Eastern Shoshone tribal liaison Sara Robinson announced Monday she is stepping down as the tribe’s representative to both the Wyoming Legislature and governor’s office.
Robinson told the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Tribal Affairs that her concern for the ongoing communication issues between liaisons and the state of Wyoming led to her stepping down. She said the state continues to disregard the position and criticized the Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead for discriminating against her as a tribal woman.
“Being a woman in Wyoming is hard with all the boundaries; they follow you wherever you go,” Robinson told the committee.
Robinson said her job was made more difficult as a result of the treatment the liaisons received while working with the Legislature and the governor’s office.
“With the lack of process, procedure, policy and professionalism and courtesy that exists in those offices, I really feel like they want to show that somehow we are not able to do our jobs,” Robinson said.
Robinson said although the tribe was promised meetings with Mead on several occasions, she was never given the opportunity to meet with him.
Tony Young, deputy chief of staff for Mead, said Monday that the lack of meetings was caused by scheduling conflicts from both parties.
In a Tuesday statement, Mead says Robinson was treated fairly.
“I have, both as U.S. attorney and as governor, had a good relationship with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone and their liaisons,” Mead said. “I continue to work with both tribes on issues of mutual concern. I disagree with Sara Robinson’s statements. She was treated fairly at all times.”
Young said the current tension between the state of Wyoming and the tribal liaisons was caused by miscommunication. He said the committee’s discussion Monday provides an opportunity to rework the duties of the tribal liaisons.
“I do think that’s what brought up these issues,” Young said. “This is a good thing, because what we have now is an opportunity to look at and spend time on what we want the tribal liaisons to do. We want to be very responsive to the tribes.”
Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete and co-chair of the committee, said Monday he has experienced the same hardship while discussing tribal issues with his colleagues in the Legislature.
“I have experienced those same frustrations as the only member of the legislature that is Native American,” Goggles said. “I’ve been appalled by the discussions of the reservations, but I did take an oath, and according to my fellow colleagues you can’t take it personal because that affects your ability to objectively vote on the floor.”
Goggles said that several racial boundaries still exist in Wyoming and that Robinson was put at a disadvantage as a woman in the position.
Members of the Joint Select Committee on Tribal Relations said they want to work on better defining the position’s role going forward.