City agreement with tribe raises concerns

2009-11-17T22:05:00Z City agreement with tribe raises concernsGazette News Service The Billings Gazette
November 17, 2009 10:05 pm  • 

RIVERTON — Some residents of the Riverton area are expressing concern about a proposed agreement between the city and the Northern Arapaho Tribe to cooperate on common interests.

The city and tribe have agreed to work together on issues, such as zoning and land-use planning and economic development efforts. They also agreed to enter into mediation on future disputes instead of going directly to the courts.

“The idea of these agreements is to try to develop a process by which people can work together,” Riverton Mayor John Vincent said.

Northern Arapaho Tribe co-chairman Norman Willow said the tribe was “trying to develop a better, well-established, concrete future for our young people.”

Willow added that his tribe was not trying to take control of Riverton.

But during a public meeting Monday night, Fremont County resident Mike McDonald relayed fears from people he knows about being forced under the jurisdiction of the Wind River Indian Reservation. “They don’t want to become Indian country,” McDonald said. “Most of them do not want any agreement. I really question why we need (it).”

The mayor said the agreement will have no effect on titles or land ownership.

McDonald also questioned a provision that a member of the tribe would sit on the city’s planning commission. Vincent noted that many Northern Arapaho members live in Riverton.

Some said the agreement should be put to a public vote, but the mayor responded that it was the council’s job to make decisions for the city. City administrator Carter Napier said the agreements most likely will be formalized and adopted by the end of 2009. Similar public meetings were to be held for tribal members to discuss the agreements this week.

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