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Tribe says it is ready for talks with Riverton leaders

Dec 11, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Northern Arapaho tribal leaders have invited Riverton officials to discuss the potential effects of a federal agency's ruling regarding the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The Environmental Protection Agency this week approved an application from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes requesting Treatment as a State through the Clean Air Act. As part of the decision, the EPA ruled that a 1905 Congressional Act opening tribal lands -- including the city of Riverton -- to homesteading did not diminish the reservation boundary north of the Wind River.

On Monday Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Darrell O'Neal wrote to Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness to begin a conversation about the meaning of the EPA ruling.

"The EPA decision analyzes the historic and legal status of the exterior boundaries of the WRIR and confirms our long-standing conclusion that the city of Riverton is situated within the reservation," O'Neal wrote.

Numerous federal court rulings have come to the opposite conclusion. The ruling is expected to be challenged.

O'Neal said he wants to dispel any notions that the ruling would affect residents negatively.

In fact, O'Neal pointed to two federal tax incentives that are available to business enterprises within Indian Country.

"The EPA decision should allow Riverton businesses to use accelerated property depreciation schedules and to obtain employment payroll tax credits through the IRS," O'Neal wrote.

He also discussed the logistics of governmental authority within city limits. O'Neal said the tribes and the United States have criminal jurisdiction over incidents within Indian Country.

"But in our view we can work together to ensure that effective law enforcement is maintained by the city and other interested governments," O'Neal said.

For example, he said Riverton officers can be cross-deputized to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and prisoners can be transferred to tribal or federal systems to save money for the city.

"We would like to meet and discuss these matters and any other concerns you may have that arise from the recent EPA decision," O'Neal said.

Mayor Ron Warpness he plans to discuss any issues with tribal leaders "that are important to both of us."

"I don't think the city has problems with that," he said Wednesday.

The mayor does not have any meetings scheduled with tribal leaders yet, however.