In March WyoFile asked readers to help crowdfund a special reporting project to examine early childhood health care among the Native American community in Wyoming. Caring supporters responded, and by April 1 we surpassed our goal of $4,000 with a total $4,690. Thank you!

With those pledges, WyoFile contracted with Lander, Wyoming-based freelance journalist Matthew Copeland as lead reporter on the project, under the direction of WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer. You can check out Copeland’s previous health care reporting for WyoFile here.

To gain more resources for the project, WyoFile applied for Annenberg Foundation’s National Health Journalism Fellowship program, as well as a grant from the Fund for Journalism on Child Well-being. We were not selected for the fellowship program or grant, however WyoFile is able to carry out the project with the original crowdfunding support.

Bleizeffer and Copeland further developed the project in May, and by June Copeland began reporting on the project. Since, Copeland has spent many hours visiting with people on the Wind River Indian Reservation to understand the realities childhood health care challenges and implications that resonate throughout generations in the communities.

“There are a lot of misconceptions,” said Copeland, “like Native Americans have free healthcare, so that’s taken care of. But there are huge gaps in services. The experience of using that system is exceedingly frustrating — hearing about it gets you fired up.”

Your support has made it possible for Copeland to get out into communities, speaking with the residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation, so he was on the job reporting during the community’s response to the tragic shooting that occurred on July 18th. He was able to provide our readers with an in-depth report about the aftermath of the shooting in his story titled One gunman, many concerns, in Riverton. Please give it a read as it provides a window onto the strife these communities deal with in terms of racism.

Readers can expect a multi-story series to launch in August, which we believe will promote wider and more meaningful engagement on these issues critical to the Native American community and all of Wyoming.

“All in all I’m feeling darn good about it — it’s a stimulating project,” said Copeland. “There’s a huge volume of information to acquire and sift through. Definitely a challenge.”

As addressed in previous WyoFile coverage, professionals from both on and off the reservation regularly create innovative programs and other potential solutions. An infrastructure of agencies and NGOs is already in place, often doing great work. Why then is so little progress being made? We believe that more engagement by the Fourth Estate is critical to the ultimate success of these and future efforts.

Thank you for your support!

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  1. Looking forward to seeing Matthew Copeland’s full report on the Native health care issue.

    Mary Haper