Water Rights Are Murky for Indian Tribes on Wyoming’s Wind River

A few miles north of Fort Washakie, Wyoming, the Wind River cuts a muddy red path through the hills, plains and sagebrush of the Wind River Reservation. It’s one of many tentacles that make up the Wind River System that provides water for farmers and ranchers in the central part of the state. But for those agricultural producers, whoever arrives to claim the water first, gets to use it first—creating a pecking order that can leave downstream users high and dry.

At the top of this pecking order sits the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, both occupying the Wind River Reservation. “As of [May 9, 2010] on the Wind River, we were not able to supply everyone with direct-flow water that was being requested,” says Loren Smith, a superintendent with the state engineer’s office.

Read more here on Indian Country Today.

Tristan Ahtone

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and serves as associate editor for tribal affairs at High Country News. He has reported for PBS NewsHour, National Native News, Wyoming Public Radio, NPR, Al Jazeera America, Indian Country Today, and National Geographic, and more. Tristan’s stories have won multiple honors, including investigative awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Gannett Foundation. He additionally was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 2017. He is president of the Native American Journalists Association.

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