Obama Admin. Deems Part of Wyoming Tribal Land, Putting Hospital in Legal Battle


It is well known that, although the reservation was established in 1868, in 1904 the tribes ceded 1.48 million acres to the United States in exchange for payments to tribal members and capital improvements. Furthermore, in 1905 Congress ratified the agreement, and over the decades Congress and various courts recognized that the lands were ceded and thus not “Indian country.” Finally, in 1988, a unanimous Supreme Court rejected a tribal attempt to void a similar agreement.

Although people in Wyoming blame the EPA, it was not the EPA’s fault but that of Obama’s top lawyer at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Hilary C. Tompkins.

Her opinion slavishly tracks the tribes’ application to the EPA, in which they spend 82 of 87 pages arguing that the nearly 1.5 million acres and Riverton are “Indian country.” That opinion became even more controversial when in April of 2015, Andrew Yellowbear, a Northern Arapahoe tribal member who was found guilty in a Wyoming court of murdering his daughter in Riverton, asked to filed a friend of the court brief in support of the EPA in hopes that if the EPA wins he will be set free. The Tenth Circuit, at the request of one of the tribes, rejected his brief. It appeared the EPA had dodged an emotional bullet on the unintended but very real human consequences of its decision.

Now comes the hospital’s motion to file, its accompanying hard-hitting 21-page brief, and 261 pages of exhibits. It appears Solicitor Tompkins has some explaining to do.