Tribal Government on the Wind River Reservation


– [Host] More than
100 years ago, the United States
government set aside lands for Native Americans
called Indian Reservations. Each reservation
was to be managed by a different tribe that would be in charge
of its own government. – The history of our country was dealing with native
tribes as nations and setting up treaties. – [Host] To this day, tribal reservations are
treated as sovereign or independent nations. – We have the right
to govern ourselves, develop our own
policies, our own laws. – Tribal governments
have been in place in a democratic fashion
prior to European arrival. With headmen, Council of
Elders which was inclusive of both male and female, and then also
representatives from all the family camps,
the clans so to speak. – [Host] In keeping
with their history of sovereign nations, the tribal governments are
not part of the federal or state government. They are separate with
independent relationships to the United States. – You have over 500
federally recognized tribes and each one of those tribes have their own
unique relationship with the United
States government. – [Host] The Wind River
Reservation in Wyoming is unique because it’s
made up of two tribes; the Northern Arapaho and
the Eastern Shoshone, each with their own government. The first tier of tribal
government is general council, a gathering of any
tribal member over 18 who wants to attend. – I would describe the
governmental system on the reservation as close
that I’ve ever experienced to pure democracy, with the aspect of
the general council. – The general
council is a meeting of the entire
membership of the tribe. – So the Arapahos have
a general council, the Shoshones have
a general council. – All the people come in one place to meet. – It’s kind of a
town hall meeting. – Any tribal member
can introduce an item or an agenda item. They bring it to the council. – The people, they’re the
ones that have the voice. – They bring forward the issues and whatever happens
in general council is law; assuming that it doesn’t
fringe into the other tribe. – [Host] In each tribe, the general council
elects six representatives to a business council that handles day to day
business for the tribe. – Here at Wind River
we actually have two business councils that Northern
Arapaho Business Council and the Eastern Shoshone
Business Council. – And those two
councils make decisions affecting their tribe. – When you get on a council, that’s the first thing. Your people come first,
your family come second, because you’re there to
take care of your people. – [Host] The Arapaho
and Shoshone councils protect the people and
preserve their way of life. In some cases, the tribal government
also provides services such as police, fire protection, and a court system. – In the United States, when you look at our
federal government and our state government, we have three branches
of government; a legislative branch,
a judicial branch, and executive branch. Legislative branches of
government make laws, the judicial branch
interprets the law, and the executive branch
enforces the laws. But looking at
tribal governments, they didn’t necessarily
have the population or land base for that kind
of model would make sense. There are some tribes out there that have those three
branches of government, but other tribes like
the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho, they have a business council
and just a tribal court. – The tribes they
decided they wanted to administer justice
using their authority, and so they created the
tribal court system. – In tribal court, you have certain
rights as either as a tribal citizen and as
a United States citizen. – The tribes when they
created the tribal court they passed a comprehensive
law and order code, that covered all the laws that were in existence
at that time. The laws are made by the
general councils of the tribe and the business
councils of the tribe. The court interprets the laws. The police department
which is operated by the Bureau of Indian
Affairs enforces the laws. Many times the tribal
court is a less formal than the state courts. For instance, if elders come
in within the court on cases and they are a witness, I don’t swear them in
because it would to me, it would offensive. The purpose of
swearing a person in is to do something in case
they’re telling a lie. So there’s a presumption that you’re gonna lie
if you’re sworn in. So it would be offensive to
that elder to be sworn in. – Because we have three
sovereign governments, a person can be
subject to federal law, state law or tribal law. Sometimes you’ll find situations where state laws and
federal laws conflict, and usually because of our, how our constitution’s written, the federal law reigns supreme. But we do see some situations where state law conflicts
with tribal law. In those situations
the federal government and the federal courts usually
resolve those conflicts. – [Host] While funding
for the tribal governments comes from economic
development on the reservation, the tribal government also helps with commerce on
their reservation. Wind River tribal members
create cultural objects, dance and performances,
host rodeos, and own businesses
including technology and energy companies,
and retail stores. – You know on a national scale one thing that tribes
really struggle with is raising revenue. For some of your larger
land based tribes located in the west, they are very lucky
to have oil and gas, and other natural resources. – [Host] The oil and gas
preserves on Wind River provide energy to Wyoming
and the United States. A portion of the proceeds
goes back to the people of the reservation. – A lot of people misunderstand
it and that Indians, think we get a free
government check, we don’t. It comes from our oil and gas. – [Affie] If the natural
resources come from tribal lands then it makes sense
that those resources and the dollars that
are derived from them benefit the people that
live on those lands. – [Host] Each tribe
also has a casino, whose revenues help pay
for educational programs and other needs of its people. – Casino operations
employ 760 plus, community members, both
tribal and non-tribal. We are the largest single
employer in Fremont County. – [Sam] It does provide
jobs for people. You know they’re
working in there now. That’s why we want
that casino there, to help the people. – [Sergio] Our casino
funds 43 separate programs on our reservation, which at one time were either
state or federally funded. Now we do it ourselves. – [Host] The Wind River
Reservation also helps the local and state economy. Tribal members pay taxes,
operate local businesses, spend money in the community, and run clinics that are
available to residents outside the reservation. – It’s an amazing
economic driver. People on the reservation
spending their money in the local cities and towns. – We do contribute to the state. When we come to
Riverton and Lander, we do have their cell stacks. – [Affie] There’s
a big misconception that Indian people
don’t pay taxes and that’s simply not true. Indian people pay taxes
just like everybody else. – We go to the grocery store, we pay taxes.
(chuckles) We buy gas, we pay tax. – The government of the Wind
River Reservation is a very, unique form of government, both in Wyoming but really
in the United States. – In 1924 there was
a movement to make Native American’s citizens
of the United States. Prior to that, that was a
kind of an ambiguous area of whether or not they could be both a United State citizen
and a tribal citizen. – Because I’m an
Eastern Shoshone, I’m also a citizen of
the State of Wyoming. And because I’m Eastern Shoshone I’m also a citizen
of the United States. – I’m a citizen of
the United States, I’m a citizen of the
Northern Arapaho tribe. Our rez here, our country, our homeland, yeah. And the State of Wyoming. I fought the war, I done my duty as a citizen, and here on the tribe you
know, I’ve earned my way.

1 thought on “Tribal Government on the Wind River Reservation

  1. CONTACT WIND RIVER SHOSHONE TRIBAL COUNCIL CHIEF JOHN WASHAKIE!

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