One is not the other

Aug 13, 2015 By Steven R. Peck

Trying to link the Center of Hope shootings to the EPA border issue doesn't help either issue

Attempts to mold the Center of Hope shootings of July 18 in Riverton into the legal dispute over whether the city is or isn't legally part of the Wind River Indian Reservation are complicating both matters.

Statements from some sources in recent days dished up for visiting news media have been careful to include references to Riverton as being on the reservation. One said the city is "in the middle" of the reservation, which was reprinted and re-posted dutifully by the visiting media.

Out-of-market reporters swooping in for a quick-hitter on the shootings aren't familiar with the jurisdictional issue, and in their readiness to portray the despicable crime as a race-based incident and nothing else, they have repeated the Riverton-as-reservation language as fact.

The day may come when the U.S. Supreme Court rules that is the case, but so far every court ruling pertinent to the argument has proclaimed the opposite, as did the 1905 Act of Congress which ceded the Riverton townsite, legally, from the reservation.

The recent legal challenges to that position, centered on a narrow Environmental Protection Agency opinion on air quality enforcement among bordering "states," are being adjudicated federally now. Any determination by federal courts is still months away, with the initial determination bound to be appealed up the ladder for what may be years to come.

Simultaneously, no official determination has been made on whether the shootings can be classified legally as hate crimes. The FBI is looking into it, but that's a separate investigation entirely from the border question.

Statements by attorneys or others trying to tie the EPA air quality case to the deplorable events of July 18 at the Center of Hope don't really reinforce the EPA position, but they do add confusion to the equation to outsiders who are perfectly willing to make our community look terrible during the short time they are focusing on us.

Meanwhile, trying to force an awkward linkage between the July shootings and the ongoing EPA matter risks undermining the enormous outpouring of community sympathy and support generated by the murderous crimes of Roy Clyde.

That spirit is something to build upon, not erode.

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