Allen's late push might save tribal names in bill on Indian ed

Mar 2, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Allen's late push might save tribal names in bill on Indian ed

The Wyoming House failed to concur Thursday with Senate-made changes that removed specific references to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes from a bill that incorporates American Indian education into public school standards in the state.

Rep. Jim Allen, R-Lander, asked the House not to concur Thursday afternoon, explaining that he had worked with both tribal councils as well as members of the Senate to "come up with a solution" that re-inserts the tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation into the language of the bill.

"We already have a deal worked out," he said. "We can go to conference committee, and it'll probably take a minute and a half."

County votes

All of Fremont County's representatives voted not to concur Thursday, along with 43 other House members. Eight representatives were for concurrence, and four were excused.

The message that concurrence failed was delivered to the Senate on Friday morning, and HB76 was assigned to a Joint Conference Committee, which will work out a compromise for the final bill.

Members of the House assigned to the HB76 conference committee include Allen, who will serve as House chairman, Rep. Tim Salazar, R-Dubois, and Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Lyman.

Senators include Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, who will serve as Senate chairman, Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, and Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan.

Last day

All JCC reports were due in the Senate by about 2 p.m. Friday, the proposed last day of the legislative session. Senate President Eli Bebout referred to Friday's committee activities as trying to "save" contested bills before the end of the session.

The Legislature was set to reconvene at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

'Making a mistake'

Case and Ellis both spoke against the change in the Senate that removed any reference to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes from HB 76.

"We share functions with respect to all sorts of government - including education," Case said. "I think if we don't respect that history (and) the important role that those two tribes play ... we're making a mistake."

Burns had introduced the amendment in question. He said specifying that the public school standards would be developed in cooperation with the tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation excludes other tribal entities with relationship to the state.

His amendment replaced the reference to the specific tribes with the phrase "tribes of the region." It also removed language that indicated the new social studies standards would put "particular emphasis" on the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.

Other tribes

Burns said members of other tribes who reside in his part of the state would consider that language "an insult."

"I think this hurts them," he said. "The way the bill is written ... excludes them. And I think that's sending the wrong message."

Burns had brought up the topic Monday when HB76 was heard for the first time in the Senate, pointing to his town's proximity to reservations and tribes based in Montana.

"I think this (amended) bill would serve as an invitation to them," Burns said Wednesday. "Even though they may be headquartered outside the state, they're very close to the state, and I think this would serve as a welcoming gesture to them."

Case said the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho have more of an impact on the state than neighboring tribes.Residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation also are citizens of Wyoming, Case added.

"History has placed us together in Wyoming," Case said. "It's a history that has made us co-sovereigns. ... We share so much."

Would not be limited

He also noted that American Indian education in Wyoming would not be limited to information about the tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation, even if the standards were created specifically with input from the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho.

"Native people appreciate the culture, the history, the traditions, and the religion of other native people far better than a non-native person can," he said. "They really do respect each other, and they'll be very careful."

Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, opposed Burns's amendment on the basis of logistics, wondering how many tribes the Wyoming Department of Education would have to consult before finalizing its social studies standards.

"At some point it just becomes difficult," Perkins said. "(We're) going to complicate it ... to the point where it doesn't get done."

HB 76 indicates school districts can decide what methodology or instructional material should be used to teach American Indian history, but the Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service recently produced education modules specifically about the history of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes that could be used as lesson plans.

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