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Policy, and observations.

25 July 2011

One thing that intrigues me about this place is the apparent redundancy in government. Tribal entities for most basic services exist in a one-to-one correspondence with federal agencies: for health, the Indian Health Service (HHS) to Board of Health (Cheyenne); for criminal justice, it’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (Interior) to Prosecution (Cheyenne). There’s Tribal Forestry (Cheyenne) and the National Forest Service (Agriculture), as well as the Bureau of Land Management (Interior), Environmental Protection Department (EPA) and Natural Resources (Cheyenne). It’s not clear how tasks are divided between federal and tribal .

There was an offhand comment made in the Choice Neighborhoods grant meeting last week that the local BIA (rez police, run by the feds) recently fired the remaining Cheyenne officers on the police force, so that none of the local cops understand the intricate histories and connections of the various local families. People I’ve spoken to since say that the result of this personnel policy is the cops fail to see how the suspect of each reported crime is typically related to someone on the Tribal Council or some official in the justice department, a relative who will use his or her power to stifle any investigation. So crimes against women just happen, and the police lack the political savvy to prosecute those few claims that are reported.

. . .

I drove up to Crazyhead Springs last Sunday to escape the heat, and swam in Fourth Pond next to a group of about fifteen children, belonging to three families, from what I could tell. This observation left me with a few notes:

– Excellent, that parents bring their small children to this publicly accessible pond to swim on a hot weekend day. Fantastic, that the parents tell their children stories about a Cheyenne Mermaid that can grab your feet if you aren’t paying attention. Heartwarming, how much parents laugh with their children.

– Odd, how much parents swear around their kids. Strange, that parents would call out orders to their barely walking, not yet talking toddlers- “get over here! get in the car! sit down! stay there!”- expecting them to comply.  At the Club tonight, I heard a young boy call “get over here!” to his sibling, mimicking precisely the tone I heard in those parents’ voices at the pond. At the community meetings I attended last week, children ran underfoot, in and out of the building, entirely untethered.

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