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RPD Chief of Police Honored at Powwow

Healing happened at the 75 th Anniversary of the Northern Arapaho Powwow on the Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) when the new Riverton City Chief of Police Eric Hurtado was welcomed and honored with a ceremony requested by the Riverton Peace Mission (RPM) through the leadership of RPM board member Nicole Wagon. As part of the ceremony, RPM presented Hurtado with a Star Quilt that RPM commissioned and was made by Betty Mathews. The Powwow MC, Chico Her Many Horses, noted the difficult bordertown relations and how good it is to welcome someone who had served a mostly Indigenous Alaskan community and how rare for Riverton leaders to engage in cultural activities on the WRIR. He explained that historically the star quilt would have been a buffalo hide when buffalo were a mainstay of the Arapaho way of life. The Eagle Drum group did an honor song and Hurtado, draped with the star quilt and with his son, Colton, by his side, was led around the circle as people came forward to shake his hand and to follow along. I felt an indescribable healing taking place. Why did RPM do this? The Riverton Department of Police has a bad track record with 70% of the arrests being of Native Americans while only 11% of the population with most arrests related to intoxication. We saw coverup and no accountability for the police killing of Andy Antelope four years ago. The answer is Eric Hurtado himself. When he met with RPM leaders a few weeks ago followed up with sharing food and fellowship, he humbly listened and respects Indigenous people and understands the needs. He’s a person of color identifying himself as mixed race – Hispanic, Black, and Indigenous. He has ideas for improvements like having trained civilian service officers provide help instead of arrests. Unfortunately, not everyone in Riverton welcomes Hurtado. Some try to pressure him to arrest unhoused people for violating non-existent ordinances and seek increased pay and fewer hours for the police. Not surprisingly, police officers have resigned since Hurtado took charge. Change does not come easy. But RPM is here to work with Hurtado for the needed changes to happen.

Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice. Chesie Lee

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