Attorney: Don Wharton
NARF has been retained by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe (EST) of the Wind River Indian Reservation to analyze the boundary and jurisdictional implications of the Surplus Land Act of March 3, 1905 for the Reservation. The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in January 2008 that the boundaries of the reservation had been diminished when it upheld the conviction of a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe for a crime committed within the City of Riverton, Wyoming. The defendant in that case, Mr. Andrew Yellowbear, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming seeking a ruling from the federal courts that the boundary has not been diminished. That petition was denied by the Court on July 23, 2009. Mr. Yellowbear appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit but on March 25, 2010 the 10th Circuit affirmed the District Court's ruling. On December 2, 2010 Mr. Yellowbear filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, which the Court denied on February 22, 2011.
Separately, the other tribe on the Wind River Reservation, The Northern Arapaho Tribe (NAT) filed a federal district court case, NAT v. Harnsberger, against state and county employees challenging the collection of certain taxes assessed on the Tribe and "Indians". That case attempted to raise the question of the effect of the 1905 Act on the Reservation's boundaries. In January, 2009 the Court ordered that the Shoshone Tribe and the United States be joined as Third Party Defendants and that they file pleadings responding to the complaint in the case. Both the Shoshone Tribe and the US filed motions to dismiss on the grounds of sovereign immunity. In October, 2009 the Court granted these dismissal's, and dismissed the case. The NAT appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. On July 12, 2011 the NAT asked the Court of Appeals for Summary Disposition and a remand to the District Court to designate tribal officials of the Shoshone Tribe in lieu of the Tribe. The Shoshone Tribe opposed the Motion, and the Court denied it. We are presently briefing other issues in the Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes are cooperating in an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for delegation of "treatment in the same manner as a state" (TAS) in the administration of certain Clean Air Act programs. A determination supporting delegation will require that US-EPA determine the location of the boundaries of the Reservation. The TAS Application has been published by US-EPA and they have received comments. The Tribes filed their Response to the comments on March 21, 2010. US-EPA has requested a written opinion from the Department of the Interior on the boundaries and that opinion has not yet been issued.