The issue of reparations paid to Native American tribes is ongoing, with many citizens agreeing the U.S. should offer concessions to the ancestors of those removed from their land by early settlers. Tribes have already been given the right to largely police and govern themselves on reservations, though some officials apparently believe they should also get land already owned by American citizens.
In an outrageous decision recently announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, the West River Indian Reservation now has ownership of an entire Wyoming town. Along with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice, the EPA decided to give the town of Riverton to the tribe, obviously upsetting those who call the community home.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead responded to the brewing controversy with a resolute stance against the government intrusion.
“My deep concern in about an administrative agency of the federal government altering a state’s boundary and going against over 100 years of history and law,” he said. The ruling was made in direct opposition of the 1905 Congressional Act, which established existing reservation boundaries.
“This should be a concern to all citizens,” Mead continued, “because, if the EPA can unilaterally take land away from a state, where will it stop?”
The 10,000 residents of Riverton are now technically under the control of the tribe, not the U.S. government. This not only makes residents responsible for any taxes or regulations tribal leaders decide to impose, it disqualifies them from state resources.
Mead, however, along with state Sen. Leland Christensen, has vowed to fight the ruling.
“This is an alarming action,” Christensen confirmed, noting the decision came “with the stroke of a pen [and] without talking to the biggest groups impacted, and that would be the city of Riverton and the state of Wyoming.”
The land in question has been part of an ongoing dispute. Now that the decision has been made at the federal level, the state’s senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, have joined Rep. Cynthia Lummis – all Republicans – have expressed their dismay.
The trio drafted a response to the EPA, asserting its “decision has in effect overturned a law that has been governing land and relationships for more than 100 years. We are also very concerned about the political ramifications this decision could have for the tribes and the state of Wyoming.”
With a bureaucracy that can unilaterally override established laws, it is no surprise Americans are more distrustful than ever of our government. The EPA’s decision now means even the ground we walk on is no longer safe from its ever-extending reach.
–B. Christopher Agee
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