|Thursday, 23 October, 2014|
No charges for officer involved in fatal shooting
RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) — No federal charges will be filed against a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer who was involved in a fatal shooting on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The Riverton Ranger reports (http://bit.ly/1DaLacx) the U.S. Attorney's Office has concluded the officer didn't violate federal law when he shot 26-year-old Justin Steele, of Pavillion, on July 29.
Fremont County sheriff's officials received a call that a man armed with a handgun had shot out the window of a vehicle near Ethete. A deputy stopped a vehicle missing a window, and sheriff's officials say one of the three occupants was uncooperative.
The shooting occurred after reservation police arrived to help.
Steele's blood-alcohol content was 0.302 percent when he was shot, and he also tested positive for an anxiety drug.
Details of what led to the shooting haven't been released.
2 tribes miss deadline to open election offices
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Tribal officials on the Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne reservations have missed a deadline to open satellite election offices there, after Native Americans from those reservations won a legal settlement to open the offices and improve access to early voting.
A dozen plaintiffs from the two reservations, along with the Crow reservation, won the right to open the satellite offices in a June settlement of a federal voting-rights lawsuit against state and local elections officials. The plaintiffs had argued they were discriminated against because they had to drive long distances to county courthouses to register late and vote early in elections.
The settlement called for counties moving their election administration offices to tribal buildings at the reservations two days a week during the month leading up to Election Day. The tribes had until Aug. 1 to notify the counties whether they wanted the offices.
The offices are running on the Crow Reservation, but Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap tribal officials missed the deadline, the Great Falls Tribune reported (http://gftrib.com/10aCVQ0) in a story published Sunday.
Blaine County Attorney Donald Ranstrom said the letter requesting the alternate voting office on Fort Belknap arrived four days after the deadline, and county officials decided that opening an office anyway could invalidate the settlement.
“The concern we had, and continue to have, is we spent a lot of time and a lot of energy and money and resources getting to where we got to with this agreement. We weren't going to allow any argument to be made that `by modifying the terms, you've scrapped the agreement,''' Ranstrom said.
The Northern Cheyenne tribe faxed a letter to Rosebud County more than a month after the deadline, county election administrator Geraldine Custer said.
By then, it was too late to implement the alternate election office in part because the county had passed over funding to purchase a ballot printing machine, she said.
Tribal officials did not return calls seeking comment.
O.J. Seamans, executive director of the national Indian voting rights organization Four Directions, said the deadline was an excuse and the counties could have opened the offices if they wanted to under guidelines set forth by the secretary of state.
“I believe the county can do it. You take away their excuse, and it comes down to this: We don't want Indians to vote,'' Seamans said.
Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne tribal officials will be able to request satellite election offices in future elections.
Montana decides to keep Yellowstone bison in state
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials decided Thursday against shipping 145 bison captured from Yellowstone National Park to the Bronx zoo and other locations across the nation, choosing to send them to an American Indian reservation within the state.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to transfer the bison to Fort Peck Indian Reservation instead of following a recommendation to divide the animals among the reservation, a New York-based wildlife consortium, Oklahoma's Cherokee Nation and the state of Utah. The bison are now being held on a ranch owned by media mogul Ted Turner under a five-year agreement that comes to an end next month, adding urgency to finding them a new home.
Commissioners said they are confident in the Fort Peck tribes' ability to manage the bison after successfully handling the one previous relocation of 63 Yellowstone bison in 2012. Commissioners also wanted to keep the animals in the state in anticipation of a Montana bison conservation plan to be completed next year.
Commissioner Larry Wetsit, a Fort Peck tribal member, said he is certain the tribes will work with the other groups interested in the bison.
“It's always been the intent of the tribe to re-establish buffalo somewhere,'' Wetsit said. “It's always been our goal, and we will always work with others to ensure that does happen.''
An environmental analysis of the relocation proposal is pending. Thursday's vote is conditional on the completion of that analysis.
Yellowstone bison are considered extremely valuable because they are one of the few wild herds left that have no cattle genes. These 145 bison were captured a decade ago under an experimental program to start new herds using the genetically pure Yellowstone animals.
They spent years in quarantine to make sure they weren't carrying the disease brucellosis, which has caused problems for the cattle industry.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency's recommendations would have given the Wildlife Conservation Society 10 bison for zoos in the Bronx, Queens and Ohio. That recommendation was in recognition of the Bronx zoo being the founder of the American Bison Society, Montana Wildlife Division Administrator Ken McDonald said.
The society was instrumental in conserving the last bison before they were wiped out in North America.
The state agency recommended only 70 of the bison go to Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation, with 35 to Oklahoma's Cherokee Nation and the remaining 30 to Utah's Division of Wildlife.
A fifth applicant, the private American Prairie wildlife reserve in north-central Montana, was dropped from consideration after wildlife officials said they wouldn't relocate bison to nontribal lands in the state until the bison conservation plan is completed.