Last Monday the Wyoming Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations met in Riverton. At these meetings is an opportunity for people to raise concerns for resolution. But we sometimes seek answers to what are the wrong questions. We ask public officials who have little or a biased understanding and lack the willingness or capacity to respond meaningfully to counter root causes, not just respond to the symptoms of larger problems.
Three issues brought to the committee on Monday by tribal leaders and responses included:
The lack of prosecution of sexual assault cases and the victims’ fear of the perpetrators which the BIA Chief of Police blamed on lack of cooperation by victims. A response suggested by Sen. Cale Case was the need for more police training on best practices.
The unanswered questions about the police killing in Riverton of Andy Antelope in 2019, which the committee chair, Rep. Lloyd Larsen, said to put the questions in writing and he would answer. (I am looking forward to his answers since the Riverton Peace Mission has been unsuccessful!)
The low rate of school attendance on the reservation and how to get compliance by parents, a question previously taken to the Governor’s office. This was referred back to the Governor’s office for a response.
While it is good that these committee meetings allow an opportunity to raise unresolved issues, I suggest for us to achieve relevant results, we reframe the questions. Here are some ideas I have in order to get better answers:
1. Why does the violence happen? How do we create a community safe from violence?
2. How do we assure transparency and accountability for police conduct?
3. What do Indigenous families want for their children for education? How can schools meet the educational needs for the children to thrive?
These questions require a deep dive into history about how current harms evolved, which many would rather avoid. But we are spinning our wheels needlessly to only address symptoms.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.