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Bomb scare halts Shoshone General Council

May 13, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Threat came just as quorum confirmed

The FBI, along with other agencies on the Wind River Indian Reservation, on Saturday morning launched an investigation into a bomb threat that happened at the Eastern Shoshone Tribe's General Council meeting.

Tribal members had gathered at Rocky Mountain Hall in Fort Washakie for the hotly contested meeting focusing on the Eastern Shoshone Housing Authority's operations when the bomb threat occurred at about 10:25 a.m.

One attendee reported to The Ranger that the bomb threat happened shortly after the meeting had determined that about 110 people were present -- enough to reach quorum.

The members were in the process of selecting a chairperson for the meeting when attendees were told to evacuate the tribal community center due to the bomb threat.

Meeting cancelled

The disruption resulted in cancellation of the General Council, which consists of enrolled Eastern Shoshone members 18 and older discussing and deciding specified issues facing the tribe.

The General Council members left Rocky Mountain Hall to take shelter in a nearby building, while authorities later evacuated at least one other area facility, the Morning Star Manor.

Witnesses reported that authorities, as well as various law enforcement vehicles, blocked the area around Rocky Mountain Hall on North Fork Road, the main route off Highway 287 into Fort Washakie.

Feds involved

FBI Denver spokesman Dave Joly in e-mail correspondence on Saturday confirmed the agency's role in the investigation. Joly did not have any other immediate details about the bomb threat, only to say the event at the time was ongoing.

Some attendees questioned when the Eastern Shoshone Business Council would reschedule the special meeting, with some reporting it could happen as early as Monday morning.

Housing petition

The meeting resulted from tribal members signing a petition calling for the special gathering to discuss their concerns about the housing agency.

Reasons listed on the petition included a new direction for the agency by the Eastern Shoshone Business Council and General Council, abolishing the program's board of commissioners allegedly to rush certain deals, reinstating the board, wrongful termination and "abusive" landlords.

But housing authority officials in interviews earlier this month said motives for the meeting rest with bitter program board members who had been fired and others attempting to derail vast improvements at the agency.

"It's personal vendetta, and it's not in the best interest of the tribe," said Larry Duran, the housing authority's insurance and collections specialist. "It's because they're angry over what happened to them."

Housing officials contend that many tribal members signed petitions requesting the special General Council meeting due to falsehoods such as rents increasing.

Agency turmoil

The turmoil surrounding the housing agency comes about two years after an Eastern Shoshone General Council meeting in February 2010 led to the termination of five top-level managers of the program.

The unofficial transcript of the 2010 meeting stated reasons for their immediate termination included unfair employment practices, threatening and intimidating employees, favoritism, illegal termination, hostility toward tribal members and mismanagement of funds.

The dispute reached the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Court in the form of a lawsuit filed in February by the terminated former managers against the tribe and Business Council.

Some said Saturday's bomb threat was the first they could recall happening during a General Council meeting at Rocky Mountain Hall.

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Wind River Indian Reservation