Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. Photo: Office of the Governor

WYOMING – Governor Mark Gordon announced yesterday he has appointed members to a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force. The governor was inspired to create the task force after attending an event at the University of Wyoming organized by the Native student group, Keepers of the Fire, which sought to shine a light on the high rates of murder or missing Native American women and girls.

“I’m eager for us to tackle this issue, as I believe it is imperative to ensure the public safety of all Wyoming citizens,” Gordon stated. “The Wind River Reservation operates under a separate criminal justice jurisdictional scheme—but Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribal members are also citizens of Wyoming. I am committed to working with our federal and tribal partners to ensure the safety of our Native American communities.”

Wyoming currently does not report on the number of American Indian persons who are missing in the state. It is an oversight that has troubled many including the governor, who expressed concern about children who may be reported missing in Indian Country and aren’t quickly reported through the state’s AMBER Alert System.

“Several years ago, an 11-year old Navajo girl was abducted and murdered, but because of jurisdictional barriers an AMBER Alert was not issued until 10 hours after she went missing,” Gordon noted. “We must ensure that if any child goes missing—whether on or off the Reservation—our response to finding those children is quick and uniform.”

The Task Force will call on law enforcement, tribal liaisons, state agencies and other stakeholders to look at the number of missing or murdered indigenous people in Wyoming and to provide recommendations to enhance reporting and public safety.

The Governor appointed the following members:

  • Cara Chambers, Director of the Division of Victim Services (Chair)
  • Bridget Hill, Wyoming Attorney General
  • Steve Woodson, Director, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation
  • Kebin Haller, Director of the Wyoming Highway Patrol (AMBER Alert program)
  • Cy Lee, Tribal Liaison for Northern Arapaho
  • Lee Tendore, Tribal Liaison for Eastern Shoshone
  • Tony Larvie, Bureau of Indian Affairs Chief of Police
  • Lynnette Grey Bull, Founder &  President of Not Our Native Daughters

Organizational Ex-Officio members include:

  • Governor Gordon’s Policy Staff
  • Red Paint Alliance, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault program on the Wind River Indian Reservation
  • Keepers of the Fire, UW student organization
  • Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Assault

The Task Force will hold two in-person meetings on July 24, 2019 and August 7, 2019, at the Division of Victim Services in Cheyenne. Members of the public interested in participating may attend the Task Force meeting in person or participate by telephone by contacting the Division at (307) 777-7200 for information on the conference call line.

The Task Force will also accept written testimony, comments or ideas. Those may be emailed to Cara.Chambers@wyo.gov before August 10, 2019.

Governor Gordon will review the Task Force’s recommendations and set-up meetings with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho leaders to discuss, on a government-to-government basis, any recommendations requiring intergovernmental agreements.

Further, the Task Force will also report to the Legislature’s Select Tribal Relations Committee at its August 19-20, 2019 hearing in Fort Washakie on any recommendations that would require legislation.