The University of Wyoming issued the following release Thursday:
The great-great-grandson of the great Eastern Shoshone Chief Washakie has been selected to facilitate research partnerships between the University of Wyoming and the tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
James Trosper, whose family roots also run deep within the Northern Arapaho tribe, is the new full-time director of UW’s High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI).
Trosper notes that Chief Washakie is quoted as saying, “I fought to keep our land, our water and our hunting grounds — today, education is the weapon my people need to protect them.”
“This is an exciting time to reflect on Chief Washakie’s words, which serve as a reminder of the power education can bring to a people,” Trosper says. “Tribal lands can be protected and understood through education. HPAIRI is doing its part to ensure words become action.”
HPAIRI was established with the support of Wyoming’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) in 2012 to facilitate a reciprocal relationship between the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone people of the Wind River Indian Reservation and UW. Today, HPAIRI serves as an information and research repository, and a facilitator for researchers interested in working on the reservation. It maintains a catalog of resources and research completed on the Wind River reservation and provides a campus voice for the tribes’ interests. Additionally, HPAIRI has a physical presence at the university in UW’s Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center.
HPAIRI consults with researchers to clarify how working on tribal lands means conducting research in a manner reflective of tribal tradition and sovereignty. HPAIRI coordinates meetings with tribal elders and tribal leadership to approve proposed research; helps navigate data collection and dissemination in an appropriate manner; and works with tribes and researchers to address intellectual property rights and informed consent.
The creation of a full-time director job and operating budget for HPAIRI positions the institute to grow and facilitate larger goals for the tribes and university, actively enabling research sovereignty on tribal lands for the benefit of Native peoples.
UW Vice President for Research and Economic Development Ed Synakowski says the university’s investment in HPAIRI’s sustainability is one more example of UW’s commitment to research and economic development on the Wind River Reservation.
“Research partnership between the Wind River Reservation and the University of Wyoming has already been seen to enlarge and deepen our mutual understanding in areas ranging from natural science to matters of great cultural significance. It also can create a productive platform for increased economic development,” Synakowski says. “I am privileged and pleased to be engaged with HPAIRI as we continue to learn how to best work together, using research as a platform for education of all of our students and citizens.”
While Trosper is a direct descendant of Chief Washakie on his mother’s side, he also is a descendant, on his father’s side, of Chief Friday, who was the leader of a band of Arapaho in the northern Colorado area. As a child, Friday was separated from his tribe, and he was taken to St. Louis to be educated. Upon reuniting with his tribe, he became a leader and was valued because of his ability to speak English and negotiate on behalf of the Arapaho.
This ancestry positions Trosper well to advocate for education and facilitate research and economic development for both tribes on the Wind River Reservation. He hopes to see the tribes, over time, reach out to HPAIRI and advocate for research needs on the reservation.
“Tribes benefit from a voice at the university. There is a growing priority to co-create research and education strategies on tribal lands,” Trosper says. “There is a strong correlation between community health and economic outcomes. Research is a tool that will enable tribes to become healthier and will help tribes reach their economic development potential.”