“Don’t Mess With Texas.” They mean it, by the way—those excitable Texans. But it’s not well known that there is at least one other state whose residents share that pro-liberty sentiment. There are just a great many fewer of them, and they’re quieter about it. They like their state just as it is, a place where one can drive for hours without seeing a town, even electric lights, where the deer and the antelope play, and where seldom is heard a discouraging word, until the advent of the age of Obama. I refer, of course, to Wyoming.
I actually know quite a bit about Wyoming as I spent much of my adult life there as a police officer and a teacher. I’ve driven virtually every road in the state, walked and skied a lot of the land, and rode the Tour De Wyoming, a 400 mile bike ride across the western portion of the state. I miss those wide-open spaces, and the quiet, strong and honorable people, people that mostly want to be left alone. Which is why, of course, the Obamites are after them. Wyomingites—all 500,000 or so of them—are everything statists hate. And so, using one of their favorite instruments of oppression—the EPA—they’ve attacked an entire town. Actually, three entire towns and a considerable portion of the state:
Wyoming officials are gearing up for a potential court battle against the Environmental Protection Agency as they try to reverse a sweeping agency ruling that transferred more than 1 million acres of land — including an entire city of 10,000 — to Native American tribes.
The dispute started in December when the EPA ruled on a request from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, which sought ‘state status’ in order to administer air quality monitoring. The EPA determined the land in question actually belongs to the Wind River Indian Reservation and has for more than a century, despite a 1905 law opening it to non-tribal members. The decision encompassed the city of Riverton.
Wyoming officials, who call the decision ‘arbitrary’ and ‘wrong,’ now have until Feb. 18 to challenge the ruling in federal appeals court. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have introduced legislation to free up money for the legal battle.
“State status?” Keep in mind that relationships with Indian tribes are fraught with guilt and legal uncertainty. The Supreme Court, in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), ruled that Indian nations are “domestic dependent nations,” essentially islands of sovereignty within the borders of the United States, nations within a nation. This has resulted in a confusing thicket of powers and conflicting claims, not only on land, but on all of the benefits of sovereignty accorded an independent case. This is, for example, why Indian reservations may establish casinos within states where gambling is otherwise prohibited. Indian nations generally have their own laws, their own courts, their own government, while in most cases sharing some degree of jurisdiction with the federal government upon which they are dependent. This is why the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs—to name two–for whom my father worked for many years, have semi-cooperative but always uneasy relationships with the tribes.
Citizens of towns like Riverton and the reservations interact every day. They know each other, deal with each other amiably—like human beings, not political entities—and go about their lives. They get along. For an informative article on the legal relationships involved, go here.
This bizarre federal land grab would throw the region into chaos. Conflicting jurisdictions in every matter of law will not only cause terribly disruptive and damaging legal consequences, but engender bad will that will last generations. Wyoming’s Attorney General is working to get the EPA to stay their decision until the courts can become involved:
EPA’s decision casts a shadow of uncertainty over the transactions and day-to-day operations of state agencies, courts, businesses and individuals within the disputed territory,’ Michael wrote.
The Governor is, reasonably, concerned:
Gov. Matt Mead had earlier objected to the EPA’s decision, while urging the agency to reopen the case to incorporate more evidence, and said the state would be preparing a legal challenge.
‘My deep concern is 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 in a statement last month. ‘This should be a concern to all citizens because, if the EPA can unilaterally take land away from a state, where will it stop?
Where will it stop indeed? Newsmax.com provides background:
Once again the Obama administration thinks it can ignore the law of the land when it suits their agenda,’ said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso in a statement to Newsmax.
‘Changes to the reservation boundaries were legally made in the early 1900s. These boundaries should be followed by all parties including the EPA and other agencies within the administration.’
The controversy began in December 2008 when the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes submitted a request for federal funds to monitor air quality on its land, using a Clean Air Act provision that permits Native American tribes to file applications as states and to delineate tribal boundaries in order to receive higher levels of funding.
The Wind River Indian Reservation is home to both tribes, as well as Wyoming’s only four casinos. At 3,532 square miles — larger than Delaware — it is the seventh-largest Native American reservation in the country, and has more than 10,000 Native American inhabitants.
Established in 1868, it is the burial site for Sacagawea, the Indian companion of early 19th-century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
In 1905, Congress acted to reduce the size of the Wind River Reservation by opening it up to homesteading by non-Indians, a decision affirmed in subsequent court rulings, and determined that the towns where the homesteaders settled were not part of the reservation.
EPA’s decision to grant “state status” to the two tribes for the purpose of monitoring air quality overturned those congressional actions.
In June 2009, then-Attorney General Bruce Salzburg sent a letter to the EPA raising concerns about a potential boundary change.
‘Wyoming believes that the tribes’ proposed exterior boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation are inaccurate. The boundaries, as proposed, include lands which were ceded by the tribes by congressional act in 1905 and not restored to the tribes by subsequent acts of Congress.’
Wyoming Republican Gov. Matt Mead wrote a letter to EPA in August reasserting the state’s opposition to the application, arguing that if it was approved it would have ‘implications for criminal law, civil law, water law, and taxation, and would also take away the voices of the citizens in Kinnear, Riverton, and Pavillion,’ the towns impacted by the EPA’s action.
While the EPA concluded its analysis of the request in 2011, the agency did not release a decision until December, stating that the Wind River Indian Reservation would now include Riverton, Kinnear, and Pavillion. [skip]
Wyoming’s congressional delegation also weighed in with a letter to the EPA, criticizing the decision for overturning ‘a law that has been governing land and relationships for more than 100 years.’ [skip]
Riverton is a town of over 10,000 residents, while Kinnear and Pavillion are communities with populations numbering in the hundreds. Riverton is 83.5 percent white and 10.4 percent Native American, according to the 2010 Census.
Tribal authorities have claimed that this is merely an air quality issue and little or nothing else will change. Property will remain in the hands of its owners. their actions, however, may suggest other motives.
Tribal leaders have been critical of the governor’s petition to stay the decision. In a letter sent to the mayor of Riverton, the Northern Arapahoe Business Council said they wanted to meet to discuss tax issues, as well as matters related to law enforcement, a clear sign they see EPA’s decision reaching beyond the monitoring of air quality.
‘The EPA did not meet with the governor and did not give us a heads up that this decision was coming,’ Renny MacKay, spokesman for Gov. Mead, told Newsmax.
Steven Weaver, Riverton’s city administrator, told Newsmax: ‘We did not know anything until we read about it in the news and started getting calls from the media for comment.
While there has not been too much outcry because residents have lived through several court cases, there is a lot of uncertainty about what this really means.
We have gotten calls from Native Americans saying, ‘We paid our sales tax, now we want our money back,’ or saying they were finally going to get their land back.
Imagine any federal regulatory agency, say the Energy Department, issuing a ruling giving a million acres and several cities of any state to another state, or to a foreign government. The issues involved are essentially the same. This is not the EPA preventing a single citizen from developing or building on his land. This is not the federal government seizing a few urban properties under eminent domain. This is a regulatory agency of the federal government—bureaucrats—changing the boundaries of a state and putting tens of thousands of citizens under the control of what is essentially a foreign government. Under any stretch of the imagination this is a consequential Tenth Amendment issue.
This is not an act of the Congress—the lawfully elected representatives of the people—or a case decided by the Supreme Court after lengthy public debate. This is the Obama Administration, represented by nothing but unaccountable, nameless federal bureaucrats, upending more than a century of stability, law, government and relationships. This is not an empty tract of high country desert, sagebrush and jackrabbits, but the homes, schools, businesses and lives of tens of thousands of human beings? And for what? Air Quality?! There are few places with better and more consistent air quality than central/south Wyoming where on any clear day, one can see for tens, even hundreds of miles.
Governor Mead is absolutely right. If the Obamites can seize entire portions of states, particularly without due process of law, they obviously see no limitations on their power and on the despotism they may visit on Americans, particularly those that do not quality as supporters or cronies, Wyoming being a decidedly red state.
The most radical, racialist Department of Justice in American history will discover that one doesn’t mess with Wyoming either. This is the stuff of which civil wars are made, and Wyoming will not stand alone.
Is this the tipping point? This tract of land in Wyoming?
Excellent question, Joel. But in a healthy world, the tipping point would have come much sooner. More questions like yours, asked by people with stature, would have been posed much earlier in the process. But the American people seem to be largely either uniformed, uncaring or outright comatose regarding what is happening to our nation.
So what is needed is a check on the federal government, a check organized by the states, and their elected Legislatures. The best way to do that is to have representative state legislators vote on such things as:
-An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Members of Congress, 12 years max, whether served in lower house or upper house -a 12 year total maximum. Get the old wood out.
-Repeal the 17th Amendment. Who in the U.S. Senate works for the people these days, and not special interests? 30% of them? Repeal it. Yesterday!
-An Amendment to Protect the Vote (requiring photo ID for voting in person or via mail ballot and prohibiting electronic voting). This is a no brainer…unless you approve of stealing elections…
Just a few suggestions.
Thank you, Mike, for educating and informing us all once again. Truly, knowledge is power.
Mike McDaniel said:
Thanks, and you’re most welcome.
Richard (“if the President authorizes it, it is not illegal”) Nixon was forced to resign for less than what the Obama administration is doing now.
Excellent write up on this Mike! This Wyomingite is STILL trying to figure out how the Clean Air Act OR the EPA applies in this case! The 1 million acres (NOT a tiny tract of land by any means) is agricultural, hunting, fishing, camping, mountainous, and rugged land.
I’ve been through that area many times, most recently last fall. Considering half the drive we dealt with wind at a steady 45 mph with gusts up to 60 mph . . any ‘dirty’ air was long blown away. ;-)
More importantly though – this is a government taking by most egregious means. The agriculture industry, the tourism industry, a college, and other smaller industries are well represented in that 1 million acre region. This TAKING would drastically change the dynamic of the courts, law enforcement, public safety response, and even issues such as property taxes. I’m VERY glad that Wyoming is fighting against this, but there is a long road ahead on to win the fight.
Mike McDaniel said:
You’re most kind. I fear that the Left and Obamites–they’re really more of a Marxist cult of personality–will keep pushing such things until Americans are left with no choice but to fight them by force of arms. Knowing the people of Wyoming, if it comes to that–well, any rational person would never want things to deteriorate that far, but the anti-freedom forces have no sense of restraint and no understanding of the fury they foolishly seek to unleash.
Alan Reasin said:
When there are few to no consequences, most will push their desires to the max. This administration practices that well. The FCC going into newsrooms is another avenue they are taking since the AP telephone intercepts and those of the FOX reporter went unpunished. They keep pushing to find their limits and so far there are none. The use of the National Defense Appropriations Act’s clause allowing the military to arrest with no charges and hold those arrested for an indeterminate time if designated a potential domestic terrorist could come at any time. An executive order could declare, say the TEA Party members as such a threat, and arrests could begin. Is it a coincidence the government wants the membership of such organizations with their abuse of the power of IRS.
If Nixon was a crook, what is Obama whose conduct has exceeded even the worse thoughts captured on the Nixon tapes.
“The biggest problems we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States.”-Barack Obama, March 31, 2008