On Sunday, July 17, 2015, I attended the Riverton United Methodist Church. My life was changed. It was a come to Jesus’ experience, perhaps different than what you might think.
That is when and where I first learned about the shooting the day before of Sonny Goggles and Stallone Trosper, two Northern Arapaho men, with a 40 caliber semi-automatic pistol while in detox at the Center of Hope. Stallone Trosper died immediately, and Sonny Goggles was permanently injured and died last September.
The gunman was a white city park employee. He first had gone to the Riverton City Park to shoot at “Park Rangers” there. Not finding them at the park, he went to the detox center to shoot defenseless incapacitated people, premeditated racism at its worse.
“Park Rangers” is a derogatory term used to describe the homeless Native Americans who lived at the park in Riverton. The police, even today, refer to them as “transients.” They are not transients. Riverton is their home. Riverton, surrounded by the Wind River Indian Reservation, was reservation land until Congress allowed white settlers to come and steal it without monetary compensation to the tribes.
In July 2015, I was disturbed by those who defended the gunman’s actions and lamented that he had not killed more. It was not one lone action of one disturbed gunman; the racism is pervasive within the fabric and history of Riverton. My come to Jesus’ wake-up call was that I need to address the racism and violence here. We need to change the hearts and minds to see Native Americans as people here long before us who have suffered from genocide and theft of land and culture.
On August 6th is the annual Riverton Peace March and Rally to commemorate what happened July 16, 2015, and to renew our commitment to seek peace and justice in Riverton and to end the bordertown violence. The Riverton Peace Mission’s hope of community harmony will happen only when we make it happen.
Please join us to renew our commitment to confront and to end the racism and violence in Riverton.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships Do justice.