Arapahos appeal lawsuit on joint programs

Aug 18, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has appealed the loss of its lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Brian Morris dismissed the bulk of the Arapaho claims June 23, saying the BIA had the right to deny funding requests from the tribe when such requests were impractical -- like funding an Arapaho Fish and Game department for resources that are equally controlled by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.

In ongoing litigation since February 2016, the Northern Arapaho Business Council has argued that the BIA has, in recent years, violated the tribe's rights to federal funds guaranteed by the Self-Determination Act of 1975.

Until 2015, federal contracts for basic governmental services worth more than $14 million were awarded jointly to the tribes via the Joint Business Council.

After the Northern Arapaho Business Council announced its intention to leave the JBC, both tribes applied separately to receive all funding to unilaterally continue those programs.

The Arapaho requests were denied while the Shoshone Business Council was awarded funding to operate "on behalf of the JBC."

Wyoming lies within the jurisdiction of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Arapaho have instead chosen to appeal to the 9th Circuit, which contains Montana and the BIA regional office that's a defendant in the lawsuit.


In July, as tensions waned among members each business council, the NABC and SBC signed a memorandum of understanding to renew joint programs under the "Wind River Inter-Tribal Council."

Most of the new work is set to be done by five subcommittees, each served by two council members from each tribe. The committees will address five key issues: natural resources, transportation, judiciary, education and solid waste.

The two tribes are now in the initial stages of re-establishing federal funding for previously shared programs, like Game and Fish, the tribal court, transportation and the Tribal Water Engineer.

By August, the tribes had already developed job descriptions for a new chief financial officer, director of human resources and tribal administrator.

The tribes have also been working to switch over the Joint Business Council's federal ID numbers to the new joint council.

Jodi Rivera, self-determination specialist for the local BIA office, has also offered to provide the tribes with technical assistance in the creation of new proposals for the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council.

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