Eastern Shoshone protest Arapaho withdrawal from Joint Business Council

By Gregory Nickerson
October 2, 2014

The Eastern Shoshone Business Council says it will not go along with the management process proposed by the Northern Arapaho to replace the Joint Business Council on the Wind River Reservation.

The Northern Arapaho have withdrawn from a the Joint Business Council, effectively dissolving an entity that federal and state agencies regularly met with to deal with issues on the Wind River Reservation. The Shoshone and Arapaho Joint Business Council met with Sen. Mike Enzi on April 13, 1999 to discuss issues on the reservation. The attending members were from left to right Wes Martel, Eastern Shoshone; Nelson White, Northern Arapaho; Burnett L. Whiteplume, Northern Arapaho; Al Addison, Chairman of Northern Arapaho; Hugh Friday, Northern Arapaho; Ivan Posey, Co-chairman, Eastern Shoshone and Vernon Hill, Eastern Shoshone  (Enzi.gov — click to enlarge)
Shoshone and Arapaho members of the Joint Business Council met with Sen. Mike Enzi on April 13, 1999 to discuss issues on the reservation. (Enzi.gov — click to enlarge)

The Arapaho withdrew from the Joint Business Council (JBC) on Sept. 9, in a bid for more sovereignty. The Northern Arapaho cited ongoing problems with the JBC that included difficulties reaching a quorum from both Tribes, which held up decisions.

In place of the JBC, the Northern Arapaho Business Council (NABC) said it would vote on joint programs within its own council, and proposed that the Eastern Shoshone Business Council (SBC) do the same.

The Eastern Shoshone responded Sept. 29 by issuing a letter and press release saying they would not consent to the dissolution of the JBC.

“(The) Shoshones will only make decisions regarding its mutual resources on a government-to-government basis,” said SBC Co-Chairman Clinton Wagon in the release. “This process they talk about is barely a plan and it offers no protection to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.”

The JBC is a structure created after repeated urgings of the federal government in the 1920s and 1930s. The two tribes that share the Wind River Reservation used the JBC to manage joint resources and programs. These include the mineral and water interests of the tribes, section 638 contracts to run federal programs, the joint Tribal Court, and other assets.

On other reservations shared by multiple tribes, the federal government merged tribal governments into a single unit. The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho resisted this, and never gave up their individual claims to sovereign status within the United States.

The SBC does not recognize the independent decisions of the NABC as binding for the Shoshone or the JBC. The SBC letter asserts that the Northern Arapaho have relinquished their authority over joint asset management by withdrawing from the JBC.

In the Sept. 17, meeting of the JBC, which the Northern Arapaho did not attend, the Eastern Shoshone “read into the record your (NABC) relinquishment of authority to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe,” the letter stated. “We are not transitioning from the JBC structure, and again, we only recognize decisions made through JBC.”

Acting as sole member of the JBC, the Shoshone said they still expect the NABC to pay the JBC for “delinquent amounts” relating to “TWE, the Water Board, and Joint operations.”

Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Darrell O’Neal, Sr. rejected the actions of the SBC.

“The idea that Shoshone Business Council could take over Arapaho interests and make decisions for both Tribes in pretend Joint Business Council meetings really is troubling to me,” O’Neal said in a press release.

The NABC release disagreed that the Arapaho can only withdraw from the JBC with consent from the Shoshone Tribe. To do so would allow the Shoshone to assert sovereignty over the Arapaho, the NABC argued. “The Tribes are separate sovereigns, even if the SBC is under the impression they were somehow combined in the JBC,” the release stated.

The NABC called it a “bizarre” notion for the SBC to think that the Arapaho had relinquished its management authority over co-owned resources and programs. Instead, the NABC countered that it had only changed the way in which assets are managed by voting independently of the JBC. “Federal law does not permit the EST to manage cooperative programs by fiat, so this scare tactic should be ignored,” the Arapaho press release stated.

The Eastern Shoshone Business Council pointed to the historic agreements of both tribes to operate under the JBC process for more than 75 years. “The Shoshone Tribe will decide how and when we make decisions regarding our Sovereignty, Treaty, and Reservation interests, and we agreed to do that with the NAT in the JBC process,” said Shoshone Business Council Chairman Darwin St. Clair.

The NABC Co-Chairman Ronald K. Oldman said in a press release he recognizes the transition away from the JBC is difficult for the Shoshone.

“We understand that some Shoshone officials and their advisors are in denial about these reforms, and are going to need some time,” Oldman said.

NABC Councilman Ron McElroy, Sr., noted that the Northern Arapaho has voted to continue all joint programs previously handled by the JBC. “The people will recognize this for what it is,” McElroy said. “If people lose jobs, if critical government services shut down, that’s on the SBC. The Northern Arapaho Tribe has already approved those programs.”

Shoshone Business Council Chairman St. Clair said his tribe is protecting its interests. “Now that NAT backed away from their responsibilities, we have no choice but to protect the Eastern Shoshone’s interests from waste, fraud, and abuse,” he said.

For more history about the Joint Business Council, see page 142 of Arapahoe Politics by Loretta Fowler.

Eastern Shoshone press release

Eastern Shoshone letter to Northern Arapaho

Northern Arapaho response to Eastern Shoshone news release

Northern Arapaho FAQ on withdrawal from tribal council

— Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile. He writes the Capitol Beat blog. Contact him at greg@wyofile.com or follow him on twitter @GregNickersonWY.

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Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on www.facebook.com/GregoryNickersonWriter/

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