clair was there also, albeit a bit misinformed about what was going on and citing the questionable source of Stephen Pevar. As a tribal member who was at the City Hall presentation, I left there well informed of federal government over reaching and with a better understanding of the groups mission. Those did get information regarding the group more than likely got the misinformation from the journalistically challenged County 10.

  20. Mary Grant

    This is the same racist rant we hear in one form or another all over this country. The town lends tacit support when it allows private groups to use public buildings for political purposes, and cements this discrimination by vilifying native peoples and inciting false fears of native majority, hegemony and rule. Really disgusting behavior by these elected officials. CERA is racist. Period. Why is this allowed to happen? Time for some cultural sensitivity training. It should be mandatory, along with travel outside the state to more tolerant and diverse climes.

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